Just minutes after the verdict, my fingers searched for the keyboard. I wanted to write about how black America must find a way to get people to see our boys and tell the difference …
… between thugs and altar boys.
… between gangsters and kids in the National Honor Society.
… between pimps and boys too shy to ask the girls they like to the prom.
But I realized I was cruising the streets of Delray Beach so I pulled into a gas station and prayed. Because that’s not the proper response to the Zimmerman verdict.
Here’s the proper response: Why do I have to convince the George Zimmermans of the world that not all black boys are dangerous, that not all black people are dangerous?
Who else has to do that?
When I look at Charles Klinek, a brilliant University of Miami Law School graduate who’s studying for the bar and who should run for office someday, I don’t see Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer who raped and dismembered 17 guys over 13 years. I see my friend Cyndi Klinek’s kid, a guy who would make any mother proud.
When I look at Facebook posts from my white friends about their boys, I don’t imagine any of them growing up to be Adam Lanza, who killed 20 little children and six adults in an elementary school. I see my friends’ beautiful boys.
Is this a wake-up call for Black America to do more? Or is this a wakeup call for all of us, of all races, to stop assuming, stop guessing, stop profiling and stop stereotyping? Please don’t quote King if you don’t believe King. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked us to judge people by the content of their character. We try, some of us. But some of us are still aiming at color so we can find ways to assuage our fears.
Black people have spent a century trying to make America understand what life is like for black boys. Black America has watched as an irrational fear of all black boys becomes acceptable and leads to some black men being imprisoned wrongly and longer than any other men or women. Now it has led to a precedent for future encounters: If you fear a black male, you can kill him in self defense. Dang, one more thing to load onto the backs of good black boys who already have enough to deal with.
The Zimmerman verdict, like the O.J. Simpson verdict 18 years ago, came after a trial lost by prosecutors who could have done a better job of explaining what was true and what wasn’t. The Zimmerman trial was decided by six women who, in all likelihood, aren’t raising black boys.
Black America does have a duty. We must continue to teach our boys to grow into good men. We must continue to reach out to the minority of black boys who aren’t — the thugs and punks who make life hard for our innocent boys, the ones who go to Sunday school, who make straight A’s, who want to be senators, who kiss their mothers and love their sisters.
But while we’re doing what we do, we must demand that the George Zimmermans of the world work harder not to shine the same flashlight on our good children as they do the thugs they think they know. And we have to hope that all good people of all races with good intentions will help.