In Uganda, 30,000 child soldiers have been abducted by Joseph Kony’s rebel army over the past 20 years. In the United States, 6,604 hate crimes occurred in 2009 alone, according to the FBI.
Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 video that went viral on all social media platforms this month brought to light how thousands of children are being harmed and treated inhumanely in central Africa. Such efforts to increase awareness are undoubtedly effective: Millions of individuals are fighting this injustice, whether through protests and rallies, signing a pledge or hosting other awareness events.
But just two weeks before Kony was a trending topic on Facebook and Twitter, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed while walking home from a convenience store in Sanford, Fla, where he bought skittles.
This time, inhumanity isn’t more than 7,000 miles away or even in another state. This time, cruelty hit home, just four hours from campus. However, it went relatively unnoticed for weeks. The scope of the tragedy was not nearly as immense or powerful as the Kony movement has been in recent weeks.
Does every important cause require a viral video to catch people’s attention and call them to action?
Crimes against humanity are relevant, no matter where they are and who they affect. Race, gender, socioeconomic status or location are not the issue. These acts are evils against living, breathing humans who are just like us.
Trayvon, according to The Miami Herald, was a normal teen who enjoyed playing video games, was looking forward to prom, and hoped to proudly wear orange and green in college, either at the University of Miami or Florida A&M University.
Unfortunately, the Trayvon cause lacks the pathos that the Kony video sparked and, thus, awareness has not translated into action. Hate crimes shouldn’t need to be accompanied by an audio or visual component, because the concept of social injustice is frightening and horrific in itself.
And when the crime is happening on our home turf, there are a multitude of ways to get involved.
The Miami Heat made a powerful statement when they spoke out in response to the Trayvon Martin shooting. To demonstrate their message of “We want justice,” the team took a photo of all the players wearing hoodies with their heads bowed down. Trayvon wore a hoodie on the night of his death.
President Barack Obama was similarly touched by Trayvon’s story. In a comment to a reporter last week, Obama said that this tragedy makes him think about his own children, and every parent in America should be able to relate to that. He said he can’t imagine what Trayvon’s parents are going through and hopes that the “state, federal and local governments get to the bottom of this.”
Although the Trayvon Martin case may only directly affect a handful of people while the Kony situation has affected millions, both cases concern lives taken away early and brutally, but most of all unnecessarily. If you’re passionate about ending the long-running crisis in Africa, start with hate crimes at home in the United States. Now that you’ve watched the Kony video and shared it with all your friends, read about Trayvon, get the facts and pass it on.
Change begins with information. Information leads to involvement. Involvement leads to prevention. You can be the next person to save a child, a teenager, a sister, a brother, a mother, a father, a grandparent or even yourself.
Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.