Karl Douglass: American tragedy

July 21, 2013 

I am still working through my thoughts about the George Zimmerman verdict. I know that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. I wish the judge had not forbidden the prosecution from using the phrase "racial profiling" in front of the jury. I believe that racial profiling led to Trayvon Martin's death.

I also believe that racial profiling led to the death of 19-year-old Kendrec McDade in Pasadena on March 24, 2012. And the death of 13-year-old Darious Simmons in Milwaukee on May 31, 2012. And the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis in Jacksonville on November 23, 2012.

Three black unarmed teenage boys shot dead. What's worse, if you Google "unarmed black teen shot," more than 1,000,000 results come back. Sixteen-year-old Kimani Gray in New York. Eighteen-year-old Ervin Jefferson in Atlanta. Twenty-year-old Wendell Allen in New Orleans.

I was a black teenage boy in the 1980s. I remember being followed in stores every now and then or having people look at me and my friends with disdain when we stood together on the street corner. I thought I could get harassed by the police or wrongly accused by a store owner. I never thought I might die just because of the image I projected as a black teenage boy.

Trayvon Martin died because of the image he projected as a Black teenage boy.

If George Zimmerman had been found guilty, the root cause of Trayvon Martin's death would still remain. Somehow, someway, black teenage boys have gained the aura of criminality in our society. Until we address that issue, there will continue to be more criminal cases like Zimmerman's and more deaths like Trayvon's.

Part of the problem is the black community's alone. Thug culture has pierced the veil and is influencing our young boys to equate manliness with unbridled violence, unprotected sex and material gain by any means necessary. Black men, black churches and other organizations inside our community must insist on better and raise the standard for our boys in all aspects of life.

But the other part of the problem is owned by society at large. To assume that every black teenage boy whose pants sag or who wears a white T-shirt is a criminal, assumed guilty until proven innocent, is wrong -- period. We need to take off the gloves and have some frank conversations about the biases we carry. There is no way our community will ever get past these problems until we agree to state them openly and talk about them honestly.

My heart breaks for the Martin family. I have no idea how I would deal with the death of my child under any circumstances, much less the circumstances they have suffered. The added hurt of the not guilty verdict had to make the pain even greater.

However, unless and until we deal with the real issue at hand, there will most certainly be another Trayvon Martin and another George Zimmerman in our future. To me, that is the most tragic statement of all.

Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.

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