A young man is walking along, minding his own business. He disappears and turns up dead days later. His killer or killers are defended by those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The perpetrators of the true crime are let off the hook, and all because the victim was "different". This is a story that has been played out hundreds of times in America, and now is being seen again in the case of Trayvon Martin.
There used to be a name for this: lynching.
From 1882 to 1968, over 4700 people were lynched in the United States; 73% of those victims were African-American, and 79% of lynchings happened in the South. Allegations against the victims ranged from rape to simply registering African Americans to vote. The list of victims is long and terrible to look at, when one considers that these people were killed by people who took it upon themselves to enforce their personal beliefs.
Throughout history, there have been efforts to combat this crime and the attitudes that cause it. In 1920, the NAACP began to hang a flag outside their New York headquarters the day after a lynching to call attention to the murders. It flew the flag until 1938, when it was pressured to stop flying it or be evicted from their headquarters.
As a teacher, I have taught many young black men like Trayvon. Some were troublesome, some were interested in learning, and some were simply trying to get through another day. Regardless of my opinions of their classroom behavior or actions, I could never imagine any of them being treated like Trayvon, Emmett Till, James Chaney, or James Byrd, Jr. The defense of George Zimmerman, and the attempts to deflect blame for the crime and the outrage to Trayvon, Al Sharpton, the President, and/or the media has been sickening.
Despite this, I have hope that we can reach a point where people can see a young African-American man walk down the street and not assume that he is a criminal, a drug dealer, or simply "suspicious". May we reach that point much sooner than later.