I know a young black male. He’s a teenager in high school, about to enter his senior year when school starts in a few weeks. He makes good grades, and he’s an excellent gamer. He has no kids out of wedlock and never been in legal trouble before.
I know this young man, and I know others like him, some are very similar and some are quite different. I know different kinds of young black males, and almost none of them are robbers, rapists or baby daddies with colonies of kids. Some were and are honor roll students. Some participated in community service. And some were young leaders.
They also share another common theme. They are all purposely invisible.
I thought about Trayvon Martin’s murder and the quest of George Zimmerman’s supporters to turn the young man into a thug. Anything that was used to paint the picture of Trayvon Martin as a wannabe thug was perfect to crucify him in the public’s imagination. Even if it was as simple as wearing a hoodie, the end result was that Trayvon Martin ultimately got himself killed.
There were two Trayvon Martins. One was the thug who caused his own murder. And he was on trial. He was never the victim or the defendant, because that Trayvon Martin didn’t exist in the minds of Zimmerman or the Sanford court.
Yet, the second Trayvon, the real version, was there. It was this version his family, relatives and friends knew and loved. It was this version that many people mourned for after hearing about his death. It was this version that was a regular teen, a human being like anyone else with his faults and talents. This Trayvon Martin was in school with big dreams that will never be realized. He was someone’s child who did nothing to warrant his killing.
Yet, this is the Trayvon Martin that a lot of people don’t see, and it’s pathetically because he is a young black male.
Being black in America, you are seen as a threat first and a human being last, way last. For young black men, the image of the heartless black brute is so strong that it is hazardous to their healths. It can literally get you killed, even if you’re no threat to anyone. They see what they’ve been taught by their families, friends and the media, assume the worse and justify it way before they will see a human being the same way they see their white friends.
Of course, in this land of color coding, the problem works in reverse. The image of the good white man comes before the mass murderers or serial killers. Sometimes that image is followed by the usual “mental illness” excuse or utter disbelief of what went down. “He was a good man. I don’t know what happened. Why?” I digress.
The portrait of the broken, dysfunctional, crime-ridden black community is so well-founded that certain people actually believe that most black Americans are screwed up through no one’s fault but their own. And many people prefer to see that portrait and present it as an accurate depiction of Black America. They use it to support their own prejudices and racism. They see it as “proof” to the inferiority archetype of the African American. And they encourage every single black American to fix it all on their own.
It is the black America they want to see almost all the time.
They don’t see us as a diverse group of human beings. They don’t see the middle and upper class – not most of the time. They don’t see the honor roll black students, the black scholars or the young black geniuses. They don’t see stable black families. They don’t see black fathers and black mothers being responsible to their children.
They don’t see any of that and a lot more because it’s invisible to them. It’s not existent even if it’s right in front of their faces. But make no mistake, the truth is out there in plain sight.