Trayvon Martin: A son of America, a child of God

Rallies took place in Sanford on Feb. 5, which would have been his 18th birthday. Here, Sybrina Fulton, third from … Continued


Rallies took place in Sanford on Feb. 5, which would have been his 18th birthday. Here, Sybrina Fulton, third from left, and Tracy Martin, fourth from left, raise their hands in prayer during the March for Peace at Miami’s Ives Estate Park in honor of their late son.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

I don’t know George Zimmerman.

I didn’t know Trayvon Martin.

And many of us will never know what really happened between the two of them on the night of February 26, 2012.

Did Trayvon attack Geroge Zimmerman? Did George Zimmerman “profile” Trayvon? Was Trayvon in the wrong place at the wrong time? Was George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman, right to be suspicious of this hooded outsider?

Who knows? Such questions will be hotly debated in the days, weeks, months, and maybe even years to come.

What I find most troubling about the Trayvon Martin case, though, is not the unknown that enshrouds the killing itself but the faith crisis that I know it brings to bear.

Much attention has been given to the events of Saturday night, and rightfully so. Saturday night, immediately following the verdict— “not guilty” — protestors took to the streets, to the blogosphere and to the airways to express their displeasure with what they perceived as the criminal justice system’s failure to deliver justice. Saturday night, many African Americans had to endure the heart-wrenching thought that yet another young black man’s life was snatched away with impunity.

But what of Sunday morning?

What thoughts were peculating within the minds of faithful on Sunday morning? How difficult was it, really, for African American parents to wake up on the Lord’s day, put on their Sunday best, and go to their particular houses of worship so that they could pray that the God of all power protect their children? Certainly something was different about last Sunday morning, July 14th. Did some of these parents realize that their prayers may not be answered —that their sons may not be protected? How many grew increasingly concerned that their sons were far too vulnerable to wanton acts of racial violence?

On Sunday morning, were these concerned parents given the opportunity to protest, to express their anger, to ask some very troubling but necessary theological questions, such as: Didn’t Trayvon’s parents pray that God put a hedge around their son?

Unfortunately, the black church is too often not a place that is amenable to such questions. In fact, I am sure that on Sunday morning some hoary headed preacher made the rather dubious declaration that somehow “God’s gonna get the glory outta this!” so as to ensure that those who feel their faith was on shaky footing would have something to lean on. But these platitudes fail to assuage the angst that many African American parents feel concerning the safety of their children, especially their black sons who are deemed a threat to society.

Day after day, African American parents must hope against hope that their sons will return home, unharmed, after a dangerous day of simply being a black man in America. Day after day their faith is put on trail as their sons run the risk of being accosted by a “watchful” bystander who wants to ensure that the outsiders are never allowed in to certain protected or “gated” spaces. All these parents hope for is that others will have the faith to see what they see in their sons: a young black man who is not thug or some kind of threatening object but a son full of promise.

Suffice it to say, these anxious onlookers, like George Zimmerman, fail to see these black men as sons at all—rather they see them as disconnected entities, whose termination has no communal repercussions. Let’s be honest, George Zimmerman did not see Trayvon Martin as a son, a young man whose parents and community had invested so much in, a young man that they had expected so much of, but only as an embodied threat—an isolated thing—that could be disposed of.

But Trayvon was a son. He was a son whose very being shined forth new possibilities of what a black man could be. Many have attempted to encapsulate his existence in terms of what transpired on the night of his murder. What a terrible mistake! As a son in process, Trayvon, like many other young black men, expressed the multifarious ways of being a man, both the good and the bad. As such, there were facets of his personhood that could only be observed if George Zimmerman as was brave enough to look underneath the hood, so to speak.

The Trayvon Martin case, then, is about more than race—it is about the need for us as a society to value our young black males as sons. They are men who are still in the process of becoming.

The killing of Trayvon Martin is but another case of that process coming to an abrupt end. It is for this reason that this tragedy is, above all, a crisis of faith in that many onlookers are too quick to believe they know what they are observing when they encounter a black man. “We know Trayvon Martin. . .we know everything about black men,” boast those of little faith. Such persons put their faith in the stereotypes and the stigmas and the caricatures of black manhood, without considering that young men, like Trayvon, are currently and are becoming more than what their eyes see.

Next Sunday morning, in black churches across America, we should not only pray that God protect our black sons but also that we all do a better job of protecting these vulnerable sons as well. For one, we need to do a better job of purporting the image of young black men as sons—not just as black men—but really underscore that they are sons who are still in the process of becoming. And that their journey should not be cut short simply because someone else—an outsider perhaps—does not have faith that their future holds great promise.

This lack of faith leads to so many problems.

It is what caused the murder of Trayvon Martin on the night of February 26, 2012.

It leaves many of us within the black community feeling as though God has turned a deaf ear to our pleas for protection.

But most of all it robs us of the great promise held within the life of a black son.

It’s so sad . . . Trayvon Martin is a son who has stopped shining.


Jay-Paul Hinds is assistant professor of pastoral care, practical theology, and psychology of religion at Howard University School of Divinity. His work uses psychoanalytic and phenomenological theories to interrogate not just the disavowal but also the possible restoration of the sonship identity in black manhood.

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  • anOPINIONATEDsob

    Fact is the “kid” was a thug!!

  • anOPINIONATEDsob

    And he bragged about it online!!!

  • anOPINIONATEDsob

    A picture speaks a thousand words and he posteed it!!!

  • ah1_254

    “Trayvon Martin: A son of America, a child of God”
    We seem to have omitted a punk whose actions led to his own death.

  • chrisdj614

    All evidence pointed to the fact Treyvon assaulted him. When will the media and left wing politicians drop the witch hunt. It’s over. It is a tragedy but Zimmerman didn’t punch himself in the face and bash his own head on the concrete. This kid was no angel.

  • Foxygatorfan

    Clearly Trayvon did not act in a wise way. He was a teenager who acted on his impulses. Clearly George Zimmerman being the adult, had more responsibility to control the incident.

    I think he only felt brave because he knew he had a gun and a really bad Florida law to back him up in case he got in trouble.

    What a big man you are now George. You are a coward.

    I accept the verdict of course but feel the law is wrong in Florida and needs to be changed.

    America will be so safe when everyone carries a gun. I am being sarcastic of course.

    I am white and do not and will not ever carry a gun because I believe it leads to very tragic things as we see.

  • H.L.Scott

    Unfortunately and tragically, black sons AND daughters of America, and black children of God, are murdered mostly by other black sons of America and black children of God. Is God protecting the faithful in Chicago these days?

  • Brian Woods

    This is a F’ing Joke!

  • Michael Jaquish

    I agree this situation really sucks. I will admit that as a cop I was aware that a certain degree of profiling was considered good police work though, and probably still is. We did not have many blacks where I worked in North Central Washington State but anytime we saw a Mexican driving a car we figured there was at least a 50-50 chance they did not have a license so we would pull them over if we could find a reason to do so and viola! Must of the time, I was right. So what are the implications of such an approach? Is it racism? It never was for me, it was just good police work. Police work is largely about probabilities. A cop is always scanning and accessing everything and your mind gets in the habit of determining the probability that a particular situation will yield a law violation. If the probability is high, then as a law enforcement officer you feel obligated to investigate because that is what you are paid to do. There are a lot of factors that figure into probability calculation. One is a gut feeling based on experience and another is statistical data. The FBI issues annual crime statistic reports and every cop knows that certain social groups tend to be more prone to criminal activity than others. In the case of black Americans, it is no secret that the vast majority of Americans incarcerated in US Prisons are black. Are they there because they are being targeted unfairly by law enforcement? Without doubt they ARE there because they are being targeted as a social group, but unfairly? That is the question that our society has to have a good conversation about because I am not personally sure what the answer is yet. One should however, keep in mind that no one goes to prison (except on very rare occasions) without committing a crime and as a social group, because of fewer employment and educational opportunities and greater poverty, crime rates are far higher within the black community than most white communities. Admitting that reality is not the same as b

  • john-confused

    I beg your pardon, but it is a standing fact in the state of Texas that the crime rate dropped when citizens obtained the right to carry. My son is getting his finger-prints tomorrow morning at the local police station in town. I will be getting mine done shortly thereafter. You can be sarcastic, but we will be alive, safe, and will protect ourselves against all criminals.

  • Rangzen

    You & other protestors are making the Zimmerman trial about race when the jury, who listened to all the evidence & testimony, unlike you & the protestors, found race had nothing to do with Zimmerman’s actions. Zimmerman followed Martin b/c he was part of the neighborhood watch & thought Martin acted suspiciously. He had no legal obligation to not follow someone he suspected of illicit activity. Zimmerman’s suspicions were wrong but race did not play a factor. If Martin was Latino, white or Asian but dressed & acted the same way, I believe Zimmerman would still have followed him. Zimmerman did not shoot Martin b/c he was black but b/c Martin attacked him & was beating him so that Zimmerman was in fear for his life. It was not a Stand Your Ground defense. It was simple self-defense. Even the police determined that Zimmerman was credible & did not commit a crime. He was prosecuted only 40 days after political & media pressure on the prosecutors. I believe Zimmerman has a potential case against the prosecutor’s office for wrongful prosecution. There was insufficient evidence to charge Zimmerman or find him guilty of any crime.

  • Rangzen

    Both Zimmerman & Martin made bad decisions but Zimmerman did not violate the law nor did he rely on the stand your grand law. It was simple basic self-defense that was legal in FL & would be legal in NJ, NY, CA or DC too. There was no evidence, other than people’s opinions who did not witness the events, that Zimmerman’s actions were based on race. If someone attacked you & was on top of you beating your head, you would have the right to defend yourself, even with deadly force b/c you don’t know if that person will severely injure you or beat you to death.

    Owning & carrying a gun is a constitutional right. You can choose not to exercise that right, but don’t deny that right to others. Defending oneself from assault is a right. You can choose to be passive & let someone beat you possibly to death or you can choose to fight back. That is everyone’s right.

  • Ana Morris

    NOT CORRECT. GZ called Trayvon “the suspect” 32 times?? If he was white the coward would not have followed with a gun, creeping behind. Of course this was a race crime! More criminals are the judge and jury who let him free.

    If that was me I for sure would have thought him to be Chester Molester and pulled out my pepper spray!

  • Dorette Lyons McCracken

    Only in America. A black guy commits a crime, a Hispanic guy shoots him, and a white man gets blamed.

  • Gwendolyn Raiden Hands

    LET someone murder u an urs then what !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! all this child did was go to the store!! stupid

  • Jennifer Gantt Cockfield

    You say a child of God? God tells you to hurt people that had nothing to do with the case? Don’t drag God into your violence! God is a good God, a kind God, a powerful God, a forgiving God! God says not to hurt and do harm to your neighbor, help him, befriend him, and love your neighbor as yourself and as Christ has loved us!

  • Jennifer Gantt Cockfield

    Sherman Ware. A black homeless man who was beaten by the son of a white policeman in Sanford, FL in 2010. Anyone want to guess who was the one ‘white’ person who went to churches passing out flyers calling attention to a coverup? Anyone want to guess who went to public meetings and demanded that this black man deserved better? Do you know who spent tireless hours putting fliers on the cars of persons parked in the churches of the black community? Do you know who waited for the church‐goers to get out of church so that he could hand them fliers in an attempt to organize the black community against this horrible miscarriage of justice? Do you know who helped organize the City Hall meeting on January 8th, 2011 at Sanford City Hall?

    You guessed it. George Zimmerman. But the main stream media isn’t talking about that are they.

  • datagod

    When black people attack white people, they do so as individuals attacking individuals. When white people attack black people, it’s a race attacking a race. When it’s a non-white person attacking black people, it’s just pretended that he’s white anyway, because once a black man screams “racism,” the facts are irrelevant. They just say he’s white anyway, because that’s a fight they’re used to winning.

  • Mitts

    This is not a hate crime. He was trying to protect the citizens of his neighbourhood , people all races. A cop doesn’t stop being a cop just he is off duty. GZ was always aware of people walking around the neighbourhood. Trayvon was not a child. Many lads his age are overseas fighting and would be offended by that . For that matter, GZ was in his twenties and didn’t have a lot of life experiences either.
    Whites didn’t yell race crime when OJ Simpson slit the throats of 2 white people. There was enough evidence to put him away but it didn’t happen

  • famousjames

    The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenges and controversy.

    Growth comes through struggle.

    What self centered men and women have torn down, other righteous men and women can build up.

    Knowing what’s the right thing to do never gives anybody too much trouble. It’s doing the right thing, that seems to give a lot of people trouble.

  • Terry DeCarlo

    Trayvon Martin: A son of America, a child of God, a homophobic gay basher.
    Hey Diamond Eugene confirmed it in all her interviews. Why is everyone afraiad to say it? Because Trayvon is black, that’s why.