Ginger Rutland

Ginger Rutland: Want to honor Trayvon? Help a kid succeed

Published: Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 8A

I am not particularly interested in another national conversation about race, despite the not guilty verdict in the Trayvon Martin case and all the outrage it has spawned. We've been there too many times. We know the drill.

Egged on by rabble-rousers, both sides retreat to their bunkers to lob rhetorical bombs. The anger builds and then slowly sputters out, until the next white-on-black or black-on-white outrage ignites yet another "conversation."

What worries me most about the outsized reaction to the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case is that it will plant in the heads of too many young black men and women the mistaken notion that they are not in control of their own destinies.

I worry it will give too many permission to nurse resentments, a reason to smolder, an excuse to fail. I worry that all the talk and public chest beating will enlarge the already sizable chip on their shoulders.

I worry that too many young black high school students will think it's OK to flunk algebra.

I'm black and have no illusions about racism. I know that I am regarded with suspicion when I shop at the Galleria in Roseville, that it's harder for me to get a cab when I hail one on the streets of liberal San Francisco, and that some people will assume any success I achieve was the result of affirmative action. I know that my brother and nephews are profiled, and are more likely to be stopped and searched by police.

But as President Barack Obama said about Trayvon Martin the other day, I also know and, they do too, that "statistically they are more likely to be shot by a peer," by another black man.

I love my brother-in-law, a former practicing member of the Nation of Islam. In his youth he sported the bow tie and sold Mohammed Speaks and bean pies on street corners. But today he runs a small auto insurance business in downtown Oakland and raises money for the Oakland YMCA, an organization he credits with keeping him on the straight and narrow.

A few years ago when a BART police officer shot and killed Oscar Grant, another unarmed black man, outraged rioters broke his office windows. When reporters came to get his reaction, my brother-in-law wanted to know why the rioters were not as outraged by young black men killing other young black men.

My sister, his wife, belongs to Delta Sigma Theta, the black sorority that held its convention last week in Washington, D.C. Trayvon Martin was the talk of the convention.

My sister, like her sorors, was outraged by the Zimmerman verdict. I couldn't share her outrage. I was thinking about her husband and his fear that his small business would be trashed again in Oakland.

Frankly, I'm sick and tired of outrage. Want to honor Trayvon? Don't march and shout slogans. Help a young black high schooler pass algebra. Give him a summer job. Teach him a trade. Turn off the basketball game, put down the Game Boy and spend another hour studying English. That's what the Trayvons of our world need, not another conversation and more useless outrage.

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