I don’t know why Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on that Sunday night.
I don’t know if it was because of race or if a fight took place before bullets were fired.
All I know is that a teenage boy is dead and rallies to support him are sprouting up all over the country.
Trayvon was killed. Parents lost a son, siblings lost a brother, a nation lost a child. But there is a greater significance than one death, one question of racism, one incident.
This tragedy shows that as Americans, it takes a disaster and great strides as a response for us to spur change. SOPA/PIPA protests and Kony 2012 support, both admirable causes, show what it takes for us to take action.
So what is it that readies us to pull out our posters and paint and head to street corners?
The abstract words that we have come to associate with American life: justice, being outspoken and equality among others. The things that we consider as American as apple pie or a baseball lie closer than that, though. They lie at the core of humanity, at the core of our being.
But we don’t like to embrace these feelings on our own. We like to gather in mass, see our emotions reflected on the face of others.
Would Rep. Bobby Rush have worn a hoodie and sunglasses while giving a passionate speech on the House floor discussing the way the nation looks at black youth had it not been socially appropriate to act out? No. Would 13 Miami Heat players have tweeted a picture of them wearing hoodies in tribute? Probably not.
These reactions are bold and admirable, but to put it mildly we need to take greater strides with whatever vigor and raw passion we can muster. Not tomorrow. Not next week. In a month, a year, a decade from now when as individuals, we witness an injustice (however small it may be) and act alone.