I know Trayvon Martin…
I came-of-age watching him sit on the stoop of some tenement; baggy jeans, clean sneakers and hooded sweatshirt, shooting the shit with his friends and arguing over NBA front-runners and the best teams. When I attended Weaver High School, I watched him sit in the back of the class, swathed in the same urban uniform, tapping beats on a desk… aloof and disinterested. Sometimes, the teacher would say something that piqued his interest and he’d interject before going back to nodding his head to whatever freestyle beat he was composing on his desk.
During algebra class he’d shuffle up to the front of the room, calmly push the hood of his sweatshirt back, pick up a piece of chalk, and effortlessly solve a complex math equation, much to the teacher’s delight and mild surprise.
I’d see him congregated in the cafeteria with a group of his friends pointing and laughing raucously as they played the dozens, roasting one another amid an eager group of like-minded spectators.
I got to know him a bit beyond his casual, be-hooded demeanor while bouncing yearbook, prom, and fundraising ideas off one another during weekly Class of 1996 meetings. He made an exception the night of prom and opted for a black tuxedo instead… leaving his hooded sweatshirt at home for the evening.
As an adult I listened to a hooded young teenager just like Trayvon, exchanging loud and crude stories about their high school dating prospects with his friends as they sat in the back of an empty– (save me and them) complimentary downtown shuttle bus. I sat towards the front, rolled my eyes with a smirk and shook my head as he boastfully showed off to his friends. “Be careful” the driver… a White male… warned me, as he side-eyed and nodded in the direction of the young boys. “Oh, they’re fine. They’re just being silly.” I said, annoyed by his warning. Trayvon’s hooded contemporary took a break from fronting for his friends, shuffled to the front and sheepishly asked me, “Miss, um, you wouldn’t happen to have 75 cents uhh… would you? I’m short for the bus ride home.” I shook my head, recalling how only minutes prior he’d been putting on a show for his buddies, and handed him 3 quarters… which I happened to have in my pants pocket from an earlier transaction. “Thanks Miss! I appreciate it.” He said.
While walking to Carlos Supermarket in the Asylum Hill-Farmington Avenue section of Hartford, I watched a young, Black teenager in a hooded sweatshirt size up an older woman struggling to pull her shopping buggy along the sidewalk. He removed his earphones long enough to ask her if she needed help before realizing that he knew her as an acquaintance of his mother’s. She seemed pleased as one of those “your mother should be proud” smiles passed across her face.
See, I know Trayvon. While he isn’t a choir boy or above reproach, I grew up with the likes of him and know he is more than a “suspicious looking” perpetrator in hooded sweatshirt skulking along a dark, rainy street. I know that sometimes he’s walking with a purpose and that purpose isn’t always to cause harm or to rob someone.
My nephews are Trayvon Martin. They love candy and juice boxes, and will be teenagers in about 10 and 13 years respectively. According to the social construct of White supremacy and privilege, whose opinions about young Black and Latino boys (and young girls) are predicated on gross racial stereotypes and according to Geraldo Rivera, my nephews should be subject to scrutiny and possibly marked for death by trigger-happy vigilante bigots like George Zimmerman, because they have the nerve to expect their humanity to be taken into account, if they dare walk down the street while Black and dressed in a hooded sweatshirt. They deserve to be racially profiled, even amidst all the Post-Racial America propaganda… and somehow being Black is the scarlet letter they’ll have to suffer for.
Now watch the video: