By Melanie Coffee
We all know the story. A 17-year-old armed with only a bag of Skittles, a hoodie and mocha skin is followed by a neighborhood watch man. At this moment, neither are breaking the law. Then there’s a confrontation. A few minutes later, Trayvon Martin is dead and George Zimmerman is accused in his death.
Fast forward to Saturday, when Zimmerman is acquitted of all charges. Many people are thunderstruck and it reignites much-needed discussions surrounding race. The verdict unites some communities and divides others. The main thought that I can’t really shake loose is: How can I protect my son from being another Trayvon Martin?
I know it’s a question many African Americans have been asking themselves since the teenager was killed on Feb. 26, 2012. I see it on Facebook, where one dad insisted his sons call him to check in on Saturday. That day the usual text message would not suffice. I see the concern in my Twitterstream, parents trying to raise first-class citizens in a world where some see them as “less than.” And I see it in the sad shake of a grandma’s head, as if to say “We sure thought this country would be past this by now.”
But we’re not. Today it’s how can I protect my son from being another Trayvon Martin. In 2006, it was How can I protect my son from being another Sean Bell? In 1999, it was Amadou Diallo. In 1998, it was James Byrd, Jr. In 1997, it was Abner Louima, 1989 was Yusef Hawkins, 1986 was Michael Griffith, 1981 was Michael Donald, 1964 was James Chaney, 1957 was Willie Edwards and in 1955, it was Emmett Till. (Did you know he was only 14 years old?) The list goes on and the further we go back, the more names are lost, tucked away in dark corners where America is scared to look.