“They always get away.” Those now infamous words were uttered by George Zimmerman on the night he killed Trayvon Martin. For the purpose of this piece we are going to say “they” represents African American males in America. The remainder of 2012, for “they” will be critical in their self-perception.
If Zimmerman is found innocent, of any wrong doing, the impact on African American males would be significant. Many African American males already feel like the criminal justice system is against them. African American males face high incarceration rates, low graduation and employment rates, racial profiling, and the recurring stereotype of black males as trouble makers and gangsters persist in the media. A non-guilty verdict for Zimmerman would reinforce the belief, many African American males possess, that the courts are there to protect everyone else but them and that it is OK to gun down an African American male because he looks “suspicious”.
In a similar fashion, two males in Oklahoma killed three and wounded two black males in what appears to be racially motivated attacks. It is sad and unfortunate that in 2012, you can still be killed because of the color of your skin. These men did not know each other; they did not commit any crime, the only problem they seemed to have was being black.
In 2012, President Barack Obama is up for re-election, what promises to be a difficult campaign for President Obama will undoubtedly be a defining campaign for African American males. In 2008, pundits predicted that President Obama’s election would have a positive impact on how black males perceive themselves. Those pundits hypothesized that seeing an African American in the White House would send a message to African American men that if you work hard you can overcome systematic racism and achieve your dreams.
African American males watched intensively as Mr. Obama was being accused of not being a citizen, is illegitimate, and somehow benefited from affirmative action to get into Harvard. “They” watched as various state legislators and a federal judge sent racist emails about the president and first lady. “They” watched as a South Carolina Congressman yelled “you lie” at the President of the United States as he was delivering an address to the nation. “They” watched as the Arizona Governor put her finger in the presidents’ face and as bumper stickers stating “don’t re-nig” appear on cars across the country. The hope that many African American males had in 2008, became a similar story of prejudice.
So, 2012 will be a critical year, for the perception African American males have of themselves. The Trayvon Martin verdict, the Oklahoma shootings, and the presidential campaign will send a loud and clear message to African American males; let’s just hope that it is a message of hope and not a message of aversion “they” receive.