New mothers often tell me that they barely remember the pain of childbirth once they look at their baby’s angelic little face. Or they say things like “the pain was so worth it…just look at her”. The subsequent euphoria of childbirth got me thinking about Trayvon Martin and the “birth of a nation”.
The Trayvon Martin tragedy brings back to light America’s painful history with the African American community. A relationship that was born out of malice—the blood, sweat, and tears of an enslaved people—whose contributions both unwilling and willing have all but escaped the pages of our history books. And because of this omission, our reality both past and present day are diminished, leaving stereotypes and fears to fill the void that history has left.
The birth of our nation was indeed a painful one—and when we look at the faces of countless Trayvons, the hurt and sacrifice isn’t eased, it’s incensed.
When President Obama made his statement: “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon” it should have been a rally cry for self examination—how could a boy so young filled with “cheerfulness” come to his death in 2012 in the land of liberty because of the color of his skin? But instead of using this calamity as the impetuous for much needed dialogue on race and perception vs. reality the Right took it as an opportunity to neglect the bold type on the wall.
We do not live in a “post-racial” society, far from it.
What’s frustrating is that the burden of race conversations has always been placed on the oppressed rather than broached by the oppressor. I can’t think of a time that was unprovoked by some injustice that as a collective we were discussing the impact that racism has on our society. It’s possible that if we continually had conversations about racism in classrooms, at water coolers, and in the media that we could minimize these horrific race induced events. But instead we like to participate in communal amnesia, pretending that as a country long gone are the days of public lynchings therefore racism is a thing of the past.
African Americans may not hang from trees with the same frequency as before but our character is continually left to swing in the wind— constantly referred to as “suspicious”, “angry”, or “oversexed”.
We all have a part to play in the redemption of the Trayvons both past and present. By continuing the dialogue about the state of a nation that still struggles with the pain of its birth and desperately tries to grow into the nation it’s forefather’s imagined for it—where liberty and justice is felt by all.
Musical knowledge after the jump… Nas featuring Lauryn Hill