My Take on Trayvon Martin

Over the last 10 years I have taught sociology on and off at Nashville State Community College (NSCC) in Nashville, Tennessee. The majority of students at NSCC are African-American. I guess, over the years I have had at least 1,000 students and at least 200 of them have been African-American men. Regardless of the actual number, I can tell you that 100% of my black-male students have stories about being pulled over by the police for no other reason than “driving while black,” being followed as they walk through the mall or department stores, and being stereotyped as a thug, for no other reason then the clothes they wear. One of my students, a black-male attending an Ivy League school but taking my class over summer break, loved wearing a t-shirt that on the front said, “I am your worse nightmare” and then on the back it read, “I am an educated black man.” It was his way of saying, “Don’t stereotype me because I am black, athletic, and wear dreadlocks.”

He is right.

Consider these facts:

  • There are more black men in prison today (or under the watch care of the criminal justice system) then were enslaved in 1850 (Michelle Alexander, Ohio State University law professor and author of The New Jim Crow: Mass in the Age of Colorblindness, 2010)
  • African-Americans make up 13.6% of the U.S. population but 40.2% of all prison inmates (2010 census data)
  • 1:15 black males ages 18 or older are incarcerated; compared to 1:106 white males (ACLU)
  • 1:3 black males can expect to go to prison at some point in their life (Bureau of Justice Statistics)

Those stats are just the tip of the iceberg. Blacks (especially males) are suspended and expelled from school at a higher rate than whites and other ethnicities and are more likely to be unemployed.

Is it all about race? No. There are other sociological factors like poverty, lack of education, and the absence of fathers that play a part. However, because the stats are so out of proportion, race does play a big role in what is taking place.

And that is where Travyon Martin comes in to play. Regardless of what other people think, in the black community, this is another episode of racial profiling gone bad, and it is based on a clear history of racism and discrimination.

If it had been a black person shooting another black person, sadly, no one would have noticed.

If it had been a black person shooting a white person, there would have been an arrest first and then a looking at the evidence.

But, since it was a person with one white parent and one hispanic parent, shooting a black male, and because it happened in a gated community, the shooter was given the benefit of the doubt and another unarmed black male is dead.

The entire situation is horrible. Not all the facts are known. There are no winners. Tensions will remain high for quite some time. But somehow, through the tension and chaos, we need to listen to what the black community is saying, and we need to come together to try and heal the racial divide that still exist in our country.

That’s my take on the Trayvon Martin saga.

My prayers are with both the Martin family and the Zimmerman family. My prayers are also with my country.

Advertisements

About Pastor Kevin

I am a husband, father, pastor, teacher, scuba diver, reader, bike rider...in that order.
This entry was posted in Racism and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to My Take on Trayvon Martin

  1. Jeremy says:

    Kevin, I’ve been thinking of this, too. I’m concerned with the lack of discussion this has produced among those I know. Is it because they don’t know or because they don’t care? I’m not sure.

    • revkev43 says:

      Jeremy,
      Unfortunately, the discussions I have seen and read have been very disappointing and are trying to blame the victim. (It seems to be a reaction to the main stream news media.)

  2. Kevin:

    I am a bit disturbed by your take on the Trayvon Martin incident. I realize we’ve spoken about it on another forum, but I wanted to respond here, at least on a couple of points that are relevant.

    First, you state at the end of your post that “The situation is horrible. not all the facts are known….” Well, that negates everything you’ve said prior to this statement. You’re right. We don’t have all the facts. Yet, like the sensationalist News Media, the usual suspects who never miss an opportunity to exploit such unfortunate situations for publicity and money by stirring racial tensions and politicians who have only power to gain by dividing the races, you seem to have bought into the foregone conclusion that Trayvon Martin is a martyr to the cause of racial advancement for all African-Americans, and the shooter is a hate-filled white man clearly motivated by racism.

    You state that “Regardless of what other people think, in the black community, this is another episode of racial profiling gone bad, and it is based on a clear history of racism and discrimination.” Really? But what if that’s just not TRUE? What if the mindset of the majority of the “Black Community” is just WRONG in this instance? What if this scenario has been cooked up and blown out of proportion to ignite the “black community” ahead of a very contentious election — in Florida? That might just be an alternative theory to the Conventional Wisdom we get from the Leftist Media that the investigation took a month so the cops and white politicians could cover this up.

    You also noted some statistics with regard to crime and incarceration rates in the US. You noted that “African-Americans make up 13.6% of the U.S. population but 40.2% of all prison inmates” (2010 census data). My read was that it was 12.6% are Black, and 72.4% are White, but we needn’t quibble. You didn’t however, note that in the general population Whites commit just under 40% of crimes, while blacks commit just over 40% of crimes (2010 census data). In other words, PROPORTIONALLY, African-Americans commit far MORE crime per capita than White Americans. That statistic is just as inarguable as are the population data, and it just might explain the great discrepancy in prison populations today. If more Blacks commit crimes, more will go to prison. Math doesn’t lie.

    The WHY of it is the issue. You state, “Is it all about race? No. There are other sociological factors like poverty, lack of education, and the absence of fathers that play a part. However, because the stats are so out of proportion, race does play a big role in what is taking place.” I’m not sure what your point is here. Are you saying that Blacks commit crime more often because they are black, or that cops just suspect them more (alot of the time) simply because they are black?” The former would be a rather insulting assumption to blacks, and the latter would be a rather insulting generalization to the vast majority of our Law Enforcement.

    When one considers, as you point out, other sociological factors like poverty, lack of education, familial destruction and the lack of positive male role models, and additionally the locations where many of these “driving while black” incidents occur (actually usually in high-crime areas like the inner-city, less often in suburbs, rarely in gated communities), race doesn’t have to play a role in these circumstances usually. However, what if the police are notified the assailant is an African-American?? Since Blacks are proportionately more likely (according to US Census Bureau stats) to commit crimes and officers are specifically told a suspect is African-American — is it racial profiling to be aware of these facts? Have we become that politically correct?

    I don’t know what happened on the night Trayvon Martin was killed. Nor do you. Nor does anyone else. We have gotten bits and pieces from a News Media that I don’t trust, and from Activists who have something to gain, and from politicians who want to stir their base to win an election. Not all the alleged, perceived nor actual discrimination and prejudice suffered by anyone will give us the answers to what happened that night. And acting on those prejudices — whether in the “Black Community,” or ANY other — is counterproductive. It will cloud the truth, not expose it.

    And in case anyone desires to call into question my racial views, I would state for the record that I have been a College Professor as an African-American Christian College for 9 years, and I have taught at a Community/Technical College for nearly 10 years. I have had over a thousand students as well, many were African-American. I truly believe, however, until we can get past this garbage of identifying ourselves and “African-American” or “White-American” or “Asian-American,” or “Hispanic-American,” we will ALWAYS have these needless arguments when tragedies like this happen. If we don’t ALL STOP IT, and just become AMERICANS, we won’t have an America much longer. We’re ripping it apart.

    Thanks, Kevin, for the work you do. Part of the way we overcome thorny issues like this is dialogue. I hope we can keep talking — it is preferable to the alternatives.

    • revkev43 says:

      Dale,

      “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

      I feel (and I could be wrong) that you read my post with your mind already made up about what I believe. For example, I re-read my post and no where do I mention any “facts” about the situation in FL, and so I don’t know how my writing, “not all the facts are known” negates everything I said. I intentionally did not mention any of the “facts” in this particular case. I know the facts are still coming out and two months from now the picture will look a lot different than it does now. (I have not been brainwashed by the “leftist” media and neither have I been brainwashed by the “rightist” anti-media media.)

      Also, I don’t know how you can read what I wrote and then conclude that I have “bought into the foregone conclusion that Trayvon Martin is a martyr to the cause of racial advancement…and the shooter is a hate-filled white man clearly motivated by racism.” What did I write that caused you to believe that? I feel (and again, I could be wrong) that you have your blinders on and are reading your own biases into what I have written. (Maybe it is coming from the “other” forum, but even there, my “complaint” was I thought someone was doing the exact some thing they were accusing others of doing.)

      My purpose in this post was to simply try and put some context into why the black community reacts the way the way it does when situations like this arise. It is based on their perception of reality that is based on past experiences. I feel we need to listen to what they are saying, even if we disagree with their perception. You don’t change somone’s perception of reality by attacking them.

      Furthermore, no where have I claimed to know what happened the night Trayvon was shot. All we know is he was unarmed and shot while running away. More than likely there was some type of conrontation that occurred before the shooting. I doubt Mr. Zimmerman when out that day with the intention of killing someone. It was a confrontation that ended in a trajedy. I have tried really hard to not paint Mr. Martin as a martyr nor Mr. Zimmerman as a murderer. More than likely the truth is somewhere in the middle. My attempt was to bring up the bigger picture of racism in our country.

      Here is something you need to know about me that may help when you read future posts. My curse in life is that I enjoy paradoxes. For whatever reason, my mind does not allow me to see issues in “black and white” (not race, but “either/or”). I see issues in different shades of gray. As a result, I find it difficult, at times, to adequately express what I am thinking; and I find it difficult, at times, to dialogue with those who see things as black or white (again, not race, but “either/or). I have a feeling (and I could be wrong) you see the world through the lenses of black or white, and that is the main reason why I have failed to communicate with you and you have failed to understand what I am saying.

      I hope that helps. Thanks for reading, and yes, I hope we can continue the dialogue. I respect your opinion.

  3. Nita Taylor says:

    Do you know how many lives are due to Black on Black crimes?

    • revkev43 says:

      I don’t know the exact stats, but most murders are committed by people of the same race. In other words, most of the time, whites murder whites, blacks murder blacks, hispanics murder hispanics, etc…

      Sociologists used to talk a lot about “black on black” crime. Now they talk alot about “black on brown” crime, which is blacks and hispanics. Right now, for whatever reasons, there is a lot of ethnic tension between these 2 groups; which, by the way, is what occurred in FL.

  4. Kevin:

    I think the key question I would ask is, does the Trayvon Martin shooting really present the proper forum for discussion of issues of race, since as you said, “My attempt was to bring up the bigger picture of racism in our country”? Perhaps some think so because of the “Black Community” reaction to it. Unfortunately, the Black Community, or at least the Leftist-activist wing of that community, has long been open to manipulation for political purposes. The facts, however, do not indicate that Zimmerman “went hunting black guys” the night Martin was killed.

    I suppose you are correct regarding my view — seeing things as “black or white,” or “right or wrong.” But I also recognize “paradoxes” and moral contradictions — I learned the hard way. In a case in which there are facts that have yet to be established, however, and an event has occurred — like a shooting — then there is objective truth that can be established and known. In this case, issues of race, the Media, Publicity Hounds like Jackson and Sharpton, political agendas and needless interjection about race relations does more to obscure those objective facts and solve the actual case.

    Call me crazy — but I want the TRUTH — and I want justice, for the sake of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. I’m more interested in the real people in distress or who have fallen victim to actual violence, rather than in the “perceived” victims of institutional slights opportunely brought up at the expense of these very real people. I think using this incident to “discuss” racism simply furthers a particular political agenda while it does a disservice to the truth about the death of Trayvon Martin.

    • revkev43 says:

      Thanks Dale,

      I believe even though you and I come from two different perspectives, somehow or another we are on the same page (for the most part) 🙂

      Keep fighting the good fight.

  5. Robert says:

    I too have some questions about injustice, which this situation brings to light:
    Isn’t it unjust to judge a community racist, simply for having a gate and a community watch program?
    Isn’t it unjust to call a man “white”, when he has both a Caucasian parent and a Hispanic parent, the President is from a mixed race home, yet he is not called “white”? See: http://thoughtfulindia.com/2011/04/obamas-father-forced-out-at-harvard/
    Isn’t it unjust to even care about the color of someone’s skin. I thought that is what Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”?
    Isn’t it unjust blame the police department, when we have not even heard all the facts?
    Isn’t it unjust to call a 17 year-old a “child”, when in less than a year he will be called and adult and can defend our liberties by serving us in the military?
    Isn’t it unjust to say that because a person is arrested for a crime he committed, that the system is somehow racist?
    Isn’t it unjust to the parents of other 17 year-olds who were murdered, to not give as much attention to the crimes that led to their deaths as we are doing here?
    Isn’t it unjust that many people have made a judgment about this situation and they were not even in the state, nor the scene of the crime, at the time of the murder?
    Yes I believe there is much injustice here. However that is what happens when we expect government to be perfect, in a broken world. Justice must begin with the individual, before it will ever be practiced in government. At least that is my questions.
    Thanks for the form!

  6. Chris Williamson says:

    Thank you Kevin for such a well-balanced article. It is always refreshing when our Caucasian family members do their best to feel our pain and articulate the current social malady with such statistical precision and compassion. Your observations are unfortunately true. There still does exist a double standard in America as far as race is concerned. It will only cease when men like you continue to get involved and speak the truth in love.

  7. Tim Clayton says:

    Just waiting on the rest of the facts to come in, looks like poor Trayvon was not quite the innocent 12 year old he has been made out to be. No, that doesn’t mean that he should be dead, I am just disturbed by the amount of racially generated hype that has been generated against Zimmerman with absolutely no reason.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s