Trayvon Martin is a household name for all the wrong reasons.
On February 26, while reportedly returning from a corner store, the 17-year-old Martin — who was visiting his father — got into an altercation with self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, who pursued Martin against the warnings of a 911 operator, shot and killed Martin in what he claims was self-defense.
Martin’s shooting created an international firestorm because Zimmerman, the apparent aggressor, was never taken into custody or charged with a crime. What is making things worse is that Martin is black, Zimmerman is Hispanic and the now-former police chief of Sanford, Florida — where Martin’s death occurred — is white.
Martin’s death certainly deserves media coverage and scrutiny. But what I find troubling is that while millions of people are focusing on Martin’s shooting, few are focusing on the enormous number of black-on-black shootings that occur each year. Some are even trying to turn attention away from the latter. For example, a recent headline on the African-American news site News One read, “Stop Using Trayvon Martin’s Murder to Discuss Black-on-Black Crime.”
The reason so many people want to discuss Trayvon’s shooting is that it advances a narrative of racial hatred, while discussing black-on-black murders does not. But the black community would be far better off if there was an open dialogue about black-on-black crime and the black community’s culture of death.
One thing people could discuss is the “Stop Snitching” mantra. A few years ago, cooperating with the police became dishonorable in many corners of the black community almost overnight, after a convicted drug dealer’s video-based rant about not assisting law enforcement turned into a best-selling message justifying silence in the wake of heinous crimes. Soon, there were T-shirts and websites emblazoned with the phrase “Stop Snitching.”
I write this as someone who as a black teenager learned the danger of walking in my own neighborhood when my former middle school classmate pointed a single-barreled shotgun at me. Unlike countless others, my life was spared.
Speaking at a rally in honor of Trayvon Martin, XM radio host Mark Thompson asked, “What good is it to elect the first black president if we can’t protect our own children?” The leader of the rally, Al Sharpton, said “Trayvon could have been one of our sons” and that “enough is enough.”
Let us address the very real paradox that is the presidency of Barack Obama and how it coincided with the almost complete disappearance of an intellectually honest discussion of race in America.
Jerome Hudson is a member of Project 21, a sponsorship of the National Center for Public Policy Research. He can be reached at Jeromehudsonspeaks.com. He can be followed on Twitter @jeromeehudson