“I Am Trayvon” really means that no one is Trayvon. That he no longer exists except as a symbol. That there is no Trayvon Martin, only an idea of him that doesn’t have anything to do with the real life teenager we can catch glimpses of through his Twitter feed. Trayvon Martin has been buried and brought back as a Frankenstein’s monster of racial anxieties, grievance and hate-based electioneering.
Martin doesn’t matter to any of the people crying out his name or wearing it on buttons and t-shirts. In life he was just another angry teenager. In death he’s a way for them to make money, gain power and unleash their anger.
Whoever he was in life, in death Trayvon Martin has become a commodity. A way to sell t-shirts, hoodies and political candidates. And most of all a way to sell racism, to spread hate and fear for the benefit of the profiteers of bigotry, men like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama who have made a career of organizing communities along racial grounds.
The individuals named Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman are irrelevant in that bigger picture, they have become characters in a story that the media is telling us, a story that the White House needs told in order to organize yet another part of its base, to get them angry, bring them out into the streets and rebuild the political organization that won the 2008 election.
Dragging Trayvon Martin’s body around like a lawn sign is ugly, but the seventeen year old football player is gone. In his place is a martyr whose cheerful face looks out at us from outdated and heavily photoshopped pictures which only emphasize the unreality of his transformation from teenager to racist symbol. From a human being to a commodity being traded and sold at rallies, his name bellowed through microphones and a hoodie distributed through Obama’s campaign site.
It’s no longer about what happened on February 26th, but about what will happen on November 6th. For those white and black people who thought that voting along racial lines in 2008 had ended racism, this case is meant to serve notice that we are still an eternally racist country and that we must search our souls, confess our sins and vote the Trayvon Martin 2012 ticket or his nearest lookalike.
Until then we can solace ourselves with a 95 dollar hoodie stating the clarity of our vagueness to one and all. We can stop by the “Justice: In Memory of Trayvon Martin” event at Bentley’s Lingerie Lounge in Greensboro, North Carolina. Free admission is being offered to anyone who shows up with a bag of skittles. Or stop by Obama’s next 5,000 dollar a plate fundraiser, because Hope and Change, like Alexander Wang hoodies, don’t come cheap.
What is cheap though is the exploitation of Trayvon Martin for political purposes. Martin’s mother can trademark a few choice phrases, but how do you trademark a narrative, how do you copyright the dismemberment of a teenager into merchandising opportunities, to bags of skittle and hoodies, to a reelection campaign for a failed politician running on racism while running away from his record.
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