Trayvon Martin’s murder and the circumstances that occurred to Oscar Grant III at the Bay Area’s Fruitvale transit station seem to hit the zenith concurrently. The nightmarish confrontations with vigilantes faced by two young African American males help us to realize the value of African Americans has been reduced in the minds of many who’ve signed up to protect or observe. Yet, the men who want to “serve and protect” end up decimating or murdering young African American males. And the hip-hop generation has been in denial.
President Obama recently conveyed his personal experiences — doors locking when he approaches — and his observation of African American men being singled out. To think, 50 years after the March on Washington, there are shadows of racism following us when the sun goes down and special words are used to cloak racism, like “them” or “those people.” It is these tragedies that have spawned a new reality for African Americans to establish an economic dialogue, to illustrate the absence of opportunity and to create corrective actions on how we portray ourselves to the general population.
Culturally speaking, African American men are trapped in a society where the examples of African American men succeeding in corporate America and academia seem to be diminishing. We must reflect on where our community has lost its way. We march. Is it the march to the federal corrections system that should be on our mind? Or should we consider a consumerism or materialism boycott? Shouldn’t we hold back our dollars, not only to Florida, but also places where no opportunities have been created for our economic progress? That means any and every corporation within these United States. We are literally shareholders; we over-index when it comes to purchases like cellphones. Not many of these companies support African American community-based initiatives.
Where is the Apple advertising in African American-owned publications given that most African Americans in the creative world are utilizing and consuming their products? Where is the Apple summer camp and app lab teaching African Americans in Chicago, Detroit, and cities to produce new tech managers? We are happy for and proud of Jay-Z, but where is Samsung’s commitment to African Americans developing technical skills, not just distributing free downloads? Where are training opportunities to teach us how to create apps for the phone, how to sell the phone and how to create programs with Samsung? Where is the African American ad agency for Samsung? Did Jay-Z require that they do business with African American creative agencies and spend dollars with the African American-owned media? If so, name them.
These are the questions that we must ask in our conversations. How are we progressing in a society that ignores us and is attempting to ignore the fact that our young black men are dying on a regular basis in cities like Chicago? We seem not to march. They die in Detroit and many other cities across the county. Yet, the perpetrator of the crime is often not a George Zimmerman.
How are we looking at ourselves and working to create a new image of ourselves? Can we sustain if we don’t create an economic voice that sets a benchmark for our behavior, economic standards and intellectual capital growth? We should set a goal for the number of high school graduates, training and employment of plumbers, electricians, programmers, and doctors, and so forth that we are striving to produce.
We hope that Trayvon Martin’s memory will catapult these efforts so they are measurable and achievable. And, we should utilize our celebrities’ voices to promote them like Jay-Z and his wife Beyoncé did when they marched with Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton. Our advancement depends on this.