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Every youth killing should get the Trayvon Martin treatment

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Professor Locs, aka Charles Easley, is an educator who explores race, class, gender, sexuality, media and popular culture with humor and insight. His column is published here each Wednesday. Opinions expressed are solely his own. Click here to read his blog.

Al Sharpton and others are already preparing to protest and start a national campaign to highlight the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Florida teen who was shot by an overzealous neighborhood watch leader. Unlike in so many other cases, this young man was not engaged in nefarious activity but was simply walking home from a neighborhood store, which makes his death all the more senseless.

Still, I can’t help but wonder: Why do some youth in our community die in total obscurity while others are given a national spotlight?

Mine may be a minority opinion, but I would like to see us as a community become as engaged and outraged when any of our youth are taken too soon, regardless of the killer’s ethnicity.

Also Read: The Killing of a 'suspicious' black man

Thanks to an epidemic of violence, we have become desensitized to killing. And this sense of apathy becomes more distinct as it relates to marginalized communities and the disposability of their citizens.

We have seen our share of teen casualties right here in Charlotte. And just recently, according to the Chicago Tribune, the Windy City saw a rash of shootings that left at least 10 people dead, including a 6-year-old girl. We are not hearing as much about those because some folks involved have been linked to gang activity – again, they were disposable.

I guess this is hitting close to home for me because I have three young nephews, and although they are reasonably well adjusted, I fear for their well-being. I do not want them to suffer the same fate as Trayvon Martin. The cultural dirty secret that we do not like to discuss, of course, is that they are more likely to be harmed by someone from their own culture.

I mentor many youth, especially young black men, and I am increasingly disturbed by the pervasive street mentality that I see. How can you say that you want to be educated, learned and evolved when you continue to adhere to the same street ideology?

I see how angry and disillusioned these young men are and how quickly they are willing to take it out on one another without understanding that there is a system in place that is waiting to absorb them into its institutionalized mechanical clutches.

It is like watching an episode on the Discovery Channel, where two hyenas attack one another while absolutely oblivious to the more prominent threat of a huge culture of lions surrounding them and awaiting to consume them both.

Chris Rock once said during one of his comedy routines that, when he went out at night, he was not fearful of “the man” but was more concerned of other black folks. He used the n-word, but I am trying to be more academic…smile.

Again, I am not trying to diminish the tragedy of young Martin’s death, but can we expect to hold mainstream society accountable to a standard of our cultural worth when we cannot consistently honor our own lives and relevance?

How can I talk about the state of your kitchen when I have dirty dishes stacked in my sink?

Maybe an appropriate litmus test of our evolutionary status as a society and community should be that we passionately organize, rally and protest when any child is lost, regardless of race, class, gender or socio-economic background.

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September 4, 2015
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