Protect Our Children From Killers Like Zimmerman As Well As Gunmen Within Our Communities

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The murder of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old Black teenager at the hands of George Zimmerman who was on neighborhood watch patrol and the trial that followed became an international event.

The verdict, which found Mr. Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder, has sent a shock wave throughout the country.

The decision, made by a predominately White jury of women was another example of how race and perception permeates every facet of American society. The defense was somehow able to convince the jury that the fatal shooting of a young, unarmed Black teenager who was confronted by an armed adult and subsequently shot while returning to his home did not constitute second degree murder.

The decision has sparked justifiable outrage within the Black community as well as with other ethnic minorities and many Whites. My hope is that Black people hold on to the sense of injustice they feel over the slaying of an innocent child.

I’d love to see Black people use Trayvon’s senseless death as motivation to make sure that our children’s lives are valued as much as all children’s lives should be. This is why I say that we need to express the same level of outrage when one of our precious children is either killed or wounded by gun violence within our own communities.

The fact that gun violence is the leading cause of death for Black children and teenagers is not due to vigilante Whites that think they need to protect their neighborhoods against Black teens. It’s not even because the police, who routinely arrest Black teenagers at insanely higher rates than they do their White teenage counterparts for the same crimes, are shooting our kids. The vast majority of these deaths come from within our own communities.

In 2012, the Children’s Defense Fund, a child advocacy group founded by Marian Wright Edelman, the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, published a report that cited gun homicide as the leading cause of death among Black teens.

Additionally, the report which used data collected from each state in 2008 and 2009, documented that Black children and teens were victims of nonfatal shootings at a rate of approximately 1 every 30 minutes. A total of 5,740 Black children and teens died from gun violence during those years.

I can tell you that if either of my boys were found murdered --God forbid-- it wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference to me whether it was at the hands of a racist, a gang member or someone that thought they needed to “Stand their ground”; the impact, the horror and the need for justice would still be the same.

With all due respect to those local community organizers that work tirelessly to make our streets safer, it’s time for our communities to rally for the greater good of our children. If we want others to respect the lives of our children, we need to treat every murder of a Black child with the same level of inspection as Trayvon Martin’s death dictated.

We need to use our collective voices and our votes to hold our law enforcement officials and our legal system accountable for finding, arresting and convicting anyone that takes one of our children’s lives, regardless of the race of the perpetrator.

Instead of allowing devious elements of our communities to make phrases like “Stop Snitching” the code that governs the streets, we need make them understand that our children are off limits.

We need to send a clear message to any and everyone that if you harm our children, we will find you and punish you. That message needs to start at home. 

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