It’s no secret that black Americans have always been distrustful of the nation’s racially skewed judicial system and Saturday’s verdict only confirms that justice for black people is often elusive, like sand slipping through fingers.
“Our kids are still defined by the color of their skin,” Sybrina Martin told me in April.
In the months ahead, I’m concerned for the safety of young black men while, regrettably, watching history repeat itself: First there was Emmitt Till, who was murdered in 1955 at the age of 14 by white men who claimed Till was flirting with a white girl. Then, Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist, was murdered in 1963 by a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
And now, Trayvon Martin.
The sad truth is that black men are no strangers to racial profiling. Almost all of my black male friends have been racially profiled at some point during the lives – and that includes me.
It happened again earlier this summer while I was visiting family in Sacramento, California and taking a morning walk around their neighborhood.
I was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, a cap, and listening to music on my iPod. It was about 8 a.m. and sunny and I noticed a van following me. A white man was behind the wheel and he continued to stare as he pulled alongside me.
I didn’t think about it initially until the van made a U-turn and slowly followed me from a quarter-mile back. When I walked faster, he sped up. When I slowed down, he dropped back. He continued to trail me as I walked around the block three times. He backed off only after he watched me walk into my aunt’s house.
I cover the White House, I’m a radio commentator on national radio, I’ve interviewed Obama twice face-to-face, and I’m a father, but the white man who followed me in Sacramento only saw me as a suspicious black man, perhaps a suspect, and possibly up to no good.
A friend asked me if I plan to see the movie “Fruitvale Station,” which opens later this month. It’s the true story of a 22-year-old unarmed black man from Oakland who was shot and killed by police.
I will definitely see “Fruitvale Station,” but not today. I’m still pondering the true meaning of justice.
Michael H. Cottman, a Senior Correspondent for BlackAmericaWeb.com, covers the White House. He also serves as a political analyst and co-host for “Keeping It Real with Rev. Al Sharpton,” a daily national radio show.
(Photo: Courtesy of Martin Family)