Rolling Stone’s, soon to be released August 1, front cover depicting 19 year old bomb suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev represents a falsehood, that many people accept as true in that someone with a face like Tsarnaev could not be a killer, bomber or terrorist. But, in viewing the face of 17 year old Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager, just two years younger than Tsarnaev, many persons see the worst and suspect him of looking suspicious or doing something wrong to cause his own death.
Tsarnaev’s image represents, for many persons, the all American innocent college boy image. And Rolling Stone intends to reveal how a “popular, promising student” turned into a terrorist. Many Americans fail to believe that terrorists could live next door to us, attend college with us, play sports with us, have dinner and drinks with us and look like Tsarnaev.
Yet, in viewing the face of Trayvon Martin, many persons failed to accept the truth that Trayvon was not a suspect, as George Zimmerman referred to him. Many persons, including possibly those on the George Zimmerman jury, did not view Trayvon Martin as someone’s child who might also be promising and popular, attend college, play sports and games, eat candy and have fun. For some, they only saw him like George Zimmerman viewed him as a suspicious person and “up to no good.” Our perception and vision is confused and clouded when it comes to those looking like Trayvon Martin or Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Many persons, including attorney Mark O’Mara are saying that Trayvon Martin was responsible for his own death, like he was the one on trial. No one is blaming the Boston bombing victims for running the Boston Marathon or attending the event to watch their friends and family run it, for standing too close to the bomber or for causing their injuries or death. Everyone recognizes that the three persons, including one child, who lost their lives and the over 200 others who endured unthinkable injuries, are victims and are not responsible for their injuries or deaths. Many people fail to accept the truth that Trayvon Martin was a victim. Trayvon Martin was not a suspect, burglar or thief. He did not commit any crimes.
The benefit of a doubt is most often always given to young white males who look like Tsarnaev but not to young black males who look like Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin, like Tsarnaev appeared on the cover of a magazine—People’s Magazine on April 9, 2012. And even as his photograph appeared on People’s cover, there were many persons through comments who would dispute the image insisting it was not a current depiction of Trayvon Martin. For some, he looked too young and innocent, an unacceptable image of young black males for many whites.
We will know racism has ended in America when Americans accept the truth that every black man is not a suspect and that a white man could also be one. When we deny one falsehood and accept the truth of the other one, we will have finally overcome racism.
Trayvon Martin was not a suspect but Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is one.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer and former prosecutor who often appears in the media addressing issues of race and gender in the law. As a former prosecutor, she tried murders, rapes, burglaries, robberies, and narcotic and sex crimes. She founded LegalSpeaks blog in 2009. Debbie can be frequently seen on Fox 5 News, CBS affiliate WUSA 9, Arise TV and on RT America with Thom Hartmann’s The Big Picture. Her commentaries appear in the Women’s Media Center and Huffington Post.