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Stephen Herrington Headshot

Trayvon Martin, Draftee

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Trayvon's life is over. There is no going back to when he is still alive. There is no longer sound of his playing and joking. There is no coping with his troubles nor celebrating his successes. There is no hugging him under your shoulder and no fixing his dinner. You can no longer kiss his forehead. You can no longer pray for his future. You will no longer see him walk into a room.

I can't speak to the endurance it takes to be black in America today. I can't know the first hand truths of living as someone in a society with a legacy of hate towards me. I never have.

My grandfather, three quarters American Indian, would have known. But he did not share his thoughts on it. I am one generation separated from seeing the most vicious prejudice America has ever visited on a race, practical if not intentional genocide. Through that lineage, the distant echoes of the Native American obliteration still reach my heart's ear.

I mourn for Trayvon. I mourn for Tulsa. I mourn for a hundred years of lynching. I mourn for three centuries of slavery as I mourn for Wounded Knee and the Trail of Tears. I mourn for liberty and justice, born compromised by fear and prejudice in an America conceived to lead the world in liberty and justice.

Trayvon is the latest victim in a war that's been going on for a very long time. Most of the time you don't hear about the victims of this war, even though they fall every day in every city, every county and in every state of every country. They are just ignored as collateral damage of society's lesser nature most of the time. They are casualties that go uncounted because we wish not to admit the frailties of our laws, our morality, the true depths of our prejudice and our cowardice.

For every Trayvon that has gone uncounted there are equally uncounted numbers of mothers and fathers and all kin and friends to whom the failures of justice strike a thousand cuts to their spirit. Blood running in the street mingles with despair and resentment of those cut not by a knife but by injustice. The angry black man is born of this emotional rack and thumbscrew torture from a society that expects not just endurance from the oppressed but submission as well. High law demands endurance while the all too populous backward elements of white society demand obeisance. The two forces are assumed to find coexistence. A more perfect cause to anger can't be imagined by this writer.

The angry black man is the nightmare for a white America in their midst. An angry Indian was at one time too. Both are phantoms haunting white ambition, intolerance and bigotry, guilt reincarnated in the bigoted as hate. Bigots are causative of who it is they hate, with the largest contributor to that creation being the unswept recesses of their own cowardly minds. Zimmerman stalked and killed a possibly figment of his own imagination. In the realizing of his fantasy of a courageous act of self defense against an angry black demon, he killed an innocent young man who happened to be black and who was simply walking home.

The most important ingredient of liberty and justice is courage. The founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor in the adventure of forming the United Sates. It was a concrete affirmation that they knew of the dangers in forming a just society in a world firmly intolerant of such an undertaking.

Trayvon reminds us of the need to throw off tyranny. Racism is tyranny of the first order. Racism is tyranny down to the molecules of a society, the everyday elements of feelings and reflexes. The America of my and most imaginations, worldwide, is one meant to redeem the promise of equal justice for all. Through Trayvon we may recognize that the nourishing blood of patriots in the forming of a more perfect union seems to have always been wed to the spilt blood of innocents.

I said I was a generation removed from the extermination of the American Indian. That's very nearly not true. The one doctor in Pecos, Texas, where I was conceived and carried to term, had a reputation for an infant death rate of 80% among minorities. My mother traveled to Oklahoma, "home of the red man", to give birth to me. I was nearly drafted at the age of zero into the bigotry wars. It was 1951. A mere 13 years later the Civil Rights Act was put into law, a hundred years after the war to free the slaves.

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