Dr. Boyce: The Gift of Trayvon Martin – His Sacrifice Has Awakened a Nation

Updated: July 17, 2013

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

Most of us will never forget how we felt on the night of “the verdict.” This was the moment where all of black America shed the same tear, and our worlds became a little darker than they were the day before.  We were having racism thrown right in our faces, with a justice system that said, “We’re going to exterminate your children and trample your human rights and there isn’t a d*amn thing you can do about it.”

The pain was sharp and intense for all of us.  What’s interesting to me is that it’s not as if the world suddenly changed on the night that George Zimmerman went free.  It’s that many of us suddenly realized what the world already was.   All of the so-called “Racial Chicken Littles” who’d been yelling about injustice for years, suddenly had the ears of everyone, including middle class black folks who’d come to believe that if we are well-behaved, hard-working and law-abiding, then everything would be ok.

The truth is that America has always been racist and corrupt.  Finding out about racism on the night of the George Zimmerman verdict is like the doctor telling you that you have cancer when it’s been eating away at your body for years.  The disease of racism has crippled America since our nation was founded, and the sickness has festered because we don’t have the courage or ability to treat it.  Rather than responding to racism proactively, intelligently and courageously, we’ve behaved like the sick, yet arrogant patient who thinks everyone else is ill and that he’s extraordinarily healthy.

America incarcerates more black men than South Africa did during the height of apartheid, yet we somehow consider the country of South Africa to have been worse off than us.  Just as many African Americans have lost their lives from the War on Drugs as there were Jews killed during the N*azi holocaust, yet we somehow disconnect the names Adolf Hitler and Ronald Reagan.

The Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman trial was a human alarm clock, awakening a beast of ferocity that hasn’t existed in black America since Angela Davis was a college student.  Black people across the board are fed up with a corrupt criminal justice system that has created more criminals than it has rehabilitated.  We are sick of school systems that make our kids less intelligent than they were when they arrived.  We are tired of an economic system that thinks black people should silently enjoy depression-level rates of unemployment.

I won’t even talk about the violence, where many of our kids can’t even walk to middle school without wondering if they are going to die the same way as their classmates.   Suburban kids are worried about their math test.  Inner city kids are dodging bullets delivered by gun manufacturers who profit by mass producing black genocide.

Trayvon’s gift to the world is that he gave enough of a shock to our system that we’re all wide awake, angry and not going to take it anymore.  Polite debates on Fox News are nearly turning into fist fights.   Office conversations with that well-intended bigot down the hall might end up with someone getting fired.  There is almost no tolerance for anyone who somehow justifies how a deranged, gun-toting lunatic can profile an unarmed child and be acquitted after killing him like a dog in the street.

There is almost no room for forgiveness, at least not this time.

Trayvon has given his life in a manner that has become a blessing to all of us.  His painful and untimely sacrifice will have a ripple effect that lasts for at least a half century.  Black America has been changed forever, and I truly believe that, when the dust has settled, we will be stronger than ever before.   As I said earlier, the beast has been awakened.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the author of the lecture series, “The 8 Principles of Black Male Empowerment.”  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

One Comment


    July 18, 2013 at 4:52 am


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