Trayvon Martin, zichrono livracha / may his memory be a blessing.
This is a heartbreaking one.
Trayvon Martin was seventeen when he was killed last month by a 28-year-old named George Zimmerman, who most sources are calling a neighborhood watch captain though the National Sheriff's Association has said that he was not associated with an official neighborhood watch. (In case you're wondering, Tablet magazine tells us that George Zimmerman is not Jewish -- ETA: though as one commentor notes, below, they don't actually show that.) Trayvon was unarmed. He was carrying a bag of Skittles candy and a bottle of Arizona Iced Tea. George Zimmerman saw Trayvon walking; he called 911 and reported Martin as "a real suspicious guy," adding, "This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something." Against the protests of the police (who told him not to pursue), Zimmerman chased him, shot him, and killed him.
As far as I know, Zimmerman has not been arrested or charged with anything. Because of Florida's "stand your ground law," his claim that he acted in self-defense stands. This despite the fact that recently-released recordings, including Trayvon's last cellphone call with his girlfriend (moments before his death), appear to contradict that self-defense claim.
And Trayvon Martin's parents have lost their son. Because he walked through his father's gated community neighborhood (Trayvon lived in Miami, but was visiting his dad in Sanford at the time), and apparently the culture of racism in this country is so deep that simply being a young black man in a hoodie sweatshirt can get you killed.
In her recent post What is white privilege, Emily Hauser writes:
I think I know what white privilege is.
White privilege is never being frightened for my son’s life, simply because of the color of his skin.
I'm right there with her. I have a son. He's two. He has rosy cheeks and flyaway blond hair. He loves his Thomas train set, playgrounds (in spring and summer), making snowballs (in winter), sitting in my lap while I read Knuffle Bunny or The Going to Bed Book, and going to the bakery on Friday afternoon to get challah and a cookie before Shabbat. I love him so much I don't have words to express it. And I know that because he is white, neither an armed vigilante nor a police officer is likely to shoot him under the mistaken impression that he's a criminal.
My heart goes out to Trayvon Martin's parents, and to the parents of every child who is killed because someone's unconscious stereotypes caused them to imagine a threat where none existed. Source of Peace, bring them peace along with all who mourn. Help us to shake off the spiritual ennui, the compassion fatigue, the unknowing racism which allows this to be our nation's status quo. Raise up our anger. Wake us up. Help us change. For Your sake, and for ours.
God, full of compassion, grant perfect peace under the wings of Your presence to the soul of Trayvon Martin, who has entered eternity. May he rest in peace.
For further reading:
The Trayvon Martin Killing, Explained, Adam Weinstein, in Mother Jones
- Trayvon Martin's death: the story so far, in the Guardian
Where's white church outrage over Trayvon Martin, Mark Pinsky, on the CNN belief blog
What a Florida Teenager’s Death Tells Us About Being Black in America, John McWhorter, The New Republic