Jeremiah Short, Feature Writer
As I sit down to write this column, I’m filled with sadness, frustration and anger. The jury of six women finding George Zimmerman not guilty of 2nd Degree Murder and Manslaughter feels like such a miscarriage of justice.
I didn’t just feel like Trayvon Martin died all over again, but it also felt like my faith in the American justice system had died, as well.
It’s a system where young, black males enter with one strike against them. You’re presumed guilty before innocent. I know from personal experience.
In 2008, I was pulled over for allegedly running a stop sign. I thought it was just another traffic stop until the police officer asked me if I was on drugs. I responded: NO!!! The officer wasn’t convinced and asked me to get out of the car. I did and told him I would submit to a field sobriety test to prove that I wasn’t under the influence of alcohol or drugs. No test was given.
Instead, he called in the narcotics unit and searched my car. They tested the floorboard of my car and claimed that it tested positive for cocaine. (Later found to be battery acid.) I was arrested and spent a day and a half in jail. It was one the most humiliating times of my life. Charges were dropped soon after, but my reputation was forever damaged.
What crime did I commit? Driving While Black.
At that moment, I realized that the law doesn’t care that I’m an educated black man trying to better the world. I was just another NIGGER.
Sadly, most black men have a story similar mine. That’s why so many people were invested in the Zimmerman-Martin case. A lot of us have been in the same situation that Trayvon was in that fatal night. Some lost their life. Some are in jail due to bogus or trumped up charges. And the rest are living life knowing that we’re public enemy number one–a black man in America.
Athletes around the sports world shared the same level of sadness and anger that I did following the Zimmerman verdict.
“He is guilty of something there is no way he should be a free man our Justice system is a joke I’m disgusted our system has failed us,” said Chris Baker, a Washington Redskins’ defensive linemen.
Roddy White was a little more demonstrative in his displeasure with the verdict.“Fucking Zimmerman got away with murder today wow what kind of world do we live in,” White said.
“All them jurors should go home tonight and kill themselves for letting a grown man get away with killing a kid.”(White apologized the next morning for his tweet.)
Dwyane Wade summed up everyone’s feeling the best, though: “Wow!!! Stunned!!! Saddened as a father!!! Some1 make sense of this verdict for me right now please!!! Don’t worry I’ll wait…,” Wade tweeted.
“How do I explain this to my young boys????”
I ask the same question Wade did: How do we explain this injustice? Sadly, we can’t. Because it doesn’t make any sense. An unarmed black teenager walking home from the store with a bag of skittles and ice tea was shot by a Neighborhood Watch captain who was only supposed to observe and report.
Two parents are without their son. And the entire black community is left without answers.
How can we prevent this from happening again? The only real way to mobilize, not engage in violent acts.
Who will lead the charge? We all need to. But modern day athletes have a rare opportunity to lead a new age Civil Rights Movement.
The athletes of 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s had a sense of community and stood for something. Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. They used their status to better everyone. You couldn’t just hit a home run or dunk a basketball or score a touchdown during their era. You had to also speak up for those who didn’t have a voice.
Activism by athletes had dissipated since that time. The death of Martin woke up athletes, though. They spoke out and advocated for justice. For once, modern day athletes were leading from the front, not lagging behind or saying nothing at all.
They have to lead from the front again. Zimmerman was found not guilty. That doesn’t mean the movement for justice has to end. America is rife with issues that need to spoken on. Gay Marriage. Teen Violence. A flawed educational system. And basic civil rights we all should all have in this country.
LeBron James. Kevin Durant. Dwyane Wade. Adrian Peterson. Kobe Bryant. I’m challenging you to step up and become leaders. I want you to pick up where Russell, Brown and Ali left off. It is on you.
I am Trayvon Martin. You are Trayvon Martin. The only way we can prevent this tragedy from happening again is to turn our sadness and anger into action.
R.I.P. Trayvon Benjamin Martin. Your death won’t be in vain.