Ebony Magazine Faces Hatred for Covers Honoring Trayvon Martin

Often, in American culture, racial minorities face a certain “twoness” when interacting with the world around them. W.E.B. Du Bois best summed this up when he simply asked “How does it feel to be a problem?.” The murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in early 2012 is the quintessential example of how one’s twoness can converge upon a single moment in time thus dictating one’s life outcomes. Now, after the trial has ended, the assailant has been found not guilty, and the family, friends, relatives, and surrounding community continue to mourn the loss of Martin, many have taken to the idea of fictive kinship, the notion that because we are all in this community together, we are each susceptible to the same type of animus responsible for Martin’s murder. Ebony magazine, a publication serving the black community, has focused its upcoming September issue on Trayvon Martin’s namesake and legacy. But, the magazine isn’t without its detractors.

Ebony magazine coversTrayvon Martin was wearing a hoodie when he was fatally shot and killed by neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman. Immediately after the story erupted onto the media stage, there came a palpable fixation on the implications and meanings of the hoodie. The “black male in a hoodie” stereotype turned into Martin trying to be a thug, looking suspicious and ominous, or seeming to be up to no good. Martin’s hoodie became the shadow casting darkness over his high GPA, history of volunteerism, and overall pleasant demeanor. Martin’s hoodie became his fatal crucible.

And now, Ebony has highlighted the image of Martin’s hoodie by spotlighting prominent black men, like Dwayne Wade, Boris Kodjoe, and Spike Lee, and their black sons wearing, you guessed it, hoodies. They also feature the family members most directly affected by Martin’s murder including his mother, Sybrina Fulton, his younger brother, Jahvaris Fulton, and his father, Tracy Martin. The images are pictured on the four signature covers for the September issue. Their message is quite simple: We are all Trayvon.

This powerful and poignant message underscores the thousands of black children, both boys and girls, who are mis-recognized as stereotypical misfits written into the unspoken narrative landscape of America. The message, though diminutive in complexity, is quite grand in its assertion. We are all a part of this social landscape. We are all written into this story as characters (or caricatures) by a much larger majority than ourselves. And, at any given time, based on something as simple as a hoodie on a rainy, dark night, we could very well find ourselves in the same scenario as Trayvon Martin.

And while this could be seen as an opportunistic effort towards selling magazines or gaining attention, the image itself has become a splintering source of vitriol and hatred for those seeking to de-racialize Martin’s death. The magazine, though striving to keep the conversation about race alive, has been attacked by conservatives and political actors. They have called for a boycott of the Miami Heat, the team which Wade currently plays for, and the magazine itself. By attempting to derail the much needed conversation, these very vocal few have only underscored the need for social action on everyone’s part.

Mis-recognition happens all the time. It isn’t only relegated to black men or even the black community. It is a societal ill which Ebony has rightfully embraced. Hopefully, in time, more publications will comprehend the dire need to address race and recognition issues. But for now, admitting that we are all Trayvon will keep the fire burning for a little while longer.