When Trayvon Benjamin Martin was shot by a bullet through his heart, his dead body laid in the wet grass for over two and a half hours. Covered by a yellow tarp, the lifeless body of this teenage boy was comforted by nothing but his torn hoodie that had ripped apart by the heat of a 9mm semi-automatic handgun. Just six houses away from where he was staying, he never made it home that night. Checked into the morgue as a “John Doe,” the Sanford Police Department didn’t think Trayvon belonged in the neighborhood either, as not a single door was knocked upon asking if anyone knew this child. He was just SIX HOUSES away from his home. A different home awaited him on the evening of February 26th, 2012. Met by Malcolm and Martin, Medger and Emmett, Bobby and Jack, and four little girls, Trayvon was welcomed home by men and women whose lives drastically changed the course of American history.
Where were you on Saturday, July 13th at 9:59 p.m., when a six person jury in Sanford, Florida delivered a verdict of NOT GUILTY to the man who shot and killed Trayvon Benjamin Martin? The verdict brought back painful memories; of Amadou Diallo and Yusef Hawkins, both shot dead while unarmed. It recalled Medgar Evers, shot dead in his driveway 50 years ago this June, and Emmett Till, whose open casket forced a nation to face the shame of lynching. Horrific moments in history that moved a nation to tears. The verdict reemphasized the need for change in our country. The need to take a serious look at race relations; the need to rethink our gun laws, and the need for fairness in our police departments and our courts. But none of this will happen if we are silent.
Silence. Silence is an American tradition when it comes to race. A tradition as traditional as killers of black young men walking free out of court. A tradition as traditional as police departments believing that unarmed black kids are guilty even after they are killed. A tradition as traditional as profiling black teenagers as potential burglars instead of potential presidents. This silence has rained down on America like the rain in Sanford, Florida on the eve of Trayvon’s death, making the trail to top of the mountain seem like it is impossible to climb.
However, if we are to reach the top of the mountain realizing that every young person, regardless of race, class, color or creed, has the right to walk safely home with a nothing but a bag of skittles and a can of ice tea in their hands, America, especially white America, must realize that Trayvon was our son too. A son born in Miami, Florida, trained in the American school system and buried in American soil. If Trayvon was white would we think that him and his friends come from a “different world?” Would the police department have believed that he might have actually lived in the neighborhood that he was shot dead in? Would the jury have related to his fears of being followed by a scary stranger? Or before any of this even happened, maybe George Zimmerman would have offered him a ride home to get him out of the rain?
How cool would it be to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night.
— Tom Crabtree (@itsCrab) July 14, 2013
It is our son that didn’t receive justice on Saturday night, and we can no longer be silent. Many older, white Americans are content with being silent, because if they raise their voice, the new America just might pass them by. It is the silent cries and the silent yells from a new, multiracial generation that will create a new American tradition. A generation that is not content with being strangers to each other. A generation that who will create a tradition that never looks at a young, black teenager again as being suspicious when they are walking home in the rain with their hoodie up.
Michael Skolnik is the Editor-In-Chief of GlobalGrind.com and the political director to Russell Simmons. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Trayvon Martin Foundation. Previously, Michael was an award-winning filmmaker. Follow him on twitter @MichaelSkolnik