I have heard a lot about injustice this weekend. I have heard cries of racism, of bigotry, of "good ol' boys". I have seen people blame Florida, once again, for being backwards, for being Southern, for being unable to prosecute a case.
I have seen the celebratory remarks of people that support George Zimmerman, I have heard the rallying cries of those that want to accuse the President of attempting to use this case to take away guns or create stricter gun laws. I have seen people post links to "news" articles that villify the victim.
The truth is that Trayvon Martin was a kid. A kid whose rights to be "innocent, until proven guilty" were stripped from him on the side of that street. It's tragic. It could have been any kid. It could have been my husband once upon a time, when he was young, when he roamed the streets in the dark. It could have been any of the men that I know that got the opportunity to grow into men.
In this case, in this time, it was this boy.
To those of you that want to villify him as a thief, a thug, a drug addict - did you not make mistakes when you were 16 or 17? When you were young, full of life, and (perhaps, most dangerously) full of yourself? Did you deserve to have your rights stolen, to be tried and sentenced to death on the side of a street in the dark and the rain?
The Stand Your Ground law in Florida needs work. There are things that should be reviewed so that a tragedy such as this does not happen in the future. I can understand standing your ground and protecting your home and your family, but stalking, hunting, killing someone just because you do not like the way that they look should never be legal. The precedent of this case scares me, the ramifications for ordinary citizens are deeply troubling. This should be a call to action for those of you that feared losing access to your weapons to lobby the legislature to make the necessary changes to protect your rights.
To black men everywhere, this is a call to action for your community. Riots, demonstrations, marches are all great ways to get on the news but they will not change the verdict and they will not bring this child back from the dead.
A year ago, I worked as a mentor at a local inner-city second chance school. Amazingly, although the student population is predominantly black males without a father figure, the mentor program had never had a single black man step up to take on even one child. Not one.
If you want to end the cycle of racism, of bigotry, of the stereotypical black man image that you all fight against so much - give back, give these kids a different perspective to look up to, give these kids an alternate goal to aspire to.
It's one thing to have your debates on Facebook and Twitter, to talk about how much you hate the system, to rant about the injustice of it all, but if you are unwilling to do anything to make a change in the system, then you will never be a part of the solution.