The death of Treyvon Martin rests on the minds and hearts of many Americans. The controversy over the investigation and delay of charges toward his killer George Zimmerman resound throughout the media. Local news outlets estimate that tens of thousands will attend a rally today in Sanford, Florida demanding justice for Martin’s death. His parents collected over 1.5 million signatures on Change.org to petition law enforcement in Sanford to take action. Obama responded sympathetically to the event stating, “If I had a son, he’d look like Treyvon.” Commentary on the event and the racial and legal implications resound throughout the blogosphere.
Through the uproar about this tragic issue, I zeroed in on a story about a woman who lost her favorite brother in an incident similar to Martin’s killing. When her African American sons entered adolescence, she addressed the prejudice they would face and tried to prepare her boys to avoid confrontations that could unjustly challenge their lives.
NPR interviewed author Donna Britt last week, but she has been talking about misperceptions of African American men since at least 1994. Britt wrote about the talks she had with her adolescent sons in her Washington Post column. For the interview with NPR, two of her sons joined her and discussed the bias they face as African American young men.
Britt and her sons spoke openly about preparing for prejudice and the frustrations that come from being stereotyped. Darrell Britt-Gibson reflected on the tension and the susceptibility he feels around law enforcement, “I mean, it’s hard not to be black you know.”
Justin Britt-Gibson commented on the Treyvon Martin case, “[A]m I hurt? Absolutely. Does my heart break? Without a doubt. But am I surprised? No. And I think that’s part of the bigger problem.”
I would recommend this interview to anyone willing to get a broader perspective about the racial tensions surfacing with Martin’s death.
Britt, who impressed me with her pragmatic approach toward racism, ended the interview with an interesting insight toward change.
She said, “[R]acism is, I think, a bit like being in the water or the air. And I think of it the same way that I think of sexism. These things, we absorb them. And so it takes time and love and forgiveness, and shining a bright light on situations like what happened to Trayvon, to really make the shifts deep enough and permanent enough that things like this don’t happen.”