“This morning new evidence has turned up in the case of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin…”
New video footage.
New recordings of 911 phone calls.
New eyewitness accounts.
And so again, we Americans get caught up in a news story about a tragedy, a violent death. If history repeats itself, we will spend the next weeks, months—or even years if it goes to trial—sorting through every little detail of the case.
Each side will pick and choose which aspects of the story we would like to focus on, while conveniently leaving out or minimizing other points. We will build our own case for why our side is right, and the other side wrong.
And once again, those “sides” will largely fall along racial lines.
Today I want to ask a question of my fellow white Americans:
Will we listen to Trayvon?
Because Trayvon’s death, as tragic as it is in and of itself, is not just about Trayvon.
Trayvon has become a symbol, an embodiment, of generations of pain and anger carried by our African-American brothers and sisters. They see their sons in Trayvon. They see themselves.
Trayvon has become a face, a name, that African-Americans can speak, to help give voice to their anguish. To help them express the emotions they usually hold in when they are around us, as part of an instinctive survival mechanism.
So now that they are speaking, will we listen?
Instead of focusing on the details of the case, can we call up an African-American friend and say, “I don’t understand your anger. But I want to. What does Trayvon mean to you? What is your experience with being black in America?”
Can we invite the African-American pastor from down the street to come speak to our congregation, to help our understanding.
And once we’ve asked, can we just listen?
Not argue back. Not become defensive. Not take what is said personally.
Just listen, and seek to understand.
Trayvon Martin can’t speak for himself anymore.
But thousands of African-Americans are rising up and speaking in his name saying, Something is terribly wrong.
Will we listen?
The following is a video of members of the NBC News Department sharing their thoughts about what Trayvon means to them:
(Click here if the video doesn’t show up in your feed.)