Growing Up with Trayvon

In 2012, I was a mere 12 year-old middle schooler, and my biggest concern in life was what I was going to have for dinner. That all changed on February 26, 2012, the day 17 year-old Trayvon Benjamin Martin was fatally shot.  

The months following the death of Trayvon Martin were a turning point in my life. What I hoped was a watershed moment, was actually the beginning of a time in my life where everyday when I turn on the TV, or go on the Internet, I could find yet another young, Black man—who could have been my brother, one of my friends, or me—who had built themselves up, only to be shot down.

The awakening that followed the shooting of Trayvon Martin opened a whole new range of concerns in my life. I began to worry about what I wore, how people perceived me. People would cross to the other side of the street when I was dressed in a hoodie and sweatpants. I didn’t understand it. What about me was threatening? What sign did I wear that said stay away? This sign was the color of my skin. It not only said to stay away from this person, but to gun him down—and if you can’t do that, then lock him up. This is a perpetual cycle for young men of color like me. Today, I am 17-years-old, the same age as Trayvon when he was killed, and I am painfully aware of the timer on my life.

No one remembers that Trayvon was an honors English student, or that he wanted to be a pilot. To the media and by consequence the world he was not a human being, but just another Black body slain to be added to the body count. One bad week could make my life nothing more than a hashtag. After all, it was in the span of a week that Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were killedKeith Scott, Terence Crutcher, and Alfred Olango were killed in the span of two weeks. 

We cannot afford to grow numb to these occurrences, to expect 2-3 Brown and Black lives to be lost in a single week due to police brutality.  They are more than the week where we cry and mourn their loss. They were people, their lives matter, and we must never forget. We cannot accept our current reality as a standard for our future.

I have grown up in the age of Trayvon and one of the first messages the media has delivered to me is that Black men are not meant to be successful or celebrated, but are raised only to be slaughtered later. In our current justice system, a gun and antiquated laws like 'stand your ground’ allow a single person to be judge, jury, and executioner. Possessing the ability to decide in an instant who belongs in a community and who does not. As a 17-year-old Black man, I fear the day when someone decides in a matter of milliseconds that my life does not matter. I will be dehumanized to the point I am barely human, and become a mere statistic. 

The conditions that led to Trayvon’s extrajudicial murder are still here and are getting worse under Trump. One of Trump’s biggest supporters is the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), a major police union that has been reluctant to reprimand police officers responsible for killing Black people.  Under a Trump Administration, Black lives are even more vulnerable to state-sanctioned violence. We must continue to #TalkAboutTrayvon because the fight against institutional racism & anti-Black bias is not over.