*The United In Peace Ride this past weekend has raised some serious questions about “who legitimizes whom” in this endless stream of protests for justice and peace in our communities nationwide. Watching 300 to 400 bikers, another 200 low-riders, some 50 bicyclists and a couple thousand people show up for, yes—justice for Trayvon, but more importantly—peace in our communities—was an impressive site. The ride touched Compton, Inglewood and L.A., without incident, and then peace was celebrated back at Magic Johnson Park. Did I say this was done in the heart of South L.A.—without incident? No press conferences was called, but the media showed up…as did the people, in their orange. In the words of Minister Tony Muhammad, “Orange is to peace what pink has become to breast cancer.”
We can use Trayvon Martin’s death to launch a national peace movement that goes beyond single incident. Violence touches our lives everyday, in nearly every city in America.
The Trayvon Martin murder has raised the question, would this be a movement had George Zimmerman been black?
The racial dynamic has made the case a cause celebre’ for any number of reasons, namely the law that allowed Trayvon to be tracked down, confronted, assaulted and killed. But there is the question of Zimmerman’s intent and whether his toy cop mentality allowed Trayvon to be profiled despite the fact that Martin was in his own neighborhood. Black men are profiled. That’s a cultural reality in America…by everybody. Including their own. Black on black violence is the leading cause of death in black communities nationwide. We watch anti-intellectual gadflies stumble all over themselves to get their face in a camera to call out racial injustice when “the white man” (or who they thought was a white man) profiling ends in an unjustified death, but what happens when black men profile each other?
Surely, the Trayvon Martin murder is an appropriate platform to talk about race in America. It’s also a platform to talk about justice in America. But we can’t lose sight of the opportunity to do something about the underpinning issue of violence in America. The Trayvon Martin case is over. The protests have expressed rage and outrage. The recourses have been set (civil rights violation demands and Florida boycotts). We all are prepared to do what we can to make a difference. My favorite professional convention, the National Association of Black Journalists Convention, is in Orlando, Florida this week. I’ve only missed two of these conventions in the past ten years…but I’m gonna this one—for a different reason (and I have my ticket). Just couldn’t bring myself to go in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman decision.
We all “gotta do what we gotta do” to make this outrage felt and this protest real. Not just talk a bunch of “ya-ya.” But should that be the end of the conversation?
It shouldn’t, and as I raised several columns back, with the Christine Calderon issue, a Trayvon Martin travesty occurs nearly everyday, somewhere, in America. We just have selective engagement with our outrage. That is the true outrage, that we don’t get upset when violence overtakes the youth and young adults in our community in other forms, in every single instance.
Whether our youth fall predator to the police, some racist lunatic or… some self-hating thug in their own community, the politic of violence is ever-present and mock outrage and staged protest doesn’t stop it. Our community’s hypocrisy around violence has given ideologues like Larry Elder and Jesse Peterson, that our community usually ignores, license to go on liberal and conservative talk shows and raise this very issue—that black communities never miss an opportunity to “race-bait” when it happens in their communities, everyday, and nobody says nothing. As much as I hate to agree with these “colorblind” apologists for race neutrality, who often advance flawed and misguided theories, they are correct on the violence tip. They are wrong on the racial profiling tip—black males are profiled, not just by white people but, by everybody. Now with that said, who is “qualified” to protest violence and advocate for peace?
A recent community meeting of self-anointed “truth to power” coalitionists suggested that they couldn’t endorse the United In Peace rally because they couldn’t “legitimize” bikers and low-riders. Why not? They are of our community. They know where violence is and can suppress it. Nobody else is speaking to it, and those who are can’t get “the people” to show up. They don’t respect that (non)leadership. It reminds of the conversations that took place back in the 1990s when someone suggested we work with gang members to curb gang violence.
The status quo leadership then viewed it as “legitimizing gang members” and resisted it. But violence didn’t stop until gang members intervened with gang members. And the peace treaties held. Those who know where the violence is are best to intervene to prevent violence from occurring. Sometimes common sense makes the best sense. And they don’t have to be legitimized by some group that ain’t “talkin’ that talk” in the first place.
The late Bishop H.H. Brookins once spoke to the megalomania that exists in the black community. He said, those who call themselves leaders—if they look back and there’s no one behind them, then they just out taking a walk. We have a lot of folk out taking a walk these days. They look behind them, and there’s nobody there. They call rallies, or meetings, and a few people show up (and they can’t control the ones that do show). There’s a megalomania epidemic in Los Angeles going on right now. The megalomaniacs are impeding the conversation.
This United In Peace Movement is a legitimate cause. It not just about Trayvon. It was about addressing the larger issue of violence in our community, regardless who wages it. It goes to the crux of the matter and anyone impacted can join the movement. It’s not about posturing for cameras. The cameras show up for the violence. And so do the provocateurs.
It’s now about trying to address the problem of violence when the cameras go home. The United In Peace movement does that. We have to make it larger than a single publicity case.
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist and author of, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21 Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com and on Twitter at @DrAnthonySamad.