, Newburyport, MA


July 22, 2013

Why we love to talk about Trayvon


What the Zimmerman case has given us is the relieving opportunity to talk freely about racism. That is why the megaphones have come out. The protesters aren’t primarily interested in sending Zimmerman to prison, and they probably don’t have a good chance of doing so anyway. What they really want is to talk about something that they don’t usually get to talk about. The cameras are on and the cafeteria social etiquette has been temporarily suspended. This is the time for anger to surface that has been suppressed for years.

Instead of arguing revisionist analyses of the case, many protesters and even the prosecutors have reiterated that black men should be allowed to walk home without fear of being shot. This tells us something. They aren’t talking about Trayvon Martin, but about today’s America, for the verdict is not the end nor is it really the point after all. There is a much deeper message emitting from the outrage that goes far beyond the death of Trayvon Martin. In other words, we have much more to discuss than Zimmerman’s fate: namely, contemporary racism and corrupt media.

Martin, a son and friend who has tragically died, has now become a symbol, even though his murderer might have acted in justified self-defense. One could say that millions of angry Americans have exploited Martin’s death, while others could say that attaching him to an idea thus provides a means of dealing with a loss so seemingly meaningless. There was no conceivable reason for Martin to die.

Christians ask why God would do something so apparently pointless and hurtful. One way to combat this existential crisis is to schematize the tragedy into something more meaningful: a conversation about something much larger than the untimely death of a single teenager in an obscure Florida community. Trayvon Martin, the symbol, is a somewhat Christlike immortalization of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager who was mysteriously taken from his family and friends. By looking beyond the verdict, we are at once helping his loved ones cope and paying homage to the conversation of racism that begs to be had in this country, regardless of whether Zimmerman is guilty.


Joe D’Amore Jr., a student at Stonehill College, lives in West Newbury.

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