Quick Hit: Jay Smooth on the Trayvon Martin case

As always, Jay brings it home.

Approx. transcript after the jump (thx Melissa!!)

So one of the stories I’ve missed while I’ve been away is the Trayvon Martin case.  And of course I was watching the story very closely, talking about it on my radio show and in other places, taking part in the protests.  And for the most part, I’ve been glad to participate as one of the rank and file and just add my presence to the movement, since there were so many other people speaking so powerfully and eloquently on the issue. And as I watched it play out, I couldn’t imagine what there was left to say that we hadn‘t already said for Timothy Stansbury, Michael Stewart, Yvonne Smallwood, Sean  Bell, Eleanor Bumpurs, Vincent Chin, Patrick Dorismond, Anthony Baez, and those are just names that come to me off the top of my head. We’ve been down this road so many times and seen justice denied in so many places that when I watched people like Trymaine Lee and Ta-Nehisi Coates and, of course, Trayvon’s incredible family, I felt amazed that any of us still had the strength of will to step up and speak so well on this and once again, fight this fight that we’ve fought so many times and really should never have to fight in the first place.  I mean, this was forty-five days of tireless effort around the country, not to overthrow some unjust system, not to get anybody fired, not to pass some new law, even though those are questions that should be revisited in the long term.  This was forty-five days of outrage and protests just to answer the humblest of all possible requests from Trayvon’s family and simply get an arrest made.  That’s it.  And that may seem like an obvious point, but I think it’s an important one because there’s been a lot of commentary about this case suggesting that it became too polarized, that the coverage and reaction to this case, and specifically the role of social media, became too hateful and too negative and too polarized.  And I think that’s completely wrong.  Because when I think back to all those other cases I mentioned from back in the days here in New York, I remember the reaction being very polarized.  The difference to me is all those cases back in the day just didn’t get the amount of attention that the Trayvon Martin case has gotten, so most of America just never became aware of the polarization that’s always bubbling underneath the surface. So to me, there’s nothing too unusual about what they’re calling about the polarization of this case.  To me, what’s noteworthy is that almost unprecedented amount of attention we’ve brought to the case and even more than that, what’s been remarkable to me is the amount of optimism that’s been at the root of these protests.  Because Trayvon Martin’s family, after everything they’ve been through, they would be entirely within their rights to step up to a podium and say, “To hell with this so-called justice system and to hell with this so-called free country.” But they haven’t done that.  Trayvon Martin’s family, with all of their incredible courage and grace and clarity, have in essence been asking us to join them in acting on the faith that this system can still work if we just push it hard enough.  Even after everything they’ve been through and everything we’ve seen historically – twenty years to the day as I speak since the Rodney King acquittals, fifty years after James Baldwin wrote The Fire Next Time – this family still has enough faith in us as a country to keep on reaching for the water and ask us to join them in reaching for the water instead of the fire.  That is what’s remarkable to me about this story. And I’m not saying that I believe those who want a more radical solution, people who think that we need to abolish or replace this system, are any less virtuous and I’m not saying I think they’re wrong.  I don’t know.  And I think we need people on that front also. But I do think that those who share the belief that we can make this system better, we have an obligation.  We owe it to Trayvon Martin’s family to do everything we can to make good on that faith that they’ve placed in us.  And as we enter this stage of the game where the media narrative starts to sag and drag and fade away, this is when it’s critical for us to remember that debt we owe and remember that faith that Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin have placed in us that we will keep on pushing to bring this system closer to justice. 

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