The Gift That Trayvon Gave All of Us
1 year ago
How the Trayvon Martin tragedy can save Black America
There is no perfect thing to say in the wake of a tragedy, particularly one that involves the loss of a young person. Entire etiquette guides are devoted to telling us what not to say when someone is grieving, with “I know how you feel” being at the top of the list. And yet there is something oddly comforting about such clichés, causing many of us cling to them like a life raft during tragedy. Especially when our own grief, shock and anger has rendered us incapable of forming the words that those most affected by the loss really need to hear.
Besides offering the family of Trayvon Martin my sincerest condolences, and letting them know that like much of America they remain in my prayers, I am going to ignore the etiquette guides for a moment to say something else: Regardless of what happens to the case involving their son, his death was not in vain and will ultimately save countless other lives.
Months ago I wrote a piece titled, “Is Racism Worse in the Obama Era?” In it I discussed the psychological impact of subtle racism, a subject eloquently discussed by Toure in his book “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?” In the piece I also briefly touched upon my own experiences with subtle racism. (As I, and plenty of friends have learned, what walking down the street in a hoodie is to black men, walking into the wrong store with the wrong skin color is to black women.) The reaction to the piece was fascinating, with some weighing in with their own experiences. Others, however, were livid that in the age of a black president “people like me” still found something to complain about and what I was complaining about was discrimination that you can’t even see or touch, let alone prove.