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When I think about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, I think about all the young black people back in 1963 whose footsteps were powered by their pain.

And their dreams.

Many, like U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, then a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the youngest person to speak at the march, made their way to the National Mall, their flesh still stinging from billy club beatings and hits from high-pressure hoses, their ears still ringing with slurs from racists.

Yet they didn’t give in to the hopelessness that such violence was intended to induce. They fought it. And because they fought it, they ended the unjust laws that would have kept them stuck at second class status.

But here we are, 50 years later, and the violence and discouragement that many young black people who marched on Washington endured is plaguing black youths again.

The difference, though, is that while the 1963 marchers who were beaten by racists saw it as the price of a better future, many of the black youths who are killing each other en masse in cities like Chicago can’t quite see that future through the haze of an unemployment rate of 42 percent and other issues.

And because they are acting on their hopelessness, they are, unfortunately, giving lawmakers excuses to create more unjust laws that are, like the segregationist laws of old, designed to keep them in line.

Laws like the one which got Trayvon Martin‘s killer, George Zimmerman, acquitted.

At the National Association of Black Journalists’ Convention recently, Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing Trayvon’s family, said that a focus of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington will be on justice for Trayvon, which includes a push to amend Stand Your Ground laws and to stamp down teenage violence.

The laws are on the books in 26 states. They basically give citizens the right to use deadly force if they think they are being threatened – meaning they can “feel” threatened by a black kid wearing a hoodie like Trayvon or a Middle Eastern kid talking in Arabic.

While Zimmerman claimed he shot Trayvon in self-defense, Crump said that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was included in the jury instructions, and played a role in his acquittal.

“When we talk about Stand Your Ground laws, we’re talking about what they really are,” Crump said. “They’re shoot first laws, make my day laws, they encourage people to take the law into their own hands.

“As Trayvon’s parents have said, over and over again, our children have the right to walk in peace.”

Already, Crump said, a petition by has collected more than 2 million signatures. The Dream Defenders, a group of young activists consumed with making change and not jokes, staged a sit-in at the Capitol for 31 days. They left with a promise from House Speaker Will Weatherford to hold a hearing on the law this fall.

They also plan to be back to register voters.

It’s heartening that so many young people felt so strongly about the unjust law that helped Zimmerman get away with slaying Trayvon that they made life uncomfortable at the Capitol for a month.

But what’s less heartening is that rather than deal with the issues that disproportionately fuels much of the violence among black youths, lawmakers would rather use their suffering as a justification for laws like Stand Your Ground; laws which essentially make it easy for people like Zimmerman to get away with killing kids like Trayvon because society has bought into the stereotype of the scary and violent black male.

So I hope that this year, on the anniversary of the march that changed the nation, more young black people will follow the lead of people like Lewis and the Dream Defenders, and channel their discouragement into activism. I hope that when they march, they understand the new racism that is working against them through these new laws, and pledge to dismantle it.

Or, at the very least, not give it any help.

Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her @tonyaajw. Or like her at


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11 thoughts on “Black Youths and the March on Washington: Fighting a New Breed of Racism

  1. Banks, business and real estate. Without these you cannot have a seat at the adult table. Until this is understood you will be forever locked in the ‘gubment’ plantation. That is reality and, hey, it ain’t fair.
    Deal with it.

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  3. @RayarJohnson
    Need legal help!
    KKK School Threat /Two knifes (Knifes don’t make a gun sound, but they kill)
    Children Withdrawn from School
    Children have a right to an education in a safe environment!

    Look at my beautiful children GOD blessed me with! We have to hold the School District accountable. We have to keep children safe.rjohnson4ob (at) gmail (dot) com
    cc: Black America Web, The Root, Policy Mic

  4. This article stated out good but then morphed into just another political piece
    on SYG laws which aren’t going anywhere. If the young man pictured in this article
    lives in one of the large inner city areas he will be better served carring that sign on his way to school
    The Chris Lane incident in Ok (which has SYG laws) is a prime example of why not only are states NOT
    going to abolish SYG laws but more states are adding them. So how about a march on freeing up
    business to expand ,to start up ,to encourage more hiring, to show young men the consequence’s
    of there actions ,so them respect and value of human life and education.. Just Sayin

  5. the Timekeeper on said:

    Hi joey,

    All excellent points. and quite frankly I dont think anyone has a clear cut answer. That having been said we still need to draw attention to what has become the new, and overt I might add, racism of today. Perhaps some of it will rub off on the references you suggest here. Yes, i sigh as well. But I still hold out hope.

    • @ timekeeper I hold out hope everyday of my life, because they think that its a war on black men

      well its a war on black women to, we fight everyday to keep our dignity. I’m 50 years old now,
      and still cannot believe we are still marching, and still keep doing the same thing to each other,

      its hurts me Spiritually and emotionally but everyday I remember all those shoulder’s that I’m standing on, and that is what gets me through and the word of GOd,,

      WE ARE THE TRIBE OF JUDAH AND THAT IS THE TRIBE OF THE LION, WE ARE THE CHOOSEN ONE’S and every white man and woman know’s it, but we as a people still do not know who what a smart and Enriched culture we are. and still we have No power in this country. So timekeeper I will hold out hope as long as you do, and we can do it together,,, have a wonderful day,,Peace love and blessing to you.

  6. How Are we as black people going to march against this new and improved racism when we cannot even get together and open up a grocery store, in our communities,

    We cannot even order a pizza without an argument, Here it is,, 2013 and we have a President in office who has power, to Give us Restitution. at least get the ball rolling, here it is we have a President
    who is like a Celebrity. and for what?everyone want his autograph. why he is popular among young people. but what kind of President is he Really. WE as people of color have so much racism in our communities, we see it on Television with these reality shows, the fighting throwing glass’s at each other, calling each other names, and pretending that this is the life, that all young people want.

    This is sad when we march it does nothing but where out the soles of our shoes, and still we go home and go right back to Killing each other, and calling each other Nigg*** and calling our women
    Bit***ches so please tell me what will make this march so different?? please explain it to me..

    • Wildflower on said:

      So what do you suggest, that we give up and do nothing? Sometimes it takes more than one, two or even three tries to get what we want and need. An attitude like you just expressed is part of the reason and the problem. And to attack or President is not the answer and make you no better than those you are attempting to put down. If you aren’t gonna be part of the solution I think it’s best to just step back and let those that are willing to continue the fight for as long as it take do what they do. We have enough enemies in this world no need to jump on that band wagon.

      • In response to wildflower, I think you taking this out of context, it has hurt me emotionally and Spiritually how we have hurt one another, NO I do not suggest we give up, but that is my opinion,

        Yes I can attack Your president, he is not who you think he is,, He was raised by a white mother and after she died he was raised by white grandparents, so what kind of president do you think he is,,
        He needs to have a little more back-bone then he does,, and No I do not need to step back ,, because Rev, Al sharpton is nothing but a pimp, yes I can attack them,, because what kind of men do you really think your dealing with, I suggest to you to wake up, and dig a little deeper, and stop believing that these men are going to Have any Resolutions, to THIS RASIST COUNTRY WHO STILL THINKS WE ARE NOT WORTHY OF FAIRNESS, these men your looking up to are Our enemies,, So you have a blessed and wonderful day!

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