Justice Even When It’s Just Us (On Trayvon Martin)

Jose Vilson Jose

Trayvon Martin with his father

Trayvon Martin with his father

He had the most curious face on when we introduced him to his first waves from a calm yet undulating ocean. His curls danced with the wind as he wondered whether the water might reach him. It was 10:40am, and this sunscreen-coated son of mine had neither napped well, nor eaten well, but his face displayed awe and zen, a decade too long for such feelings really.

About an hour away, Trayvon Martin’s justice lies in the hands on twelve of George Zimmerman’s peers. His shaved face and stoic stare in the courtroom belie the acts he committed a year ago. What, then, will I tell my son about this case if / when he asked?

Will I tell him about the injustices done to thousands of children of color on a regular basis because of how they look, how they’re criminalized, or they’re walking wrong? Will I tell him about the centuries of slavery and discrimination across the Americas that led up to the racial tensions of this moment? Will I tell him that, no matter how many people argue that this isn’t a racial issue, race actually plays a role in how he’s perceived? In how his parents are perceived? In how America perceives itself?


Because all these questions exist even if Trayvon got the chance to legally sign up for the armed forces, drive a car, or enroll in college. Instead, I get to tell him that, no matter what the outcome of the verdict, the struggle for our humanity continues. We need to seek justice, even if it’s just us, just a small set of people who agree that humanity is for all, not just for a few.

The legal response will always be that we leave things up to the judicial system, and the state needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman is guilty. However, my decision is already made emotionally. There will be no real justice until America sees to it that Trayvon doesn’t need to be Trayvon, but a kid with every right to look out into the ocean with awe.