To: President Donald Trump

No More Trayvons. President Obama: We Need To Talk About Race. Now.

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Dear President Obama,

The Trayvon Martin tragedy and the Zimmerman trial's conclusion have unsettled the country, sending a dangerous message about the institutionalization of racial prejudice and the devaluation of Black life in America. It is a certainty that tragedies like the death of Trayvon Martin will continue to occur unless we are able to hold a national conversation on the reality of racial inequity. This is a critical teaching moment that requires comment and leadership. We need you to be our President, not another cautious politician. We need you to use the incredible historic power of the presidential Bully Pulpit to talk openly and honestly about the ongoing inequities of race and racism in America, so we can finally make real and lasting change.

Why is this important?

America is in turmoil since the announcement of the Zimmerman verdict. Demonstrations of outrage have ignited all across the country in response. The verdict sends a message about the lesser value of Black life and the toleration of racial prejudice. We must refute this dangerous message.

We cannot deny the role of race and racism in the Trayvon Martin Tragedy. The only reason that the 17-year-old, was considered suspicious in his own neighborhood was because he was Black.

It is reflective of the prejudice in our society that the young Black man who was killed on his way home was made out to be the criminal, and the grown man who shot him became the victim. To omit the role of race is to ask for tragedies like this to happen again.

We must break the cycle. America must talk about race and the reality of racial inequity. NOW. Your leadership is required to seed that conversation.

In response to the Zimmerman verdict, your office released a statement acknowledging the tragedy of Trayvon’s death and the strong passions around the decision, noting:

“[W]e are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.

<b>And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities.</b> We should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis.

We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this."

You are right that we need to ask “how we can prevent future tragedies like this”. But to do that, we must ask ourselves how we will address racial inequality in our society. We can’t turn a blind eye towards the unfounded racial prejudice and criminalization of Black men that was at the root of this case. Nor can we ignore the myriad other indicators of racial injustice in this country:

In Florida, the same State where Zimmerman’s trial took place, Marissa Alexander, a 31-year old Black mother of three was sentenced to twenty years for firing warning shots to defend herself from her abusive husband. She received no protection under the Stand Your Ground law. [1]

This year’s public school closings in Chicago disproportionately affect Black students. Although the Black student population in Chicago is only 43%, of the 54 schools that were closed, 88% of the affected student population is Black. [2]

In 2012, there were 313 reported extrajudicial killings of Black people by police officers, security guards, and vigilantes. That’s one Black person every 28 hours. [3]

Deaths like Trayvon’s and so many more injustices will persist if we do not name the reality of racial inequity. This 17-year-old boy’s tragic death is about more than Gun Control and Stand Your Ground. It’s about racial prejudice in the United States.

We need a leader who will name that. A leader who will respect the legacy of the many Americans who struggled and died for civil rights. A leader who will seize upon this critical teaching moment for America.

We need you to be our President, not another cautious politician. America must begin a national conversation about race and we need your leadership to do it.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/19/marissa-alexander-gets-20_n_1530035.html

[2] http://politic365.com/2013/06/10/88-black-how-about-taking-a-recess-from-closing-public-schools/
[3]http://mxgm.org/operation-ghetto-storm-2012-annual-report-on-the-extrajudicial-killing-of-313-black-people/

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