We learned this weekend that Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, was found not guilty as the jury considered his actions to be self defense. Right now, cities across the country are raging with protests. People as far away from the scene of the crime as Oakland, Calif., are screaming in the streets, setting fires and crying that justice hasn't been done.
Trayvon's death is terrible. My heart breaks any time a person loses his or her life to violence, especially when someone so young is killed. However, I find myself not only sad but angry; angry for an entirely different reason. Why don't people take to the streets every time a young person is killed in Camden, N.J.? Last year, we had the most people killed in our city's history and more violent crimes than anywhere else per capita. We live and work in the country's most violent and poorest place.
So, I ask again: Where is the outrage for Camden and other cities like it? What is happening that we are so vocal for Trayvon but muted for so many others?
So much has been written about "profiling" in the Trayvon Martin case. I submit that profiling of many other deaths occurs daily and, instead of tears or shouts, they are met with deafening silence. We profile away the violence with a veneer of "just pull yourself up by your bootstraps" or "Those are just thugs!" Is this because the victims are largely young men who, according to our societal expectations, don't have much of a future anyway? Profiling is alive and well when people are projected to have expendable futures.
What I am most angry about today is that Trayvon's terrible death is being used by so many for an outrage that isn't brought home to Camden, home to Philadelphia or home to Chicago. Violence stemming from domestic violence, drugs or high poverty levels, happens every day in cities across the country.
What is happening that the profile of this violence remains so disinteresting? Is it possible that such violence is ignored because the people involved are poor, and we do everything we can to ignore poverty in our society? How do we decide what victims warrant our taking to the streets in indignation?
The dynamic of denial and the reality of profiling necessitates that we are outraged for others, while our own communities remain untouched by scrutiny. I am angry that people are rioting in response to the verdict in Florida and not the ongoing environment of violence in Camden, Chicago, Philadelphia or Los Angeles.
If you are angry about Trayvon's death, I get it -- just make sure you do a double check on your own inner George Zimmerman. You might be surprised by the assumptions you find!