Friday, March 23, 2012

Trayvon's death calls for courageous steps

Every generation, it seems, a black boy is senselessly killed, and the nation takes notice. It was Emmet Till in my parents' generation. Yusef Hawkins was the first of my generation. And, Trayvon Hawkins is the first of my son's.

Of course it never seems to stop. Because the reality is the cases that make the headlines are far from the only ones. Black and brown boys are dying senselessly every day in cities across America. Girls of color as well. And not just young people. Four black women have been brutally murdered and left to die in trunks of cars this year in Detroit, and I haven't heard mention of any of their cases in weeks. Irregardless of the color of the perpetrators, the point is that the value of the lives of minorities doesn't seem to carry the same weight of their white counterparts. So the outrage over the deaths of the Trayvon's of the world fades far too fast.

The problem is that people get mad, but don't stay mad. They retreat back to their comfort zones, ... to worry about themselves and others like them. It is not enough to recognize that racism continues to be a cancer in this country only when an example of how sickening it can be is brought to light.

It is incumbent upon all of us to to show courage. The courageous thing to do is to have tough conversations about race. To rethink the makeup of our social circles, our friends, where and with whom we worship, eat and play.

When is the last time you went out of your way to interact with someone from a different culture, or religion, or neighborhood? These are simple, courageous steps.

In thinking about steps, I think about Trayvon. About how in that now famous audio clip he tells his girlfriend he didn't want to run. I wonder whether he may have survived if instead, he decided to do so. The steps you and I need to take seem so unimposing in comparison.

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