The lesson of Trayvon Martin

“You ever been to the Grand Canyon? Its pretty, but thats not the thing of it. You can sit on the edge of that big ol’ thing and those rocks… the cliffs and rocks are so old… it took so long for that thing to get like that… and it ain’t done either! It happens right there while you’re watching it. It’s happening right now as we are sitting here in this ugly town. When you sit on the edge of that thing, you realize what a joke we people really are… what big heads we have thinking that what we do is gonna matter all that much… thinking that our time here means didly to those rocks. Just a split second we have been here, the whole lot of us. That’s a piece of time so small to even get a name. Those rocks are laughing at me right now, me and my worries… Yeah, its real humorous, that Grand Canyon. Its laughing at me right now. You know what I felt like? I felt like a gnat that lands on the ass of a cow chewing his cud on the side of the road that you drive by doing 70 mph.”

– From the movie Grand Canyon

Out of a laundry list of memorable scenes from the Lawrence Kasdan flick, I keep coming back to this one. Danny Glover and Kevin Kline are blowing off steam after Glover’s character- Simon- comes to his rescue. Inside that moment, they were just two guys talking about the problems of the world, figuring it out as best they could. A world they were sharing the space of, but one which possessed a racial chasm of wide and complicated truths and consequences. Inside their peaceful summit, they reduced the mean thick into a palatable solution, resigned to the fact that its balance was a fleeting bask. Inside the answers to their questions, their differences were unifying, not divisive.

And therein lies the grand canyon of which I thought on over the last couple of days. The screaming gap which still exists between two cultures whose shared existence is fraught with self made obstacles. Let’s face it, this country does a bang up job of talking up how we want to democratize every little corner of the world while conveniently ignoring the lack of democracy in our every day language, gestures and deeds. Asking whether Trayvon Martin should have been followed on that night is a fair question. It may be an unpleasant reminder as to how far we still have to go, but it’s a fair question nonetheless.

Say it would have been my son walking home that night. Would we be having this conversation? They were the same age, basically the same height and weight. Excepting for the color of their skin, you could have stood them next to each other and called it even. Of course, you can’t discount color. Not when it transforms Trayvon from a strapping young man looking to get home to a menacing thug looking to find trouble. While I understand this narrow minded description of Trayvon possessed the context of a criminal trial’s unforgiving devices, I’m also well aware it exists independently of a courtroom.

Trayvon Martin fell into that canyon that divides us. His loss has to be our loss, it has to matter that much. It should matter, to everyone. It’s not just the latest sad story, it’s his story. We have to look to Trayvon Martin for what he can become.

Our lesson.

18 thoughts on “The lesson of Trayvon Martin

  1. I haven’t seen the film but I’m going to. And you’re right, there is a divide we need to bridge. It seems we lose sight of all we have to lose when we choose sides in criminal trials such as these.

  2. You know I have to voice in on this issue…being from the South and all. (Man! why can’t I learn to keep my mouth shut).

    It is a canyon. It has BEEN a canyon for a very long time; even before this country was born. Racial prejudice, religious prejudice, ethnic prejudice, class prejudice …. A wart that wont stay away and I honestly doubt it ever will.

    Should a young boy (with black skin) wearing a hoodie, eating Skittles, walking in a nice neighborhood been shot for no apparent reason? Hell no. Should a pretty girl walking to her car after work get raped? No. Difference? Is it that being in the wrong place, looking the wrong way, at the wrong time be a common ground or is there even more? The racial divide amongst this human race is like a charged battery waiting to be cranked. This won’t change. There will be other instances. Maybe next time a white person gets robbed or beaten or killed. Then the whites will be mad. (Have we forgotten the OJ trial?). That canyon is wide and it has seen a lot of history and there are a lot of bad memories, a lot of anger, a lot of un-forgiveness, and a lot of progress to be made. But can that progress be made when people seem to always have an agenda greater than love, tolerance, fairness? I don’t believe it is.

    Hypocrites fill our world and our governments and our churches. Treyvon could have lived in that neighborhood, maybe he just went out for a walk, maybe he was visiting a friend. Zimmerman could have asked. He never had view of a gun nor was he ever in danger. He didn’t use his words. He killed a young boy..doesn’t matter what color his skin was. The fool should rot in jail.

    Now for the Great Racial Divide. I will lay my head on the block and say that this country and its governing forces and special interest groups have put into place many laws, and institutions, and museums, and remembrances that are very helpful in the prevention of bigotry and unfair judgement. Some of these rights are not available to other races: Schools that are exclusive for one race or religion, institutions that follow – chart and take action against businesses that do not have a certain percentage of racial employment, universities that are required to graduate a certain percentage of racial students, college chapters that only allow a certain race to join, magazines and television channels featuring and targeted only to one race. Let’s be fair and let’s be honest. We have come a long way since ‘Bloody Sunday’ in 1965. In my place of employment (a hospital) I can tell you that I was interviewed 3 times…every time by an African American. I have 2 bosses on the unit where I work. Both of them are African Americans. I am a minority in my department. Of the 32 employees, 64% are African American. I experience racial tension every day. You get a large group of people (whites and blacks) into a room filled with tables. You watch what happens. The blacks sit together. The whites sit together. I have hosted a few situations like this and I tried my hardest to get the people to mix. They wanted to be with their kind.

    You tell me. Is this racial prejudice? Or is this just humans being humans?

  3. K- Where I work, I also happen to be a minority. I understand my job to be an exemplary quicksilver pen to the inaction of two hundred years worth of really bad stamp. This post was about a son, the son I have and the son that got caught doing nothing criminal minded. And this post was about wishing things differently than the way things are. I know it doesn’t get to be different on a wish. Big love for your comment. We need more dialogue on this matter. We need a lot more of it.

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