This could possibly be a parent's worst nightmare: your child fails to return home and you find out from law enforcement it is because he has been gunned down by the local neighborhood watch vigilante. To compound matters, you listen helplessly as he cries out for help on a 911 call seconds before the shooting.
This is the reality for the parents of Trayvon Martin who not only have to deal with grief of losing their son, but also must fight back against speculation in the media and by others that somehow he might have had it coming to him. Martin's only "crime" was walking while Black. And apparently that's enough to cost him his life.
The truth of the matter is Trayvon Martin has had a target on his back since he came into the world. According the Kaiser Family Foundation, Black men die at a rate that is at least 1.5 times the rate of young white and Hispanic men, and almost three times the rate of young Asian men. And for young Black men, the leading cause of death is homicide.
In our society, there are very few choices for Black men and boys. It's either prison, where they represent more than 40 percent of inmates, or the cemetery. And those who do manage to dodge the prison or the morgue are treated as rare specimens or idolized, a la Barack Obama.
The media does not help matters. The portrayal of African-American men as violent criminals, thugs, and vagrants, gives way for acts such as the one perpetrated against Trayvon Martin. So much so that now as a society we do not question when a life is taken either literally or is wasted away behind bars.
The shooting of Martin should be a wake up call to our collective moral consciousness. It is not okay to criminalize and demonize children before they ever have a chance to reach their full potential. George Zimmerman must face the consequences of his actions and should be charged for the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin.
If we do not rise up as parents, communities and concerned citizens, what does that say about us as a nation committed to freedom and justice regardless of race or background?