It should go without saying that last month’s shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin hit home in more ways than one. As a journalist, I’ve had the displeasure of covering several high profile killings of black men in in the last few years. Oscar Grant and Sean Bell specifically. Each time, my mood runs the gamut from anger to sadness and back again. And finally to some good old fashioned pragmatic solutions.
I try to leave people with a few of those. I’m not a fan of marching. But unlike Bizzy Bone, while I beg my pardon to Martin for not finding his tactic effective, I’m not down to shoot either.* Oscar Grant was a few years younger than I, Sean Bell was a few years older.
Trayvon Martin was—by all accounts—the kid I used to be.
I don’t rock hoodies anymore because I’ve developed some very awkward aversion to having things on my head (this includes hats and glasses). As a teenager, I had a tan colored FUBU hoodie that I wore on a regular basis. I wore baggy clothes and tennis shoes. It was—what I’m sure many horrified but out of touch adults would call—a “thugs uniform.”
I also carried an above average GPA (that’s A’s and B’s if you’re keeping score).
Still, that wasn’t enough to save me from the burden of being black. I’m not going to act like I’ve dealt with old school racism, but I’ve dealt with the “you fit the description” police officers who are convinced we all look alike a time or two (I haven’t hit anyone in a fight since elementary school).
Martin’s killing is but a bitter reminder that you can come from a good home, say all the right things, do all the right things and still be a target.
At the age of 22, I was hemmed up by the park police and cited for trespassing while at an event I had permission to be with and had in fact helped organize. The ass clown who wrote the report was twice my size, but made sure to write in the report that they spotted me with an “L shaped object.” If you’re not keeping up, this is short for, “he’s got a gun.” I realized then how disposable life is as that surely would’ve been justification enough had they shot me.
I beat that case by the way. DA dropped it after I threatened to take it to trial. And it was, without a doubt, a case I would’ve won.
I often wonder today what types of judgments are made about me before I have a chance to open my mouth in person. At a stocky 5’6, I’m certainly no menacing character. I wear slacks, button ups or sweaters to work every day. I hold an advanced degree and have 12 years of experience in my field.
And speaking of the field, I wonder what potential employers think when they Google me? Will they see the litany of Q&A’s with artists, fighters and porn stars and see a well versed writer or a grown up man-child not ready for prime time?
(Little known fact, the headline on this very blog, “I’m a writer for myself and others,” is not just a take from a Jay-Z song. I’ve ghost written for CEOs, politicians and heads of government organizations. Ask about me)
The fact of the matter is that I’m a writer—and a damn good one. I’ve been ready for prime time because I’ve been playing on the big stage since I was 16-years-old. Even if you don’t approve of the subject matter, I would be an undeniable asset to any communications department or PR firm.
But if you can’t see what I see….none of that matters.
We all make snap judgments in life. Some judgments cost good candidates job opportunities. In Trayvon’s case, like Oscar and Sean, a snap judgment cost them their lives.
*Bizzy Bone: I beg my pardon to Martin, baby we ain’t marching we shooting- “Notorious Thugs”