It is way past time for all of us, regardless of our race, to ask ourselves a very simple question and that question is whether or not we prefer our young black males to become martyrs or men. Do we prefer them to be safely dead as a cause to be exploited or do we prefer to have them among us as they grow into manhood with all the problems and potential that the development of any human being entails?
If we prefer our young black males to become martyrs rather than men then let us continue to do what we are doing now. Let us continue to see them as a problem rather than as a person. Let us continue to think that while it is okay for a young white male to walk around armed and to be proactive in his self defense, that it is wrong for a black male of a similar age to do the same thing. If we prefer our black males to be martyrs rather than men, then let us continue to cast a critical eye on the violence they might do in response to the violence visited upon them rather than on those who have violently attacked them in the first place.
If we prefer our black males to be martyrs rather than men, let us continue to only invoke the name of Dr. King; let us continue to dismiss the injustices & indignities heaped upon our black males as being God's will or God's master plan. If we want our black males to be martyrs rather than men, continue to feel fear whenever we pass by a young black male on the street; continue to equate criminal intent with a hoodie, and continue to regard self defense as practiced by a black male as a crime unto itself.
In other words if we prefer our black males to be martyrs rather than men, then continue to speak of passivity as being a virtue and assertiveness as a sin; continue to tell them as we tell them every time we tell them to turn the other cheek in the face of aggressive conduct, that their lives count less than those who would kill them; that to appear saintly & non threatening like the whitewashed memory of Dr. King is far more important than their staying alive long enough to become a man; that their purpose on this Earth is solely to fulfill our needs, our desires, our hopes and our dreams; that unlike their white male counterparts that their purpose is to serve others rather than be be served by others as equal members of the family seated around the table of life.
However if we really want our black males to become men then allow them the freedom to be men; allow them the freedom of self expression; of being assertive, proud, of thinking for themselves, and yes even proactively acting in their own self defense; even if that means their carrying a gun and killing another human being if they are in fear for their lives and they conclude that that is the only way that they can stay alive is to kill another person as George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin.
In other words give our young black males the same consideration and the same benefit of the doubt that we instinctively give a white male who is the same age and facing the same set of circumstances. Do not continue to assume that a person acting in ill temper is incapable of showing reasonable restraint just because their skin is dark because when we do that, we reduce our young black males to the level of an animal, a beast, whether we intend to do so or not. Why? Because by doing this we are holding our young black male to a different standard than their white male counterparts not because, in the words of Dr. King, of "the content of his character but because of the color of their skin."
If we want our young black males to have hope then we cannot only invoke the passive past; we cannot tell them to stand down in the face of aggression and stress that it is more important for them to put at ease those who would kill them rather than do all that is necessary for them to stay alive. No, we cannot continue to do this if we really do prefer our young black males to become men rather than martyrs. If we really want our young black males to become men then we must give them without question and without condition the first freedom for all people; the freedom of choice; the freedom to be a man.