You are probably wondering what Trayvon Martin and The Hunger Games have in common and why I’m writing a post about either of those topics. What both these issues have in common is that both have brought to light some of the issues that we (I’m using the global “we” here) still have with race in this country.
In case you haven’t heard, Trayvon was a 17 year old teen who was shot and killed while visiting his father in Florida. He was unarmed, wearing a hoodie and carrying a bag of skittles. He was black. The man who shot him, George Zimmerman, is a 28 year old who was doing a type of “neighborhood watch” patrol. He called the police to report Trayvon, saying that he looked “suspicious” and admitted he was following him. The dispatcher instructed him not to follow him, but unfortunately George did not listen. The facts of what exactly happened next are disputed, but the 140 pound Martin was killed by the roughly 200 pound Zimmerman. Zimmerman says it was self defense, but there is currently a great deal of doubt as to the accuracy of that. Zimmerman is Hispanic.
So, what about The Hunger Games? Well, according to various news outlets, some fans of the books were mystified and upset when they saw the movies and realized that a couple of the characters (i.e. Rue and Thresh) were black.
I feel like the convergence of these two events has made it clear that, in case anyone had any doubts, our issues with race our still very real. The responses of the media and of the general public have been…interesting to say the least. I’ve seen some pretty heated discussions. And there should be heated discussions. I think this presents a great opportunity to talk about why it matters that Martin was black and Zimmerman is not. And why it matters that characters in a popular book are portrayed by black actors.
The sad truth is race does still matter. Yes, even with how far we’ve come, it still matters. That much is clear. So, what do we do now? These events have forced many people to consider some truly ugly truths about ourselves and about our society. It saddens me that I have to caution my nephew against wearing hoodies. It saddens me that I have to protect my niece from online comments about some of her favorite Hunger Games characters. But what next? How do we heal from the sadness, the anger, the disappointment, the injustice? How do we move forward?