Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO Marcus Allen Shares His Support for Trayvon Martin

July 23, 2013


What do you see?

I am a nonprofit CEO, a concerned citizen and a black man, but I write this as a disturbed parent. A parent who cannot comprehend the emotions Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin must feel in the wake of losing their son, Trayvon.

I’m confused and scared. How do I, as a parent, protect my children from people who clearly see things differently than I do? When I see Trayvon, I see a child full of potential. George Zimmerman apparently saw a “thug in a hoodie.”

I believe Trayvon was no different than any other kid — than your kids or my kids. I believe it’s a child’s job, especially a teenager’s, to test the limits, to push our buttons, to ask questions — to just be kids and eat candy.

As a parent, I wonder what I can do to protect my children from a similar fate. I wonder, if one of Zimmerman’s best friends or close colleagues had been an African American, would he have profiled Trayvon? Had Zimmerman had a mentor, how might his life have been different? What would have happened if Zimmerman approached me or you in the manner he approached Trayvon? Would the consequences of losing a fight still have been a lost life?

Trayvon had a loving dad, but many boys in communities across the nation do not. We need men to protect these young, precious lives. We also need ways to expose the Zimmermans of the world to the realities of a diverse country.

Lost in the 24-hour news coverage and sensationalistic political debates is the sad reality that a child was killed. As adults we have a responsibility to seize this moment and ensure something good can come from this tragedy. Marches and protests will raise awareness and capture headlines, but the real change, the needed change, will only come when we, as a society, start valuing all young people equally, no matter their race, creed, or social standing.

We can begin by getting to know these kids. As adults we must tutor, teach, support, play, coach, educate, and, yes, mentor them. We need to consider what we are doing personally to create safe, affirming, better neighborhoods. This incident calls for men to be fathers at an even higher level, to spend time caring for kids without dads. We need champions of children in the trenches on local boards — volunteering, advocating on issues, and financially supporting organizations doing this work.

We also need government to do its part. Congress must pass the End Racial Profiling Act of 2013. So long as racial profiling is tolerated anywhere, it will be propagated everywhere, and more parents will experience this unnecessary pain.

We all bring our own perspective to each situation, and that perspective informs our response. In this case, I see a man with a gun and a child with Skittles. What do you see?