By Thomas L Blair © 21 May 2012
Grieving mothers have targeted the death-dealing weapons that kill Black youth on both sides of the Atlantic.
Sybrina Fulton’s teenaged son, Trayvon Martin, was shot dead by a neighbourhood security guard as he walked home from a store in Sanford, Florida, April 2012
Doreen Lawrence’s son Stephen, aged 18, was brutally killed in London in 1993, but 19 years later all his murderers have not been brought to justice.
Racial profiling hides racist intent media and politicians ignore or excuse
Welded together by the tragic loss of their sons, Sybrina, an African American, and Doreen, a Briton of Caribbean heritage, agree — “Racial profiling is an issue here in London as it is in America”.
Self-assured and telegenic, each has sparked a firestorm of protest. Remarkably, there are similarities in the impact of their campaigns.
Millions of Americans supported his mother’s plea to bring Trayvon’s killer to trial. Doreen Lawrence brought Stephen’s story to an outraged public. It spurred a reluctant national media to break silence and initiated a groundbreaking report on “institutional racism”. For many, it seemed that spiralling violence against a generation of Black youth was rooted in fact.
Banishing race hate killings requires expert advocacy and community action
The new insurgents, who had never met before, gathered strength at meetings in London recently. True and vigorous investigation was their goal.
None of this comes, however, without hard work, commitment and enthusiasm. Rights champion, Lord Herman Ouseley, the former chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, set the lead. Peter Herbert and the Society of Black Lawyers paved the way as the “legal arm for the protection of black, Asian and ethnic minority communities against racism and discrimination”.
Confident Black journalists revealed demands for grassroots action. Marc Wadsworth and Mark Williams ignited interest with headlines “Trayvon’s mum backs UK black youth” and “Sybrina and Doreen urge community to stand against racial profiling” (May 17-23, 2012) in The Voice, Britain’s lone Black newspaper. (For campaign information, visit the web sites http://www.justicetm.org and http://www.stephenlawrencetrust.org.uk).
Opinion research may show need to organise Black discontent
Polling Black communities can divulge some serious answers to the question: “What types of further action would you like to see?” Some respondents may reply, “strengthening our ability to handle our bereavement and gain justice for our lost loved ones,” is paramount. Others may say, “We want police, judges and politicians on our side, not in our faces”.
Seasoned observers interviewed say opinion research may not be out of the question. The results may indicate an underlying sentiment for community organisation. Alone, individual families are not up to this task. Bereavement induces a sudden loss of purpose and worth.
Still, such loss can prompt a call for relief and liberation. The challenge is to save young lives and end negative perceptions about Black people in hostile environments. Activists must cooperate, organise, lobby, encourage, teach and publicise to see justice bloom.
Across thousands of miles, UK-USA mothers spark transatlantic Black activism
The magnitude of race killings and the intensity of the mother’s grief call for unity and action now. Nothing less will prevent a generation being airbrushed out of history. So confronting attempts to downplay or dismiss these crimes matter too, especially when they emerge from the murky depths of racist intent.
Two action points merit consideration by a burgeoning Save Our Black Youth Movement. Individual family camps must join forces with each other, and another and another, in a collective organised response. They must share their tragic histories, despite thousands of miles and centuries of separation.
Partners from the grassroots are essential. They will help construct a platform of common principles for action. The best minds, champion lawmakers and strongest campaigners must raise the alarm at all levels of the political and justice system. Allies include civil libertarians, minority ethnic associations, media activists, faith representatives, community leaders and concerned citizens.
The Mrs Fulton and Lawrence have turned their sorrow into a united campaign for justice. In this way, grieving mothers may herald a rare opportunity to end the scourge of race hate killings across the Black Atlantic world.