It’s been five years since then the death of Trayvon Martin. By now the entire world knows the story. A 17 year-old Trayvon – a black unarmed teenager – was killed by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was found not guilty of second degree murder and manslaughter. The verdict left communities of color shook and angry at a justice system that once again systematically and disproportionately asserted that black and brown lives simply do not matter. In the years after Trayvon’s death matters did not improve as countless men of color, such as Eric Gardner and Michael Brown, continued to be killed by white police officers.
Travon’s death brought racial justice to the forefront of America’s psyche and electrified national conversations on race and equality. His death also roused up the Black Lives Matter movement which made equal justice, accountability and reform their bedrocks. This created a sense of snail paced progress towards issues of equality and respect for human life that hasn’t been quantified. So how far have we come in five years? In my opinion, not far at all but, there is a silver lining, as we are currently positioning ourselves to make great strides.
You see, Trump’s election gave rise to the truth that that those in communities of color, have known and experienced all along – that communities of color don’t matter and are treated as second class citizens. The phobic sentiments and racist behaviors unearthed by the election of Donald Trump is evidence and indicative of the lack of progress and the one step forward two steps back phenomenon. Specific to this are the policies being implemented that are misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, islamophobic, xenophobic and anti-immigrant in nature. For example, the Muslim ban and the building of the wall on the Mexican border that target black and brown people. It is an authoritarian and tactical way of governing that is devoid of morality and threatens the humanity of our American democratic ideals. This is not only evidenced in Trump and his administration’s rhetoric, but with the current rise of organized alt right white male groups have been emboldened seem to passively have the President’s support to be unapologetically and flippantly racist. We saw a glimpse of things to come during Trump’s campaign trail where people of color were being violently attacked and harassed. The message: you are not welcome in our new America.
I think that while we have always known that this country was racist towards black and brown folks, now we know know. And while Trayvon martin’s death galvanized movements for communities of color, it also provided a glimpse for other marginalized communities of what prejudice and discrimination for their respective group can look like.
Today we have a resistance movement that is composed of a myriad of marginalized groups. The difference today from five years ago is that the attacks on virtually all minority groups in some form or fashion has creating a unified resistance. Trump’s win created unprecedented coalitions and alliances that would have not otherwise materialized. A threat to one is a threat to all. I vehemently believe that what folks of color have endured in this country for decades, and in particular the conversations and the dark truths that the death of Trayvon Martin highlighted, is informing the necessity and sense of urgency with which we fight the discriminatory practices and sentiments of Trump’s policies.
Trump’s erratic executive orders are coming at us quickly. In the spirit of Trayvon Martin’s five year anniversary, we need to ask ourselves what we can do and where do we start. A critical place to begin is for us to assess our core values and if necessary a collective one of our families. We need to ask ourselves what values, ideals and approach to life we hold dear. This will inform us on what is important to us and which movement, or part of the resistance, we will align ourselves with. In terms of actions, we can take one of the three W’s – wealth, work or wisdom. We can write a check(s) to our charity or organization of choice, attend protests and marchers, make calls, write letters or lend a certain level of expertise to a cause – i.e. pro bono legal services to a community based organization.
We need to get fiercer, think critically, act locally and re-envision and rededicate ourselves to what it means to be an American. For Trayvon. He and his family deserve at least that from us.