A decade ago I was 15 and Trayvon was 17. We could have been friends.
Not friends in the sense that we had a whole lot in common but in the sense that we where peers. Young Black boys.
I wish that I could say that I became radicalized by reading books. That it was an innate understanding of the history of being a Black American. But that would be a lie. Trayvon’s murder was the epicenter of radicalization for a lot of my generation. Someone had been murdered for being just like us.
In the ensuing coverage, analysis and protests Rodney King started showing up. At the time of the King beating my mom was 18, dad 15 — just like me. But unfortunately for them they had other hardships in which they where radicalized being born in the 70s and coming of age in the 80s. King was just the solidification of “you already knowing that you’re a second-class citizen” as my father put it.
Trayvon was the cracking open of the truth of my second-class citizenry and I wish that he wasn’t immortalized in that way.
I would have endured more overt forms of racism if it meant that he was still living. I would have rather been radicalized in any way that would have spared my peer’s life. I wish that when uttering his name — a name where there are hundreds of Trayvons — the same person didn’t come to mind.
For a split second in time, all of the Black people in America was in the same room all mourning at once. And I can’t say that it ever really stopped. In that mourning I feel a stronger kinship with Black folks. I still get called son by Black people that I don’t know. They wish me the best in ways that a stranger shouldn’t be able to. They share in my successes and aspirations in ways that only my family should. They wish me continued life because they know that being Black is to live on borrowed time.
The kind of borrowed time that makes Black people become a part of the same legacy as the Kings, the Rices, the Blands, and everyone else that don’t have the privilege of having sections in history books, only footnotes. The legacy of being another Black person who awakened a generation by way of violence transgressed against them.
Like the others that came before and would come after him, Trayvon was one of the sparks that Tupac talked about. A “spark [to] the brain that will change the world.” Year after year there have been several more sparks and each spark allowed the embers to burn a little bit further to what will hopefully lead to some sort of liberation from the fear that is death that lingers above the lives of Black folk so that we may be free.
When I watched the White world demonize Trayvon for wearing a hoodie — a hoodie that their white children wear as well — when I watched them demonize Trayvon for carrying tea and candy to then blame him for making it look like a gun — when I watched them demonize someone by all accounts is just like me, I felt the child fall out of me.
I realized in an instant that innocence is a not a luxury of Black people. That to be Black is to be the antithesis of America whilst depending on you to survive. To never be rewarded the full spectrum of what it means to be a human being. And even it was rewarded it would just be that; a reward. A congratulations for enduring what by under normal circumstances be humanly impossible.
But the death of Black people will always be necessary. It is necessary to keep the experiment of America alive. The death of every Black person will be propped up by the country to be used as signal that we have so much longer to go. Be used as an excuse that we are trying our best, even when our best will allow you to die. But after so many experiments over this country’s 400 years with no evidence of return of investment, it’s time to let this experiment be inconclusive. Or rather let its conclusion be what it has shown us from the beginning, a society based on the worst of human nature.
For Trayvon — my friend — I say these thank yous with bitterness. For all that has happened in your name I hope that you are looking at all we have done with content. Because we have turned you in to a martyrish symbol when you should be on the ground with us, along with all of the others in the same tradition as you.