Contributed by Ernie Quincosa
My work has put me in touch with a hundred kids like Trayvon Martin. Many of the FAFSA nights I’ve put together have been in Miami’s less well-off neighborhoods. Most of the students that come out are struggling to get an education, have friends, and stay out of trouble, and I have seldom heard any of them complain about their circumstances. It is unfortunate that the students trying hardest to distance themselves from the negative stereotypes about people of color can end up misunderstood, and how that misunderstanding can result in the loss of a life.
Had Trayvon been a high school senior, he might have come in to one of the events at the high school in his community and I would have helped him do his financial aid paperwork for college. The reality of the situation is that this ordeal could have happened to many of the students I helped. I would hate to think that any of the parents who have come into Catalyst Miami to have their taxes prepared by me would ever have to deal with their children being targeted based on assumptions about their character.
I consider myself someone who gets his news from the ground up, and I also try to interact with as many people as I can. It has been roughly a month since this incident occurred. I heard about Martin’s death through the African-American community. It seems to me as if I’ve been hearing about Martin’s death for a long time. However, I have had to tell family members and friends that do not have connections to the black community about the case. This story has been largely ignored by many major news outlets. There are journalists who make their living reporting on missing and mistreated children.
This seems like a textbook example of the unfortunate stories about children we often see in the media. However, these children are rarely people of color and are not assumed guilty. When this case has been reported on, some pundits have placed guilt on Martin for what happened to him. His innocence and intentions have both been critiqued when fundamental questions about the intentions of his killer have been glossed over and ignored.
This is why it is important that this story be heard. Despite the overwhelming evidence we have pointing to Martin being a “good kid,” it is unfair that we need to justify him being where he was, doing what he was doing, and looking like he looked. We need to confront the facts of the case and question why this disparity in the treatment of our children exists. Any child being needlessly murdered is a tragedy, and there is no easy answer to why Trayvon Martin died. Hopefully, we can prevent the loss of other lives and progress towards equality for those who are vulnerable within our society.