When I learned that 17-year old Trayvon Martin was gunned down by a man who registered his boyish face and casual presence in his gated-community as dangerous, I once again felt the sorrow of mothers and fathers who for generations agonized over how best to protect their children from the horrors of lynching.

Hanging bodies of Abe Smith and Thomas Shipp, lynched in Marion IN 1930

Hanging bodies of Abe Smith and Thomas Shipp, lynched in Marion IN 1930

I am painfully aware that unlike Trayvon, Oscar Grant’s head was not covered by a hoodie when shot in the back by officers on a railway platform in Oakland, California in 2009. Nor was 49-year old James Craig Anderson’s when he was beaten and run over with a truck by a group of white teens in Brandon, Mississippi in 2011. When 14-year old Emmett Till’s mutilated body was dumped in the Tallahatchie River in 1955 and family patriarch, Anthony Crawford, was stabbed, beaten, shot, and hanged in Abbeville, South Carolina in 1916–neither of these victims of lynchings wore hoodies. What these black males have in common with Trayvon is that they were beloved by their families and friends, moving through life with many of the same values and dreams that we all share, yet someone else saw them as less than human.

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