Trayvon Martin: Progress Toward a Better Tomorrow

Filed in Relationships by on July 16, 2013 0 Comments

Trayvon … What Do We Do Now?

Hoodie, Jay Hurt Relationship CoachI had planned on writing about something totally different today. But over the weekend, a lot transpired in the Martin/Zimmerman case.

Normally, I wouldn’t consider writing about news stories. I’m a relationship specialist. But I’m stirred to write about this because it’s exactly the type of thing we need to be talking about; the simple relationship between each other, stranger or friend.

When the shooting originally happened, it was a news story to me, nothing more. I did feel for the family, I’m a father and I wouldn’t want to go through what they went through.

The unfortunate truth is there are several children killed each day on our streets and their stories deserve to be told just like Trayvon’s. But the circumstances surrounding this tragedy have made it front page news. The reality here is that this is something that should have never happened. Unfortunately, it did happen. Now how do we pick up the pieces, learn from it and move on?

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes
The facts of the case are what they are. I have seen some of the “characters in this movie” up close and personal and I know the roles they play. Let me expound. I have been a juror on a trial and unfortunately, we had to convict a young African American male of robbery. That was one of the saddest days of my life. I really didn’t want to have to vote that way in the trial. The truth of the matter is if you believe in our justice system (which even with its imperfections, I believe in it); you have a responsibility to the court to follow the letter of the law, as clarified by the judge. It’s really that simple.

By that standard, though the young man never had a chance of winning the case I sat on as a juror. By all accounts, I think it’s a safe assumption here as well, being what the instructions of law were for this jury; Zimmerman probably never had a chance of being convicted.

I have been through what I felt was unfair treatment in a courtroom. Even though that incident may not have been “fair,” it was definitely within the letter of the law and the standard set by the court. I had to accept it, deal with it and move on. Attorney Faith Jenkins addressed fairness in court: Trials are not necessarily about the truth all the time,” the former prosecutor told CNN. “It’s about what you can prove in court.” Therefore, as a society, we should speak out on injustice, pursue other options of recourse, but do not promote violence as this will only make a bad situation worse.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been the kid with the hoodie walking to the store through a neighborhood where there were only two minority families in the entire neighborhood. At the age of 18, I was about 5’9”, 155, slim build and I looked somewhat like Trayvon. Many, many times, I would walk a mile to buy a 16 oz. Pepsi and a bag of M&M’s which would be finished before I would start my walk back home. I was blessed not to be harassed on those trips. My grandmother never had to worry about me hanging out in the neighborhood. Kids played together. I cut lawns for families in the neighborhood. No one ever profiled me (though later in life it happened a couple of times). I know what Trayvon looks like, because in a manner of speaking, I was Trayvon.

What Really Matters
Essentially, I don’t think any of those things matter. We have kids in every city and state that look like Trayvon. We know the standard at trial set for the jury. We even have residents who watch out for each other in many subdivisions. I don’t think any of it matters, in this particular case. I think the only thing that matters is the one thing I relate to that I wish I couldn’t. A mother and father lost their child. I have experienced that pain.

It was a long time ago and they were premature babies who lived only a short time, but these were still my children. I was devastated. I had to make it through and be strong, but it was not easy. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to lose my 18-year-old daughter. Parents, imagine coming home and finding out your child has been killed and the only thing they were guilty of at the moment was walking home wearing a hoodie.

When you change the name from Trayvon to [insert your child’s name here], then it becomes real. It becomes personal. It doesn’t matter if you are on the side of the prosecution or the defense, change the names to your little girl or boy and the only side you are on is the side of a deceased child and grieving parents.

Not Proud…but Honest
A mother and a father lost their son in a situation where there was racial profiling involved (although not discussed at this trial). When the verdict was read on Saturday and as I was thinking of it, it became very personal to me. I was outraged! For a time, my Christianity took a back seat to thinking what if that was my daughter. How would I respond? Would I allow this to go away with no recompense?

If you knew what I said my response would be, you might be surprised, but if you knew what I was thinking, you probably would have thought I was downright evil. How could someone take away my baby and walk away with a smile and a handshake in the courtroom? My thought process just couldn’t wrap my mind around letting it happen.

On Sunday morning, it was still bothering me. I simply tried to put it out of my mind. Most of the church service, I sat with a tear in my eye, which no matter how many times I wiped it away, it seemed to come back. I remember thinking, if there were ever a time a child (17 is a still a child, let me make sure that’s clear) had to die, this was not the time. This family didn’t have to endure this. As I sat there, fighting this overwhelming emotion, I remembered that, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5 NKJV).”

To be violent or to riot is not to honor Trayvon’s legacy. It is important to make certain this young man did not die in vain.

Relationships Matter
There were a plethora of ways this could have worked out better. I think that’s where the conversation has to take us. How do we make things better? The next time a child, of any race, nationality or gender is doing something we may question, we must make sure we are relating to each other so we stop and have a conversation to avoid this kind of behavior.

Trayvon and Zimmerman are the people in the story, but they are a microcosm of what still lurks in our society…a lack of relationship between people, whether racially divided or not. I want my 18-year-old to feel safe walking across campus or in her own neighborhood. It’s no longer us against them. Look around – we are all Americans. Everyone is an immigrant or a descendant of one (with respect to our Native American brothers and sisters). It’s our country. I love it and I will protect it with my life. That said, We need to protect each other. We need to look out for kids, all kids. Hillary Clinton wrote, “It’s takes a village to raise a child” and she was right.

Love and Respect
The foundation of this conversation has to be around respect. Respect is essential within every community.

Take the time to get to know your neighbors. Take the time to get to know the parents on your kid’s soccer team or cheerleading squad. When we know people, it’s much easier to respect them.

Our cultural differences cannot divide us as people. We simply can’t allow it. I re-tweeted a quote from Dr. King on Saturday night: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” We have to have the compassion for each other and love one another. The difference in our relationships when you love one another is that the entire conversation changes for the positive. Love changes how you view each other, how you talk to each other and most importantly how you treat each other.

Luke 6:32, 35-36 says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

This quote is life-changing, because it’s attitude changing. Live, work, play, and exist in love with each other. This is not a kumbaya moment…that’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking that each of us, starting with myself, love and care for everyone in your little environment. Be merciful with people, not so quick to judge. Extend grace as you would have it extended to you.

Let me phrase it this way…if we were talking about my child instead of Trayvon, I would HAVE to forgive Zimmerman…and even though it’s not my child, I forgive him. It’s non-negotiable. If I love him, I have to extend him grace and mercy as it is extended to me from my Father.

I think a great place to start healing is to pray for Trayvon’s family, George Zimmerman’s family and George himself. It doesn’t matter which side you fall on. Remember, both of these families are impacted. If they could change it, I’m sure both of them would do things differently on that fateful day. The fact is, they can’t change it and they have to move forward.

Pray there is healing within their families, with the mother and father who lost a child and with a man who was in a situation I’m sure he would change if he could.

We can’t bring Trayvon back. What we can do is change how we live with each other, how we respect each other and how we love one another. Let’s make this tragedy a turning point in America to bring us closer together and have stronger relationships.

Jay Hurt © 2013


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