WASHINGTON, March 24 2012 — The response to the death of Trayvon Martin has been nothing short of electric.
Communities photojournalist Jerry Rabinowitz captured images of the people, white and black, who stood for Trayvon at a Sanford, Florida vigil, reported to have drawn some thirty-thousand people.
Parents with fear on their faces and children, beautiful as only children can be, recognized a familiar fear in their lives, a fear that has been a part of the Black experience in America for far too long.
“If you look a the face of the older woman, with her white hair holding the MLK sign, you can see she has seen this over and over,” Mr. Rabinowitz says. “I also saw the hope in the faces, and in speaking to people, that there is hope that this will raise a conversation of national prominence that will stop those people who see a black child wearing a hoodie as a criminal before seeing them as a person.”
Trayvon Martin was killed wearing a hoodie while walking home in his neighborhood, shot by a neighborhood watch captain who claims that it was in self-defense. There are claims of police misconduct in handling the crime scene. There are questions of whether Mr. Zimmerman can claim self-defense as he was the one, according to police recordings, pursuing Trayvon.
Had Zimmerman just stopped, as the dispatcher told him, the young man would still be alive.
“I have been to many rallies and protests, as a participant and as a photojournalist, and the people have hope,” Mr. Rabinowitz says. “This gathering had a somber feeling, but also a hopeful feeling that maybe people will stop and think beyond color and fear.”
People are standing for Trayvon, and the outpouring of grief for this young man’s death is palpable and it is regardless of race.
From Los Angeles to Florida there have been vigils, rallies and marches. On Friday basketball superstar James LeBron tweeted #WeAreTrayvonMartin #Hoodies #Stereotyped #WeWantJustice. He accompanied the tweet with a picture of the Heat all wearing hoodies with their heads bowed.
LeBron’s tweet is just one of many celeb calls for justice, and it is often the power of celebrity, now married to social networking, that takes a story that might have otherwise faded away and makes it a national, if not international, trending cry.
And even so, this is not about race, though race is certainly a factor. It is about a young man, scarcely more than a child, who is dead. It is about all the lost promise that individual had and all that he might have been.
This story is about using deadly force when deadly force is not necessary or authorized. The community where the shooting happened was not aware that Mr. Zimmerman was toting a gun on his “volunteer” rounds.
It is not about whether Mr. Zimmerman feared for his life, because to think he feared for his life, when armed and struggling with an unarmed youth scarcely two-thirds his size (reports put him at 75-100 lbs heavier than Trayvon), strains imagination.
The outpouring, the vigils, the rallies and marches are not about vigilante justice or demanding a head on a pike, they are, at their core, about an America where a population does not feel safe walking our streets, and fear is often caused by those who are supposed to protect us, regardless of our race.
A mother, any mother, regardless of race or neighborhood, says a silent prayer when her child walks out the door, hoping that the child, her child, will return whole and unharmed.
It is the fear that millions of black parents and children, aunts and uncles, grandparents and all those who love them have when they see their children walk out the door, not knowing whether they will return.
But they should not have to fear that their children will be killed for the crime of “walking while black.”
President Obama’s remark that if he had a son, that son would look like Trayvon crosses political parties and speaks to the parent in all of us. And our children should be safe from attack and molestation.
And a message needs sent to all those who would use their assumed position of power to hurt another that no, this is America and we are not going tolerate it.
Reach out to photographer Jerry Rabinowtiz here
Jacquie Kubin is a parent who fears for her child as much as any parent and whose heart swells for Trayvon’s parents. We can only hope that he will be the last mother’s son that dies at the hands of misplaced zealousness.
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