The Murder of Trayvon Martin Is About You

Gyasi Ross

This column originally appeared on Race-Talk.org.

This goes beyond skin color or politics. This is about the joys of life, and the notion that all of us should have unfettered access to those joys as long as we are not harming anyone else.

No, he wasn’t your son.

It wasn’t your son that was murdered simply because he happened to be wearing black skin when he was walking from the store. Maybe you don’t even have a son; furthermore, statistically, chances are that if you do have a son, your son probably doesn’t have black skin. Therefore, it is simply impossible for your son to be in this situation.

But it’s not about whether it was your son.

Perhaps you don’t even like black people. No, no, no, I’m not judging you—don’t get defensive. Nowadays, everybody thinks that they have to like everybody; I know it’s politically correct to say that you like black people, that some of your best friends are black (or Mexican or Asian or Native American or Autistic or homosexual). But especially black—black folks seem to be the litmus test for political correctness.

But I don’t even care if you like black people or Mexicans or Asians or Native Americans—nobody says that you have to. Who cares? Everybody has preconceived notions about other groups of people; for example, I freely admit that if we were playing a pick-up basketball, Jeremy Lin wouldn’t be one of my top picks (and, of course, he would promptly dunk on me in the most egregious fashions known to man).

We all have our own little preferences and prejudices—no big deal. Heck, a lot of black people don’t even like black people; ask Chris Rock. Ask my good friend Jonesey—a Harlem black cat who takes pride in dressing nice and “getting his grown man on,” he hates seeing young black men sagging their pants.

Says it reflects badly on the race. The notion that certain choice members of a racial group can “reflect badly on a race” is not politically correct. But it’s honest and real and often thought (even if it’s not spoken), like my choice not to choose Jeremy Lin on my basketball team because we don’t often see Asians playing basketball at such an incredibly high level.

Thus, this has nothing to do with whether or not you like black folks. It has nothing to do with political correctness.

It has to do with life. And death. And a mom that is never going to be able to hug her son again. She will never be able to exercise her God-given right to holler at her 17 year old son to wash the dishes or to clean up his room again. She will never be able to see him learn from his mistakes again—to see him go through his first love and want to console his first heartache, but he pridefully won’t let her console him. His mom won’t get to see her son looking at the caller ID on his cell phone every 3 minutes, waiting for the girl that he just broke up with to call him back nor see the confusion in his eyes (and hear it in his voice) when she doesn’t call him back. She won’t get an opportunity to hold her daughter-in-law’s hand in the delivery room as the daughter-in-law gives birth to her first grandchild. She will not have the opportunity to spoil that grandchild rotten—give her ice cream and apples—and then send her back home to her parents, like any good grandparent does. Like my grandparents did. And yours.

Trayvon’s Martin’s mother won’t be able to do any of that, and that’s what we all should be angry about.

It’s not that a black boy got shot and murdered, or that a shoot-first racist killed him that should burn all of us up. Instead, we should all be angry—violently, pissed-off, scarily angry—that a child, regardless of color, was taken off this earth for no good reason and it literally could be any one of us that are feeling the pain that this mother feels today. He didn’t ask for this. She didn’t ask for this—they were both minding their business, living their lives not harming anyone. This isn’t about black or white or Native or Mexican or whatever. This is about life, and this is about our kids. My son is only 5, with long, bushy hair and looks nothing like Trayvon—still, the thought of someone doing this to him obviously breaks my heart. I’m sure the thought of it happening to your child does the same to you.

That’s what should make us mad and make us take action—there is no one “right” action, just take some action. Go to change.org. Blow up the Seminole County prosecuting attorney’s phone line and demand that he prosecute this as a hate crime/murder. Call the US Department of Justice. Call your senator. Seriously. ALL of them—prosecuting attorneys, senators, mayors are all public officials and WILL respond when they know that there is a movement in place to get them out of office unless they respond. Let them know that we will not stand by while innocent people are the victims of deprivations of civil and human rights—not just with Trayvon, but anytime. We need a Nationwide Neighborhood Watch to prevent us—the poor, the minority, the powerless people of every color—from ever feeling powerless and victimized in our own lands again. This should be the catalyst #NeverAgain #TrayvonMartin #WereAllInThisTogether

Gyasi Ross is a member of the Blackfeet Nation and his family also belongs to the Suquamish Nation. He wrote a book called Don’t Know Much About Indians (but i wrote a book about us anyways) which you can get at www.dkmai.com. He is also co-authoring a new book with Robert Chanate coming out in the Summer of 2012 appropriately called The Thing About Skins, and the website and publishing company for that handy, dandy book is www.cutbankcreekpress.com (coming soon). He also semi-does the twitter thing at twitter.com/BigIndianGyasi.

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tmsyr11's picture
The murder of Trayvon is not about me nor my family. For peoples, why does it have to be 'murder' or somebody being killed before somebody takes notice. No the murder of Trayvon was about a non-black (white) killing a black kid. If this were black on black, the event would not have hit the TV news (again). The murder is about Politics considering Al Sharpton and his gang have shown up to 'demonstrate'. There are countless murders and killings and deaths that occur on reservations, but do they get the TV news exposure and outcry? In fact, there is a sensitive debate occuring in the use of Indian mascots. Where is the outcry in that?
stocks's picture
I think equating the murder of an unarmed child to the mascot controversy is inappropriate. You criticize the lack of public attention over shootings but then suggest that we move on to other issues. Furthermore, your comments about the Trayvon Miller incident are misguided. What Mr. Ross was suggesting was that anyone with a family and a sense of compassion can relate to this horrible act of racial profiling and aggression. The media coverage isn't politicizing the issue, its raising awareness just like you suggested the media should. The amount of public outcry in this case is a sign of the success of online action like change.org by saying that the we will not let these issues go unnoticed. Maybe when atrocities hurt Indian Country in the future, social media can be a powerful tool to bring justice to Native peoples too.
myche's picture
Its not enough that you can be mugged walking home late at night, you can also be shot by those who are trying to keep people from being mugged just because you don't fit that person's idea of a non-threatening person. God save us from our protectors especially those who carry guns.
myche's picture
Treyvon was just walking back from the store to the place he was staying. He wasn't doing anything criminal even according to Zimmerman's 911 call. If Zimmerman would have done what he was supposed to do he would have left Treyvon alone after he made his call. Zimmerman took a gun and followed Treyvon and thus he started the confrontation. Because Zimmerman left his truck and approached Treyvon he was the aggressor. As a community watch captain he was supposed to watch and report criminal activity to the police. Treyvon was minding his own business and his actions should not even have been reported to the police. A police detective and crime lab people should have been called in because of the shooting and death to verify that the shooting was justified to protect both Treyvon's and Zimmerman's rights. Because of the shooting and death the shooter's statement of what happened was not enough to determine who was responsible for what. If Zimmerman would have been taken to the police station, his gun taken into evidence, and evidence collected, then Zimmerman's version of what happened could have been proven and protected him from all of the condemnation he is going through now. Zimmerman's 911 call is what makes him look guilty of at least manslaughter.
laura's picture
Excellent, excellent article.
gyasiross's picture
Thank you all for thinking about this tragedy and paying respects to Trayvon and ALL of the young men that we've lost to gun violence. I see a steady trajectory--usually white liberals and race-baiters--that want to discuss race before talking about the humanity/lack of humanity of this situation. They want to politicize it and use these tragedies to prove their points. OF COURSE, every person of color knows that racism had something to do with this. Still, as I said, this "goes BEYOND skin color or politics"--I don't see from a race lens first; first, I'm a human, a dad, and as Marvin Gaye said, "sensitive people. As a parent, my first reaction isn't that someone was racist. It's "Oh my God, some mom doesn't have her baby anymore." Of course race is a part of the discussion, but let's talk about the human component first. Some folks want to politicize everything without first looking that there's real human beings behind these headlines, and that, to me, is terrible.