Trayvon Martin: Guns escalate conflicts

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OPINION The tragedy of Trayvon Martin's death is not merely the loss an innocent young boy's life, nor the criminal justice system's failure to provide justice, though those are wounds we struggle to bear. The tragedy is that these wounds are not unique. We have felt this pain before. Trayvon is but one of thousands of young African American men who have lost their lives to gun violence. And George Zimmerman's acquittal represents the dismissive attitude our country seems to have about those lives.

People from all walks of life are angry about Trayvon's death and George Zimmerman's acquittal. Our anger in the face of such tragedy is understandable. I share it. But I also believe that even in our darkest hours, there is hope. There is something to be learned here.

Let this be the start of a greater debate on gun laws, racism, and our national climate of fear for our own personal safety and the safety of our children.

We have to do something about the prevalence of guns in our society. If not for the introduction of a gun into the situation, Mr. Zimmerman likely would have been beaten up—something he probably deserved—and that would have been the end of it. His firearm needlessly escalated the situation far beyond where it needed to go.

This case is a very real example of a nation that puts someone's right to carry a handgun over someone's right to not be pointlessly murdered. Let me add my voice to the multitudes calling for greater firearm accountability.

And why did the situation that night begin in the first place? "Neighborhood Watch" means "watch" and "report suspicious activity," not "chase" or "pursue." What is so suspicious about walking, wearing a hoodie, and talking on a cell phone? Nothing. Unless you are black.

Although the African American community is, sadly, used to being profiled, used to grieving the loss of our young boys and men to gun violence, Trayvon's case has opened the eyes of others who are finally as outraged as we are. For the first time, I feel that something has changed. The outpouring of support from non-African Americans for Trayvon Martin and his family has given me hope that our cries for boys and men in our community are finally being heard.

Anger is a great motivator. And progress is often borne from tragedy. I hope for the African American community and for our country that this tragedy is more than just a passing media spectacle. I hope it's the beginning of something meaningful, a reevaluation of gun laws, of the violence young black men face every day, and of the way we empower our communities.

London Breed represents the Western Addition and the Haight on the Board of Supervisors