The shooting of Trayvon Martin – by all accounts because he was black, and young – reminds me of this quote from Barack Obama’s memoir, “Dreams from my Father”. At the end of chapter four, Obama’s grandmother (he was living with his grandparents) returns from a bus trip upset, having had an encounter with a man asking for money:
I returned to the kitchen. Gramps was rinsing his cup, his back turned to me. “Listen,” I said, “why don’t you just let me give her a ride. She seems pretty upset.”
“By a panhandler?”
“Yeah, I know – but it’s probably a little scary for her, seeing some big man block her way. It’s really no big deal.
He turned around and I saw now that he was shaking. “It is a big deal. It’s a big deal to me. She’s been bothered by men before. You know why she’s so scared this time? I’ll tell you why. Before you came in, she told me the fella was black.” He whispered the word. “That’s the real reason why she’s bothered. And I just don’t think that’s right.”
The words were like a fist in my stomach, and I wobbled to regain my composure.
Obama then describes a discussion of this with a friend, ending the chapter:
The earth shook under my feet, ready to crack open at any moment. I stopped, tried to steady myself, and knew for the first time that I was utterly alone.