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The exploitation of Trayvon Martin

Ads featuring the details of the February 2014 Trayvon Martin peace rally.
Ads featuring the details of the February 2014 Trayvon Martin peace rally.

In the aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict, many attempts have been made at defining the legacy of Trayvon Martin. Whereas disorderly conduct caused by initial protest activity was kept to a level manageable by police, activists continued to organize on behalf of a legacy questionable due to two factors. First, it is unknown whether or not Zimmerman's actions were prompted by the American racial divide - meaning the conflict between Zimmerman and Martin can be viewed as a simple, everyday conflict between two people with no larger significance involved. Next, many other Trayvon Martins exist in history - namely, young people of all races killed by gun violence that could have been prevented if different choices had been made. Why is the legacy of Trayvon Martin any different than the stories of these people? It is not.

So, while 'community'-based peace marches and rallies led by the likes of Rev. Al Sharpton continue to proliferate around a non-centralized, virtual theme, the activity is representative of a widely accepted 'cash-in' on the back-end of the tragedy where all parties desirous of a piece of the tragedy have been granted it in a 'free-for-all' carnival atmosphere. Take, for instance, the case of George Zimmerman. By making continual public pronouncements aimed at rallying his 'base' and, now, being the subject of a proposed pay-per-view celebrity boxing match for charity, he has become somewhat of a spectacle, and it has become clear that the goal of such activity is to repair Zimmerman's image. Ironically, here, fighting equals peace, as several black celebrities have jumped onto the bandwagon with the 'goal' of fighting Zimmerman in supposed 'honor' of Trayvon Martin - perhaps the most idiotic manner of waging peace, as boxing is one of the most violent sports.

Solutions? From those you generally see on your television screens as Trayvon Martin torch bearers, nonexistent. Hope? Come on. The black community continues to strive to wage bloody war to achieve a perceived notion of racial equality, against a foe claiming he is not a racist. Change? Not on the horizon, given such naïveté by the same people who have been misled to believe other cultures are watching with care when African-Americans march in the streets alongside images of Trayvon Martin, or that other cultures are listening when blacks' preaching on race issues is heard.

The direction of affairs has not, at all, reflected an interest in social uplift but, rather, a profit pursuit. A real fight on behalf of Trayvon Martin, though, starts with removing the worst parts of the hip-hop image from black America's pop culture, itself. That, unfortunately, may consist of most of the facets of hip-hop, but the most significant change would be to the 'heroes' that promote thuggery, drug dealing, and the low-class symbolism that has become black Americans' truth. Instead of simply pointing fingers and wallowing in self-pity, what the black community needs is to stop celebrating being somehow 'different' than the rest, and join the people as equal participants in life. This encompasses not settling for low-class conditions and mindsets, not buying into or patronizing damaging stereotypes, and developing the necessary skills to compete with other cultures in the workforce.

The goal of non-black communities, in the pursuit of multicultural improvement, is to teach children that surface-level assessments are not true indicators of a person's worth. In this way, lingering racial conflicts are avoided, as surface-level judgments become less likely to lead to snap decisions (like Zimmerman's.) If you want the problems to stop, then simply stop perpetuating them. Commentators claim racism is non-existent, but the fact that an undercurrent of racial tension is present within the Martin/Zimmerman debate disproves such a notion. The method by which post-racialism is displayed, however, is in discouraging racial bias from the outset, so that it does not color future decision making, and to open minds to the possibility that cross-cultural exchange can be beneficial. Then, the racial debate relegates itself to the most sordid annals of America's dark past.

The names Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman have not brought any two cultural groups together, but have only served to cause further division. Activities and profits continue on behalf of both and, instead of focusing on how to improve community relations, each side moves further from the center, where common ground is usually found. True leaders bridge these gaps out of actual personal interest and not simply because of their constituencies. Obviously, there aren't any true leaders that currently exist within positions from where widespread social change can be enacted. As a result, the next time you see a 'Trayvon Martin rally' or a 'George Zimmerman celebrity event,' be aware that money and status are the prevalent motivations, as it costs money to stage most of these public events in the first place, and that the 'celebrity' aspects of them - which both sides more than willingly exploit - simply work to galvanize your interest.

In the Mix: The Best of Marcus Singletary is out NOW and available through iTunes. Check out an interview with Singletary, conducted by journalist Eliza Gale - Interview Link.