Commentary: A Different Dialogue on the Anniversary of Trayvon’s Death

Today, remember what you focus on has power.

Posted: 02/26/2014 01:40 PM EST

Today we mark the anniversary of the death of Trayvon Martin by asking people to make a choice. Not about Trayvon or Jordan Davis. We are asking you to pause for just a moment, search your gut and decide what you honestly believe about Black males.

Do you (A) believe that the nation is beset by hooded Black thugs against whom we must stand our ground, or do you (B) consider your Black male neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members as normal assets to society like anyone else?

It’s a serious question.

We are at a very serious moment in American history. The trend data shows that we are at a turning point. Those of us in the B-group are actually the majority, but we must begin to say so.

The percentage of Black people, women and Millennials who were dissatisfied with the Zimmerman Verdict last year closely mirrors the percentage who have elected a Black man to run the country, twice.

(Photo: BMe Community)

The Millennials in that chart foretell our future. They are the largest generation in American history and they are coming of age at the exact same time as the Baby Boomers – and Boomer frames of reference – are dying off. If you are in the B-group and under 35, it’s especially important that the country hears from you.

Our acknowledging the benefits and achievements of Black males is in no way a detriment to anyone else. Quite the opposite.

Patriotic: Twenty-five percent of Black men in America are already military veterans. No other cultural group in the nation has as high a proportion of its men who have served this country.

Aspiring: About 2 million Black males have college degrees, and another 1.3 million are in college now.

Enterprising: The percentage of Black people who create businesses is growing at more than twice the national average and 60 percent of those black entrepreneurs are men.

Generous: Black households give 25 percent more of their income to charities than do white households.

These facts evince that patriotic, aspiring, enterprising and generous are far more common attributes of Black males than the fear-goading loathsome images that are grossly over-indexed in media. So we are asking people to have a more informed and rational relationship to Americans who are Black and male.

So if 1 in 4 Black men has either served their country or is still on active duty; over 1 in 3 has graduated college or is working to earn their degree; and I’m willing to bet that each of you reading this knows black males who quietly and consistently help others in society; then shouldn’t we acknowledge those realities of the world we live in?

I believe that a major shift is taking place. We have a chance to re-evaluate not just how we see Black males but how we approach making a better future for all Americans.

My position is that to do so, you must appreciate the assets that people bring to society, engage them and their friends on the things that we value in common and endeavor to “build” together rather than to “fix” each other. My hope is that you believe the same.

Trabian Shorters is the former Vice President of Communities for the Knight Foundation and founder of BMe Community, a national nonprofit that spotlights Black men who do inspiring work in their communities.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: AP Photo/Tampa Bay Times, Dirk Shadd)

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