When rapper Lil Wayne used offensive lyrics that included the name of Emmett Till, it sparked a conversation about whether or not much of this generation actually knew him or why or how he died.

Now, this generation has an Emmett Till of its own, Trayvon Martin. The circumstances of their murders have some eerie similarities and the fact that one happened in 1955 and the other almost 60 years later in 2012 makes it more significant.

The more I see and learn over the years, the more I’ve come to believe that some things will never change, no matter how much progress we make or who’s in the White House. That post-racial America conversation that everyone wanted to have makes less sense than ever. I’d be foolish to say we’re in the same spot that we were in the 1950s as African Americans, but I’d also be foolish to pretend like we’re any where close to not needing all of the laws that have been put in place to protect our civil rights.

The Stand Your Ground self-defense law in Florida is responsible for putting a gun in the hands of a man who wasn’t fit to handle an altercation with a young black man because of his pre-conceived fears—or maybe even hatred.

Emmett Till’s murderers felt that the 14-year-old had overstepped his bounds when he allegedly flirted with a married white woman.

In both cases black boys’ perceived “boldness “resulted in their deaths.  And both cases still make us wonder whether we should tell our sons that they don’t have the same rights or certainly the same leeway as boys with white skin. If Emmett Till had been white and had been flirting, he might have been reprimanded. If Trayvon had been white, George Zimmerman wouldn’t have questioned whether he belonged in that neighborhood.

A lot of people have been giving black boys and men this message for years.  A member of my staff warns her 15–year-son almost every time he leaves the house to go the movies or the mall in their predominantly white community that he stands out the most and will likely be suspected of wrong doing, whether he’s guilty or not. Because he’s grown up in a world much like Trayvon Martin where he feels entitled to go anywhere he pleases, she isn’t sure whether he actually believes how easily he could become a victim.

I’ve been out of the country for the last several days and just returned this weekend.  I love this nation and I’m glad to be home, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be critical of it on dark days like these.

The Staple Singers recorded a civil rights classic in 1965 that made reference to Tallahatchie River, Mississippi, the place where Emmett Till’s dead body was discovered. Check out these lyrics:

“Found dead people in the forests, Tallahatchie River and lakes”, “Whole world is wondering, what’s wrong with the United States?”


21 thoughts on “Guns Turn Cowards into Brave Men

  1. Dogs on said:

    Let’s ALL of US concerned citizens across the entire world boycott the State of Florida, all of it’s major corporations including Disney, the orange juice industry, the tourist industry and all of their affiliates. Let’s let them know that there will be no more Natzi death camps, no more Emmett Till killings, no more O.J’s that escape justice with weak prosecutors and no more Trayvon Martin killings. Let’s Stand Our /Your Ground and BOYCOTT
    The Dogs….we/I broke out!

    • JanCorey on said:

      Dogs, state of Florida did nothing against any citizens regarding this case, it simply followed the Law. If you are still angry, than may I suggest you go after the parents of Trayvon for endangering the nation with that dope-head-felon-thug they brought into this world. Thankfully, he’s dead now because of his own illegal actions of smoking dope and felony-assaulting victim-Zimmerman. Your rant Dog, only makes you appear to be ignorant of the facts of this case and to be a racist imo.

  2. Gary sTEWART on said:

    Will the TMS follow Stevie Wonder lead and stop doing events in FL? I know you are having the Family event this year, but will you move it next year if FL still has Stand your ground laws?

  3. You might ask, “Why is she still even talking about the Trayvon Martin case?” Well here’s why: Trayvon represents my two nephews who became innocent victims of gun violence close to 10 years ago, yet their case still remains unsolved. Trayvon represents my daughter who attends college out of state, but comes home during breaks and sometimes goes out in our community for walks and she talks on her phone, however most of the people in our community, which has an active neighborhood watch, don’t know her. Trayvon represents every person who has ever been followed, raped, abducted, and murdered. Trayvon represents every person who has become a victim of profiling and false presumptions. Trayvon represents every child across the nation who has been murdered in cold blood. Trayvon represents me as a child being followed and raped by a complete stranger. Need I go any further? So now I pray, forgive, love, have hope, and I also choose to exercise my God-given responsibility to affect positive change in the world that we live.

    • JanCorey on said:

      Casandrajohnson, blacks kill blacks disproportionately much more than whites killing whites, what’s the problem? I say end all funding to try to stop that.

  4. Someone Somewhere on said:

    I just saw you on CNN declaring that Rush Limbaugh isn’t entitled to use the N-word. Just so you know that’s a racist position and as long as you maintain that position there will always be a gulf between you and whites. By the way, this country is still free and you really can’t tell anyone what word they can use.

  5. Parker on said:

    First I would like to thank you Sybil and Jay for being a voice for the people. My heart is so heavy because of all that has happened so far. How do we help our young ones? I wanted to share this with you. I wrote it shortly after Trayvon Martin lost his life so tragically.

    Trayvon Martin

    This is every mothers’ fear and every mother of colors’ worst nightmare.
    I became a proud young mother in the late 70’s. Blessed with 2 male children, I set out to bring them up in the world with all of it’s many changes and the challenges of their natural self- pride, self -worth and their own fierce independence. It was indeed a challenge because in so many ways young black men all over the world, but especially so in America, have to monitor themselves in their social interactions or be feared to be “behaving suspiciously”.
    I have always made my children mindful to watch their behavior, but especially in any public settings. It became known as the “2 strikes speech” and they could predict when it would be given if they were caught acting out.
    The infamous “2 strikes speech” went like this:
    “What have I told you about doing things like that? You know better! I have told you time and time again that you cannot afford to be seen acting out like that. You were born into this world with 2 strikes against you. From the day you were born the fact that you were born 1.) black; and 2.) male; will always be held against you in this lifetime. You are always going to have to be better at anything you set out to do. You are always going to have to watch yourself and any and everything around you at all times so that you don’t end up missing or found dead somewhere or get killed by the police because you reached for your ID or tried to speak up for yourself. You can never afford to forget those 2 strikes. It will never matter how high you rise. You will ALWAYS be seen as a BLACK MALE; and as a black male you will ALWAYS be perceived as a threat. THOSE ARE 2 FACTS THAT WILL NEVER CHANGE. They will always be there hanging over your head and if you are not always mindful of them they will fall on you, crush you and/or, God forbid, get you killed.”

    That is a very heavy reality to place on such young minds, but we love our young ones dearly and we must make sure that they carry that realistic burden with them at all times in order to survive. There is no greater testament to that truth than the tragedy of Sunday, 26 February 2012. My heart grieves this tragedy because I know that there, but for the Grace of God, am I. Forced to live every mother of colors’ worst nightmare.

    This nightmare will never go away. This nightmare that gets more horrendous with each passing minute because the life of young Treyvon Martin has abruptly been extinguished and even though we know the person responsible, nothing has been done about it and this individual is carrying on with his life as if nothing has happened. We all know that if the shoe were on the other foot, despite this “stand your ground law”, an arrest would have been made that very night and a minor child would have been arrested, jailed and would be awaiting a murder trial as an adult. There would not have been a release under any circumstance. He would have been held until all of the facts were gathered and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
    Why have the authoritative powers that be mocked the taking of the life of this young man and so miserably failed his grieving family?
    George Zimmerman’s brother has spoken out claiming that he (Zimmerman) was afraid that he would be injured and/or crippled for life and have to endure having his brother feed him and take care of him in his invalid state. He did not say that he feared that he would never see his loved one’s again. Treyvon Martins’ little brother will never know the trials of caring for an incapacitated loved one either.
    George Zimmerman’s father has stood in the shadows and spoken about his son (Zimmerman) sustaining injuries to his arms, back and even claiming a broken nose. He seems to be giving his blessings to his son’s actions despite the fact that no one else can see the injuries he speaks of. If Treyvon Martins’ father were to speak of the injuries that his son suffered he could give voice to the reality of the hole in his son’s chest that instantly stopped his heart and ended his life.
    The law has failed here and “Protect and Serve” has become one of the most mistrusted phrases of our times.
    We as a people expect and deserve that “Justice for all” that we pledged our allegiance to during our developmental years as budding young citizens of these United States of America. We have been allowed to vote, but now, not without dated photo ID. We don’t have to sit on the back of the bus anymore, we can drive, but license, registration and proof of insurance doesn’t mean much if you are stopped for DWB. And God forbid any kind of a ticket appear; you will be arrested, taken in and processed and you will not be released before you have paid all cost and fines or fees.
    We have moved from the fear of being sold at auction; to the hangman’s noose; to now legal actions which make it ok to kill us at will as long as you make sure that you say that you were afraid for your safety while you were out and about – with your gun – pursuing any person you have perceived to be “behaving suspiciously”.
    The fear is very real and realistically, I do not see any change taking place in the foreseeable future. Be afraid. Be very afraid. That is a very sad testament to our legal system in this day and age.
    It bears repeating: This is every mothers’ fear and every mother of colors’ absolute worst nightmare. It is as alive and well now as it was in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. The greater fear is that it is a more covert, powerful beast. A much better protected beast.

    My boys are grown men now, but I still have the same fear.

    Please, we need to know how to protect our brown boys.

    You are in my prayers.

  6. Taba on said:

    BOYCOT FLORIDA! Stevie Wonder did it and why not Tom? George Zimmerman violated Trayvon Martin’s ground when he pursued the child with a gun. If the tables were turned guess who will be sitting in prison? Boycott Florida. The scholarships is the best thing to happen, but let it happen elsewhere. Florida is not friendly to children and blacks (Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin) so why have scholarships for people that fall in both categories in a state that doesn’t care for their well-being? Besides Sanford has a bad history and always been known to be unfriendly to blacks.

    • JanCorey on said:

      Taba, George Zimmerman violated no Law and was acquitted of all charges, sounds like you haven’t been keeping up with this case. The only criminal in this case was Trayvon Martin and luckily he’s dead now as a direct-result of his unlawful actions against victim-Zimmerman.

  7. Mike on said:

    Tom Joyner, is there another place other than Florida to celebrate your family reunion? Because right now people want to BOYCOTT the state of Florida. We don’t want to have to spend our money down. We know that other states have their problems too. But at this time we feel that Florida is not the place. We need to start hitting them were it really hurts, and that’s in their pockets!

  8. jhuff on said:

    As I’ve said before the likelihood of the staff member’s son coming to harm is far greater in a black neighborhood than in a white. Stats prove it
    Stand your ground law did not put that gun GZ’s hand. Carry permit whether concealed
    or not did. Many states Stand your ground. and it’s has been applicable cases involving blacks defending themselves

    • Unfortunately, I can only name four instances:
      1) There was the time when some women of mixed races did not receive their paychecks and he stood in favor of them receiving their pay. I cannot say that it was due to his actions alone that these women were paid, but he is the one that brought it to my attention.
      2) There were some people of various races who were just fired without warning and were waiting patiently (at first) to receive their checks. The owner of the company kept giving them the runaround. Again, I have no idea if it was just his loud mouth, but I had not heard it before he said something.
      3) During the last presidential run, a warehouse was being shutdown and the jobs were being shipped overseas. (The majority of the faces in the crowd were White with a few speckled Blacks.) Of course, the company closed and the workers lost their jobs, but Sharpton and a few other reporters leant their loud voices and brought the situation to light.
      4) Just recently and more than once, he has used his resources to get medical attention for those in need. (The faces in the crowds were, Black, White and Mexican.)

  9. Brenda on said:

    In regards to the Zimmerman verdict. I dont think that a jury of peers should be determining verdicts in Murder case. I think that this should be done by Law Students or Interns. Murder is such a serious matter. Regardless of how many degrees you have if you lack knowledge in the Legal field, You should not be allowed to sit on the Jury in a Muder case. The Law need to be changed to protect the innocent.

  10. Charlie Towns on said:

    “The Stand Your Ground self-defense law in Florida is responsible for putting a gun in the hands of a man who wasn’t fit to handle an altercation with a young black man because of his pre-conceived fears—or maybe even hatred.”

    What about the side walk that the evidence supported his head being knocked against!? Where does that play into your equation TJ?

    I am not glad Trayvon is dead, I think the criminal justice system does screw over blacks. Zimmerman should not have followed him (even though that is not a crime). But this case could not be proven based on the facts.

    It is horrible a young man is dead. The only thing I see positive out of it (if anything positive can be seen). Is that among my friends black and white and even among the inter racial couples I know. The opinions of the case are not as polarized by race as they would have been even 10 years ago.

    I have black friends who agree with the verdict and I have white friends who do not. I am white and I live in a mostly black community race is not even an issue here. So that tells me that as a society we are moving forward.

    I know that you Tom Joyner and those race pimps like you who make money on stiring things like this up don’t like that. But we are progressing. Hopefully in another 10 or 15 years people will see you for the true racist that you are.

    Especially with all the inter racial relationships I am starting to see more and more of your hate you try to generate to profit from is drying up. I doubt your show will be on the air because it is forced off when this movement is fully realized.

    You, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and all like you will be thrown out the same way joe mccarthy was when people finally saw what a fanatic he was. It must scare you to see this and realize society even though we still have problems are progressing beyond your race pimping tatics to make your living. Most of my black friends are nothing like the people who listen to your show. Your following base is shrinking. Enjoy it while you can.

    • Charlie Towns: “What about the side walk that the evidence supported his head being knocked against!? Where does that play into your equation TJ?”

      We do not know for sure if that is what happened as Zimmerman changed his story about the events at least three times.
      1.) The gun was in his back waistband and then the gun was in his front waistband
      2.) Zimmerman said he did not pursue/follow Martin but then later said he did. Although Zimmerman did not have to follow the advice of the dispatcher, he still lied.
      Although the laws differ from State to State but here in Colorado, it is a crime to stalk/pursue/follow someone but according to the defense, it IS legal in Florida. (I had no idea.)
      3.) At one time, Zimmerman said he did not know Martin was a teenager, but when talking to the 911 dispatch, he told him that Martin appeared to be in his “late teens.”

      TJ never said we have not progressed but that there was more work to be done and that civil rights continually needs to be sought in these divided states.
      I have long grown tired of self-serving activists, but Tom Joyner and Al Sharpton do not fit that the profile. Instead, the likes of these men are very much needed, as they do not just fight for Blacks and other minorities, but for Whites too; standing up and against injustice. And because of their work, they will not lose but GAIN more of a following.
      In the beginning, I assumed Martin was killed. Later, I thought he was murdered, then killed, but now I am CERTAIN that George Zimmerman MURDERED Trayvon Martin.
      I own legally registered guns with the permit to carry [them] with me at all times, but I do not see a reason to. Although my gated neighborhood is no longer nice, quiet and clean, I do not see a reason to tote my guns and neither does my wife. However, neither one of us wanted to be a police officer. (We do not trust the police, so we never had a desire to be one.) Nonetheless, I sincerely believe Zimmerman had intentions to kill (and ultimately murdered) someone that night and unfortunately, that someone was Trayvon Martin; Martin was MURDERED and Zimmerman got away with it.

    • Nilaja on said:

      What about the sidewalk?? Well, we know that Zimmerman pursued him, what we don’t know is how they came to be tumbling on the sidewalk. What we do know is that this was a frightened boy who was fighting for his life and was winning. Obviously, Zimmerman couldn’t get the upperhand and so he shot him. That’s the answer to your sidewalk question. Zimmerman saw a boy (as we all did) and when seeing this boy he thought he could intimate, bully and beat him up. It’s a shame that end of his name should end in ‘man’ cause that’s the least of what he is.

  11. JanCorey on said:

    Guns turn cowards into brave men? Absolutely not, it turns criminals who beat victim’s heads onto a cement sidewalk into a dead body, as it should imo.

Add Your Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s