Trayvon Martin and The Curse of Slavery

If you are not familiar with Trayvon Martin’s story I will sum it up briefly. Martin was a 17-year-old unarmed black male that was shot dead by a 28-year-old neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012. This is an oversimplified version, but you can Google Trayon Martin for all the details.

Martin’s story is heartbreaking on so many levels.  For starters, Martin was unarmed. Two, Zimmerman should not have been captain of his neighborhood-watch due to his lack of training. Not to mention his previous charges of resisting arrest with violence and battery on a law enforcement officer, that were later dropped. Three, charges have not been brought against Zimmerman for his murder of Martin!

My father was born in Springfield, IL, the birthplace of Lincoln. I’m not sure if it is that commonality that makes him fascinated by Lincoln and the Civil War or just plain intrigue.  But the man loves Lincoln and reading about the Civil War. As a child our family vacations revolved around Civil War battle fields, particularly Gettysburg. Last month I was in Philadelphia and Baltimore for two wholesale shows and was accompanied by my father.  So when my dad read me a passage from Carl Sandburg’s biography of Lincoln it was par for the course. The passage my father picked was about the state of slavery and the monetary value of slaves. We talked about our ancestors that were slave owners and how my grandmother told my father he was not allowed to EVER use the “n” word.

My father has always talked to me about “the curse of slavery.” As a young adult I shrugged it off, but as I aged I realized he was right. It really hit home at the Pennsylvania and Baltimore Convention Centers: most of the artists were white, most of the buyers were also white, but most of the convention center workers were black. It’s the curse of slavery that keeps blacks down. It’s the curse of slavery that makes black parents give talks to their children about how to act in public or around cops. It’s the curse of slavery that makes my friend Maria (a black woman) afraid to drive down south. It’s the curse of slavery that is making a mess out of Trayvon Martin’s untimely death.

Last week I finished rereading my favorite book To Kill A Mockingbird. My grandfather was the spitting image of Gregory Peck, while my own father’s philosophies are similar to Atticus Finch.  Is it time for American’s to reread this classic and ask how much have we really changed?

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