Now that George Zimmerman has been arrested and a long trial lies ahead, some are breathing sighs of relief, while others continue to seek Zimmerman’s head on a platter. Neither position qualms my tensions because there are so many Trayvon Martins in our country. According to Attorney General Eric Holder, the leading cause of death for black males between the ages of 15-24 is homicide. This statistic should shock the conscience of every American. But, before we begin to point the finger at unjust laws and the killers themselves, this tragedy should cause all of us to pause for a moment and realize that we, collectively as a society, are the problem.
We do not have to be the ones holding the gun to commit murder, at least in a non-criminal liability sense. As a society, we choose to murder plenty of young black men every single day. When we are more enraged by the rising gas prices, than lowering graduation rates, more incensed by the latest celebrity media frenzy than the widening wealth gap, and more interested in the talking heads on our television screens than the real human lives being lost just outside of our doorstep, we are no better than George Zimmerman ourselves. Yes, we did not take our guns, chase an unarmed 17 year old, shoot him in short range, and then blame him for being shot. However, we do turn our backs on low socio-economic communities, strip them of resources, and then blame them for being in the position that they are in.
It is easy for us to point the finger at George Zimmerman because what he did was heinous and cruel, but if it is still the case that he who is without blame gets to cast the first stone, we all stand guilty as charged. The Trayvon Martin tragedy must be a rallying call not for the conviction of one man, but for the awakening of our society. At this point, we should all be willing to ask ourselves how we can help ensure there are no more Trayvon Martins.
To be clear, I am in no way defending the actions of George Zimmerman. And I trust that once the facts are borne out and he is judged by a jury of his peers, he will be found guilty of some crime of life deprivation, whether it be the second degree murder charge or a lesser charge.
Instead, I intend to create a moment of reflection, one in which we consider that George Zimmerman killed one young man, but every high school dropout our society produces becomes embedded in the cycle of poverty. Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, but if he had lived, he would have a 1 in 3 chance of our society putting him in prison, an 8% chance of graduating from college, and would likely have a net worth that is $60,000 less than his white counterparts. We can do better, and if we choose not to, we are no better than George Zimmerman ourselves.