Trayvon Martin: Ignorance is Not Bliss

We do not live in Darfur; we have never experienced the unspeakable tragedy of genocide close-up. We do not live in the Middle East; we have never experienced bloody protests and revolutions like Egypt and so many other countries have in the past few years.

We live America. We are lucky enough to live in ‘Murrica: “Home of the free, the brave…” and the ignorant. After this latest series of events, ending with the Trayvon Martin case, and regarding civil, female – and just plain human rights, we cannot continue to ignore just how ignorant we are about the things that go on right in our backyard.

It was sometime around 11:00am this past Sunday, July 14th, that I realized the so-called ‘backyard’ was closer than I’d been pretending to myself. The helicopters overheard were louder than usual on a Sunday eve in the Hollywood-adjacent neighborhood I live in, and of course, the news showed no sign of why. I signed onto Twitter, aka the closest thing we’ve got to “News” these days. I quickly learned that the (peaceful!) protests of the Trayvon Martin verdict had moved to downtown Hollywood. Granted, these protests did not measure remotely in size to those happening concurrently in New York City, but this court case in Florida had finally, physically reached my fair city. I stayed up late that night listening to the citizen journalists buzzing about on social media, and I wondered what, besides paying attention, I could even do.

What did it make me realize? Simple answer: How absolutely powerless so many of us are in this country – and how scary it can be to merely live every day. As a woman living solo in the city, I experience this sometimes (e.g., is it normal to walk down any city street after dark gripping my keys in my fingers like Wolverine in one hand, mace in the other?) but even I know that does not compare, it is merely a point of reference.

Please let it be said, loudly and without any uncertainty: I cannot, and won’t pretend that I can 100% commiserate with anyone in Trayvon Martin’s (to bring this entire argument to one very specific representative, although I’m sure tragedies and injustices happen every day without quite so much attention from this nation’s news) shoes.

When one jury member from the trial of Trayvon Martin’s murderer (yes, I will call him that) reflected upon the case today, she told CNN, “I think both were responsible for the situation they had gotten themselves into.”

It made me feel sick. I cannot imagine what situation this young man had been responsible for, short of the daring and ballsy act to go out at night, in a hoodie, on foot, for a snack… while young and male and black.

This is the time when we look for blame, for answers, for reasoning in an unreasonable act. Do we pick fights with unarmed children because we are afraid of what we don’t know, of the so-called ‘potential’ for danger? Is the very concept that is causing our fear, also causing our potential to be dangerous to those around us? When it comes to Trayvon, that is the only (semi) reasonable answer I can come up with – the only ‘change-able’ answer.

And so, as it always is, education is the answer. We must not only teach the kids of tomorrow (I’ll be honest – I have no interaction with kids these days, so I’m no help there) but also participate so loudly, so passionately (but peacefully!) in the dialogue, that even those more ‘child-like,’ ignorant, mis or uninformed, will have no choice but to listen.

So here I am. Saying that this, whatever fucked-up, thought-we-were-way-past-this place we are now, in here in America, in 2013? Stop. Look around – how much progress have we really made? And when will it be enough to make a peaceful place for us to raise our kids, regardless of color, as one pretty notable man said almost exactly FIFTY years ago?

And no, I don’t think that writing in a blog, or recording a vlog, or tweeting, or whatever social media flavor of the day is “enough,” but its a hell of a start. Communicating in an open dialogue (that involves listening, too!), whether its down at your corner store or online on a message board. Talking, learning, spreading knowledge – that’s what this takes. Baby steps.

By Liza Nedelman

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