Web Letters | The Nation

Trayvon Martin: What It's Like to Be a Problem

Sorrow, dread and frustration

Thank you so much for your compelling and insightful piece. I don’t often respond to editorials; however, Harris-Perry’s words rightly capture the sorrow, dread and frustration I’ve felt as a black person since I was 14 years old. Now at age 58, I never thought that I would still be pulled over while driving, still followed in stores even after I purchased something and still looked upon with suspicion when walking the streets. So angered I am at being treated as something fearful while black, I was compelled to stage my own protest.

Because deaths like Trayvon’s occur so regularly, I’ve become desensitized by it, which is why I’m writing to thank you for this article. I don’t like to blame the media for our social ills; this article helps me to maintain this stance. However, it is typical, but no less frustrating, to witness media that deflect the reality of racism that frames Trayvon Martin’s killing by constantly offering that Zimmerman is Latino and has black friends, so, therefore, the shooting couldn’t possibly be racially motivated, or, worse, that Trayvon shouldn’t have worn what he was wearing and shouldn’t have been walking where he was walking. On the local front, as a child advocate who lives in Philadelphia, I was deeply troubled by the decision of Mayor Nutter and Police Chief Ramsey to impose a curfew on teens as a way to crack down on the so-called flash mob incidents our city has experienced over the past few years. That their only recourse is to attack the symptom with heavy policing, stop-and-frisk and incarceration, rather than to address the motivations that contribute to these incidents shows a lack of vision, as well as revealing their fear of our children. How do we wage war on our children? On the other end of this public expression is the gentrification of flash mob activities by well-heeled and presumably upstanding citizens as they engage public spaces with songs and dance numbers, some of whom are able to secure grants to do so. They don’t address our youth’s frustration of having nothing to do, no money to do it, and no one to hear them. Must our youth do a song and dance to be accepted? Neither of these tactics address the racism that continues to mark black bodies as a problem and, sadly, neither do our leaders.

Sherman Fleming

Philadelphia, PA

Apr 7 2012 - 12:06pm

Trayvon Martin: What It's Like to Be a Problem

Black outrage

As a black ma, my heart goes out to the family of Trayvon Martin. May he RIP and Lady Justice have her day. But what really angers me is, Where is the black outrage at black-on-black murders ? At gangsta rap music that tears down our black women and promotes guns and drug dealing. How come when it comes to these things we are silent and so are our so-called black Leaders. Let’s get real. Our young people are killing one another over colors, drugs and trying to live the thug life. Tell Sister Melissa to talk to President Obama and the rest of them. Tell them to stop fronting and let’s do something.

Stephen Winstead


Mar 29 2012 - 3:14pm

Trayvon Martin: What It's Like to Be a Problem

Equality and justice for all or equality and justice for none

A nation that calls itself the world’s only superpower cannot be a superpower if it deprives its citizens of their civil rights because of the color of their skin. America is 236 years old, yet for the very first time in our nation’s history, the haters are questioning the president’s place of birth, the loyalty to our country of the president and first lady, and trying to deny, belittle and denigrate all of the president’s achievements.

If a white man had been elected president in November 2008 and he had ended the war in Iraq, helped save America from a depression, extended healthcare to 30 million people who never had it before and saved the US automobile industry from collapse, he would be winning this November’s election in a landslide.

We may think we have come so far but we have a very, very long road yet to travel before Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of judging a person by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin becomes a reality. Only when that happens will America truly become a superpower. A superpower is not judged solely by the size of the military or economic output but, much more importantly, by how they treat their citizens.

When some citizens are denied their civil rights and denied justice, all of us, no matter where we were born, no matter what the color of our skin is, no matter what God we believe in, and no matter what language we speak, are all diminished.

Mark Jeffery Koch

Cherry Hill, NJ

Mar 28 2012 - 3:18pm