I'm Thankful That I Was Given Time to Grow
I haven’t been able to listen to much hip hop since I began processing the outcome of George Zimmerman’s criminal trial. I’ve had to stick to my pre-selected rotation of trusted artists rather than turn to any popular hip hop vendor. I’m just not in the mood to revel in the same caricatures of Black men that likely contributed to Trayvon Martin’s unnecessary death. I’m perfectly aware that I am probably directing much of my frustration at the wrong parties but everybody processes things in their own ways.
I watched the Zimmerman trial pretty intently and grew pretty tired of the sweeping generalizations being made about manhood. We’ve seen a long-term battle both inside and outside of the court in order to determine if Zimmerman was a racist, trigger-happy vigilante or a well-intentioned and concerned citizen. Likewise, people have fought to determine if Martin was a typical teenager doing typical teenager stuff or a violent and criminal youth who got what he deserved. The battle for the true identities of Martin and Zimmerman is still being furiously fought as we see through actions such as Trayvon’s friend, Rachel Jeantel, taking to the air to tell America that her friend was not a thug.
We have decades’ worth of research on interpersonal violence that shred apart our notions of “bad” guys whose criminal lifestyles account for all criminality and “good” guys who never do anything unlawful. I do believe that there are indeed people lacking empathy who routinely seize on opportunities to harm others. However, this is generally not the type of read that you make of somebody from miles above but rather something that you determine from interacting with somebody on a personal level. Thus, I simply don’t understand how any passive observer could form a strongly negative characterization of Martin based on the scraps of his life that have been made available to those of us who didn’t know him. This is all the more true given that he was seventeen years old and we have to allow him some degree of posturing and searching that almost always accompanies American boys. I would think that honest men would admit that they have undergone much growth since they were seventeen. This reality highlights the heightened tragedy in the unnecessary death of a teenager. Whoever Trayvon Martin was says little about the man that he was to become. I’m thankful that I was given time to work on my flaws and not be memorialized in them, because the ability to do so is clearly a luxury that is not granted to everyone.