Letter to the Editor: American nightmare: a reality for too many

The death of Trayvon Martin was not a random, unusual case of injustice. In regards to the circumstances surrounding his death, nothing separates Trayvon from every other black male in America. Trayvon was minding his own business when he was killed for ‘looking suspicious.’ It could have just as easily been a fellow Laker walking back from Copper Beach late one night. Aaron Campbell, Oscar Grant, Victor Steen, Steven Eugene Washington, Barry Deloatch, Steven Rodriguez, and Sean Bell are just a few names of other unarmed black men recently shot to death by the police. This disturbing pattern must be recognized for what it is and it must be stopped. Treating Trayvon as a singular, arbitrary instance of injustice is avoiding the truth and doing nothing to help eradicate the true problem.

And the true problem is not Zimmerman. As Diane Nash, a leader of the Freedom Riders, told us: people are never your enemy; it is beliefs, ignorance, unjust environments, etc. Getting rid of the bad people will do little to solve the problem as it will leave the corrupted system intact. Do not misconstrue this. Of course the murderers of these innocent men need to be locked up. But that, by itself, is far from enough. Locking Zimmerman up will not bring Trayvon back. Nor does it address the cause of his death. And merely voicing disgust for police brutality, racial profiling and injustice will not produce much change. A much deeper analysis is necessary to ensure we direct our efforts towards fighting the true culprit. We need to ask: why did the police kill these innocent men? Well, some officers were overtly racist bigots consciously abusing their authority. Some actually feared for their lives.

Why did they fear for their lives? Because America has a serious psychological disorder. It is Black Male Phobia. We are deadly afraid of all black males. Their attire, socioeconomic status and behavior are irrelevant factors in this fear. Size and shade of skin color alone (biological factors outside of their control) determine the amount of fear that will be immediately felt by those in their presence. They could be trying to help their neighbor with her groceries, wearing the same exact outfit as the white boy next to them, or probably even knitting a scarf and they will be perceived as ‘shady’ or ‘suspicious.’

The majority of Americans suffer from Black Male Phobia but I think it is safe to say that white America suffers from the worst case of it, despite the fact that they are 4 to 5 times more likely to be victimized by a white person than a black person. By medical dictionaries, a ‘phobia’ is defined as an obsessive, irrational, intense fear and is considered to be a mental disorder when it interferes with social functioning. (I would argue that the deliberate and unremorseful killing of innocent people is evidence of major social dysfunction).

Zimmermans will come and go, get incarcerated and released, but as long as we do nothing to eliminate this deadly fear, black men will continue to be, by far the greatest victims of murder as they are safe nowhere.

So let us not get caught up in trends that accomplish practically nothing, such as taking a picture with one’s hood on for Trayvon Martin. Let us not only scream “Justice for Trayvon” or “Justice for Troy Davis,” lest we be filled with the same pain just screaming a different name (maybe even of someone we personally know) in a couple months or years. Let us scream “Protect our Black Men” and work to cure this debilitating illness that turns even kind, relatively non-racist, fairly intelligent men into murderers and judges and jurors into complete imbeciles. And let us do so expeditiously because I’ll be damned if one of my loved ones ends up being next and I am not the only one who feels that way.