Zimmerman Verdict a Catalyst or Catastrophe?

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Alicia NewtonI was returning home when the breaking news alert flashed over my phone. Zimmerman found Not Guilty. I stared in disbelief at the news flash. A sickening feeling set in. I just did not want to believe this was happening. My heart cried out for Trayvon’s mother and father. How will they survive this? Then my thoughts went to my own black sons who mercifully survived being teenage black men in America.

I kept looking at the phone expecting more information. My unlimited web feature was not working. I called three people and nobody picked up.  Looking for disconfirmation of the breaking news report; all I found was George Zimmerman, not guilty.

I did not watch the Zimmerman trial. The entire situation struck too close to home. For a parent of a black child, specifically a black male child, this trial pulled the scab off of painful memories. Memories of times when my own children were not the recipients of routine white privilege.

Just today someone I coach was telling me about her young black man.  Seventeen years old, newly minted drivers license, he got pulled over by the police, subjected to a breathalyzer and issued a speeding ticket for driving eight miles over the speed limit, 42 mph in a 35 mph. This mother was expressing her fear for her son and sense of helplessness to protect him. I so identify.

Black, young and male in America means you will not get a break. Your conduct will be examined, evaluated, and questioned constantly. No boyish impulsiveness for you. The consequences of such juvenile pranks won’t get you sent to the principal’s office. It can send you to jail, or, in Trayvon Martin’s case, get you killed.

As tragic and heartbreaking as Trayvon Martin’s murder is, if it ignites a discussion and positive action to end stereotyping, racial profiling and civil rights violations based on race, then his parents will hopefully find some solace that their son did not die in vain.

While the courtroom in Sanford, Fla., refused to allow discussion of the real issues here – racial profiling, civil rights defilement and laws that exonerate such behavior – my hope is that enough of us are sufficiently sickened to take action. All of my fiends – white, black, Latino, whatever – all are mortified by what happened in Sanford.  A 17-year-old is dead, this generation has their Emmett Till, a nation is stunned and many of us are grieving. But will it be enough?

My heart and prayers go out to Trayvon’s parents. No parent should have to bury his or her child. To my brown babies, I pray you will find the hope, strength and perseverance to thrive, endure, and walk in your dignity and brilliance. I pray that God will protect you because as a society we have failed you.