No humanity for Black boys, musings on the Trayvon Martin case

Kimani Gray, 16

Kendrec McDade, 19

Timothy Russell, 43

Ervin Johnson, 18

Amadou Diallo, 23

Patrick Dorsmond, 26

Ousmane Zongo, 43

Timothy Stansbury Jr., 23

Sean Bell, 23

Orlando Barlow, 28

Aaron Campbell, 25

Victor Steen, 17

Steven Eugene Washington, 27

Alonzo Ashley, 29

Wendell Allen, 20

Ronald Madison, 40

James Brisette, 17

Travares McGill, 16

Ramarley Graham, 18

Oscar Grant, 22

These are just some of the Black men and boys in recent years who have been killed, all unarmed and all part of a pattern  that any reasonable person might deduce suggests that America has a problem with the mere existence of Black men and boys.

I wish I could say that the verdict this weekend in the trial of George Zimmerman was truly a surprise and that I was shocked. I am many things but shocked is not one of them. Instead I am sad, sad that in the end, a grown man was entitled to his fear and a right to protect himself but that a teenager was not entitled to his fear of the unknown.

Clearly much has been written about the Trayvon Martin case, and I have read so many amazing pieces that I almost wonder, what else is there to say? Yet in the end I am struck as the mother and sister of young Black men, how common it is to deny Black men their own humanity. Frankly Black women are not exactly allowed the whole spectrum of emotions either, since typically we are reduced to simply being either angry or strong.

However for our boys and men, they are not even deemed worthy of anger or strength, instead they are simply beings in the eyes of many who must be annihilated before they harm someone.  Much was made during the trial of some of Trayvon’s habits, all in an attempt to reduce him to less than in the eyes of the law.  Children, especially teenagers, are known for doing things that sometimes are right and sometimes wrong, this growth stage is a given for White youth but for Black youth, it means that even if you are killed, you will be judged and judged harshly for doing things that for White youth may even be seen as a rite of passage.

Today I participated in a roundtable discussion with other mothers, many Black and the one commonality among the Black mothers that we shared was fear, fear that this society built on the backs of a stolen people and stolen land will eventually steal our sons.  As Black mothers we must steal parts of our son’s youth and innocence in an attempt to keep them alive but at what cost? To keep ours son’s alive means that we too must take their humanity, yet what is the cost for stolen humanity? My son answered that indirectly when we texted one another after the verdict was announced, anger and to be young, gifted and black.

I am not a weeper, weeping isn’t my thing, but this Saturday night I wept. I wept as I watched a press conference where getting a client off in the wake of a child’s death should not be a reason for smiles of joy. I wept for a young life cut down before it even had a chance to really start. I wept for parents who had to bury a beloved child and yet must be strong and endure. Their son was denied his humanity for simply daring to walk down the street and the parents even in grief are denied their humanity because they must appear respectable and thus palatable to the general public even while grieving the unimaginable. I wept for the mothers who sat and listened to this story with the somber realization that what happened to Trayvon could happen to our boys. I wept for a nation that has stuck a giant gauze pad on its oozing and festering racial sores but won’t dare to truly pull it off so that we can become a healthy nation.

List of names courtesy of The Root


  1. July 16, 2013
  2. July 19, 2013

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