By Reggie Beamon
Our nation is in a state of concern with the events in Sanford, Florida—as it should be. The untimely death of another young black man, Trayvon Martin, has shaken the very core of the notion of freedom in America. Circumstances of his demise will be debated in State Legislatures, the courts of the land, and within our black communities for many months to come.
To memory, no other event thus far in this year’s feisty political season has gotten addressed by every candidate, from President Obama to each of the remaining would be Republican challengers.
From thousands of Facebook comments, the wearing of “hoodies” on profile pages and in the Halls of Congress to signing electronic petitions and local protests, it’s been an outpouring of expression that has galvanized dialogue throughout the black communities.
This is most definitely another wake up call to our communities.
One comment that urged me to write was made by HBO’s “Real Time” host Bill Maher when the discussion of the wearing of hoodies in response to a by now well traveled comment by Fox’s Geraldo Rivera. Maher aptly noted to some “boos” that both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were shot while wearing suits. His comment was so true and, in many ways, quite painful.
Then I started to think, in Black America we have been barraged with reports of our young people being shot down in various communities. Innocent children waiting for school buses, Sunday school students leaving church program rehearsals—even police officers in uniform and undercover officers have not been exempted. If you are black, the chances of becoming a victim of gun violence, no matter what you wear or your station in life, is a real and common occurrence.
For the reader who would label me insensitive to the Martin family and others who have been victims, or say that my words minimize the problem of blacks being shot, this neither was nor is my intention, yet the truth is the truth and there is no way to sugar coat it: Black people, particularly our young children are being shot in this country every day. If you wear a hoodie, your chances of being a victim obviously increase. Where has been the movement within our communities to end this tragedy? Yes, there are many groups of victims who have marched and came together, but the problem continues.
Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow-Push organization has consistently told this saga for years now. Rainbow-Push has even marched into the Chicago suburbs to gun shops in protest.
Only we can address this issue, yet we are slowed by our own political, cultural and economic disparities which prevail within the black communities across our nation.
Unfortunately, we have too many of our people who think they have “arrived”, a perception that does not extend to the upscale neighborhoods to which they have migrated, these problems, they believe, do not affect them. And they do not affect them until their children are stopped by police for “no reason” or for “driving while black”.
My generation understands the real racial profiling of the 50s and the 60s when “going down South” meant no stopping for restrooms and cooking food at home before leaving because there were no places for you to stop on the road, except the road itself.
Yes, some things have changed, while other things remain the same. Unfortunately, the carnage in our communities continues. Only we can step up, and only we can end it.
Black America must do everything in our collective power to protect and uplift our children to higher principles. We are the best role models to teach our children the legacy of our unique history and its value to our nation. Only we can illustrate the value of their lives from our standpoint and show how each life is so precious.
Black America has led the way in many positive societal actions and continues to lead the way. That unfortunate incident in a gated community in a city in Florida is a wake up call, calling us to look inward. Only by focusing on who we are and how we treat each other can we alter those perceptions of who we are as a collective black community.
If we change us, the rest of the world, and this nation, will follow us. They always do.