Who could the late Trayvon Martin have grown up to be? The next president? The next Steve Jobs? The next astronaut? Musician Wyclef Jean says he could have been any of those and more in a new tribute, Justice (If You’re 17):
If you’re 17 with a hoodie on
Watch out for the neighborhood watcher
If you’re at the right neighborhood at the wrong time neighborhood watcher
This might be your last call to your girlfriend when shots fire
With musical tributes to Trayvon from Wyclef Jean to Bruce Springsteen, and political rallies with Rev. Al Sharpton to “Hoodies on the Hill,” national outcry convened in a united call for justice: to have Trayvon’s killer, George Zimmerman, arrested. But as Zimmerman’s criminal case continues on, it’s reasonable to posit that we’ll see the public outcry live on. Not only will people be seeking a conviction of Zimmerman on the charge of second-degree murder, but also protection for the scores of 17-year-old kids with a hoodie who could have been him, and still might be.
The power of Wyclef’s is not simply that question, but also how it makes clear that it’s a question we asked and were asked constantly about ourselves, and that we ask about our own children. Wyclef isn’t subtle in making that point, nor should he be.
Neither was Melissa on Saturday when she addressed the apology that Trayvon’s killer, George Zimmerman, offered to his parents in court during his bond hearing – an apology that came after they’d rejected his request to apologize to them privately. (This morning, as Zimmerman left jail free on bond, his attorney apologized for the apology, saying, “Had I known or been told that that wasn’t the time, it wouldn’t have happened. So, I apologize for that.”)
I can’t know what Zimmerman knew about Trayvon’s age. I do know that Zimmerman was completely aware that these parents, still mourning their slain son, bearing up emotionally to confront his killer for the first time, did not want a public apology from the stand. One of the attorneys for Trayvon’s family told the Orlando Sentinel that the apology, quote, was “insulting.” I’m inclined to agree, considering Zimmerman took 54 days, offered it on his own terms, and did so when his apology could benefit him in front of the court, and all of us watching from home.