It is painful to watch the parents of murdered Florida teenager Trayvon Martin plea for justice in the killing of their son. Hearing the excruciating sorrow of a father demanding that his son’s life had value and deserves respect is a window into the plight of Black men in America. It is why every Black man in this nation should be taking stock of their values and coming to terms with the collective urgency of saving our Black boys. Trayvon’s father, and other Black fathers who have buried their sons, should remind us all that our job as Black men has gone unfinished.
The Trayvon Martin tragedy is a gut check for Black men everywhere. Too many Black men have settled for creature comforts or have been consumed by materialism as our boys are being eradicated. Signs of indifference are everywhere. Neatly coiffed Black men settle into offices every day, possess impressive titles in companies and not-for-profit organizations, make millions competing in professional sports and in the recording industry, and invest little in securing the future of Black boys. Those that do acknowledge their responsibility to care beyond their personal circumstances are met with resistance when they seek to enjoin other Black men in the uplift of their younger brethren.
In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death in Florida we have been waiting, hoping for a definitive statement or action by Black professional athletes in the state. Sadly, we are still waiting. In a state that boasts professional franchises in basketball, football and baseball, there is no shortage of millionaire Black ballers who are the idols of young Black boys. If for no other than selfish reasons, these athletes should make their voices heard and heard decisively on the issue of arresting Trayvon’s killer. Whether they want to believe it or not, we could be outraged today over the killing of LeBron, Dwayne or Dwight had it been their misfortune to encounter a George Zimmerman. The arrogance and indifference of our Black athletes is maddening. While some do contribute their time and resources to their community under the radar, they overwhelmingly disappear when the time comes for them to use their political capital and put a little of their wealth at risk. Where are the real Black men?
You can’t be a Black man in this nation and think that you are immune from a random act of violence, whether at the hands of a stranger or someone that looks like you. Every Black man should know that no matter your family pedigree or academic credentials, you are subject to police suspicion and workplace bias. Your corporate office, multi-million dollar contract or suburban home affords you no protection. What others may deem as paranoia, Black men live the reality of their marginalization every day. It is why every Black man in America needs to be invested in the fight to save young Black boys. This is not a message discounting the value of Black women and mothers; they certainly carry a lot of the burden and do the lion’s share of the work in raising Black boys. This is more a challenge to Black men to do more, much more.
It is during times such as these that we need to recall the hopefulness and commitment to one another that was on display at the Million Man March. We need that same energy every day, in our daily walk through life. Our Black boy needs to know that Black men have their backs. Trayvon Martin’s father lost a son but in reality we all lost something when that young man was gunned down in cold blood.