By Kenneth Braswell
Life can’t get more tragic for the parents of Trayvon Martin. The hard and cold facts are that they both lost a son way too soon in life. Certainly a call made late in the afternoon by police informing them that their son had been murdered had to be heart wrenching and unbearable. Some would even say surreal; besides, it’s not natural for parents to bury their own children. In the aftermath, a public outcry so much so that the outrage has created a social media firestorm. The shocking, yet, not unfamiliar circumstances of his death have caught the attention of America, the media and average everyday folks. As a result, the hearts of Black America are grieving in concert and searching for answers for this unfortunate loss of young life.
Yet while I’ve grieved and search for ways to support his parents over the last month, I couldn’t help but ask myself the question, “should I be shocked?” Another black youth shot down in the prime of his life via unusual circumstances. Yeah, what’s shocking 'bout that? I’ve asked myself this question over and over, against my need and desire to still grieve for Trayvon and struggling with my morals to remain empathic. However I can’t ignore that I’ve lived long enough to remember the stories of Emmitt Till. A tragedy that lends some context to the value or lack thereof for young black life pressed up against the hard rock of racism.
I’ve also lived long enough to witness the tragedies of Yusef Hawkins, Rodney King, Amadou Diallo, James Bryd Jr., and Sean Bell; some of whom have lost their life, the others have faced the living pain of racism at the hands of injustice. Few can forget the public outcry surrounding these black men, but many should ask, “Who’s next or when will it end?!”
Even in my town of Albany, New York, plans to march in the streets on behalf of Trayvon are admirable. Yet not two months ago, public outcry emerged as another young black male was killed by police fire under unusual circumstances. Many have forgotten his name, more never knew it happened. Too often countless, unmentioned and unheard of young black males in urban cites die each day; not all at the hands of security guards, police or whites. Most of them are murdered by other boys and men who look just like them. Yet public outcry seems to be silent at the hands of this greater tragedy. Just think, over the same weekend that word began to spread about the death of Trayvon, over 30 people were shot according to Chicago’s BlackStar Project whose work is determined to end this senseless activity in the Windy City.
I am frustrated, angry and infuriated by the events surrounding Trayvon Martin; however I am even more disappointed in the silence around his name that will disappear in a month. History has shown this to be true. Rev. Al Sharpton will be off to another city to speak out for another family; talk show hosts will find ways to keep the conversation alive under the pressure to move on to the next story; and the front page stories will be following the tragedy of another name. And the regular everyday folks, well Facebook and Twitter will determine that.
The two pressing questions for black fathers and mothers will remain, “How tragic must our condition get before we pass the urgency and outcry of the moment?” The other, “What are you really prepared to do for black boys and girls other than shaking your head, reposting an article on Facebook, marching, rallying, signing a petition and talking about it around the watercooler?”
The cavalry is not coming to save our communities. The knight in shining armor doesn’t exist. The second coming of Dr. King and Malcolm X - not on their way. President Obama can’t do it by himself and “money” ain’t never brought a black man safety. Let’s find space to grieve for Brother Trayvon, but grieving hasn’t saved a life of a black man or black boy yet. What are you REALLY willing to do? I’m prayerful that this time will be different.
Kenneth Braswell is the Executive Director of Fathers Incorporated (www.fathersincorporated.com). He has 4 children including a 3 year old black son and a 5 year old black nephew, which he is very concerned about protecting in a world that believes that they will always be suspicious and a suspect first; including himself!
Photo: Andrew Brown (nephew), Kenneth Braswell and Kenneth “KJ” Braswell Jr. (son)