Steve Nash Is Not Trayvon Martin: The Complexity of White Solidarity

Rocky SamuelsCorrespondent IIMarch 24, 2012

Every athlete who is supporting a fight for justice on behalf of Trayvon Martin should be commended, but something may get lost in the translation when whites like Steve Nash don hoodies in tribute to the fallen teen.

No doubt Nash has joined this visual trend to protest racism and stereotyping, two obviously strong components in the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. Nash is a class act and this is further evidence of his vigorous commitment to social justice.

It is not clear, however, that this is how the image will be universally interpreted.

Geraldo Rivera irresponsibly claimed, for example, that Martin's wearing of the "hoodie was just as responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman [the shooter] was." 

It is this kind of bizarre sentiment that could misconstrue the root of the problem as something other than race. That is certainly not what Nash, or any other white person who nobly stands in solidarity against injustice, is doing by wearing a hoodie.  

Still, if there is a lesson in the horrific events surrounding the death of Martin it is surely not that we are all in the same boat. 

We are not all Trayvon Martin.

In this country, a white person wearing a hoodie does not receive the same level of scrutiny and suspicion that befalls an African-American.

It is important to stress this point to people who promote a post-racial view of society—the idea that race no longer hinders one’s progress in America or that we now live in a color-blind society, supposedly made evident by the election of Barack Obama. This message reverberates on the comment boards of nearly every article that even considers there might be a lingering impact of systemic racism in the world of sports.

This is not to say, of course, that if you argue that historic racism has no influence on the current racial discrepancy at the quarterback position in the NFL, for instance, you are necessarily less interested in racial justice in general or in the Trayvon Martin case in particular.

The prevalence of post-racial rhetoric among sports fans does suggest, though, that it is important to keep the racial specificity of the Trayvon Martin case in full view.

By posting a photo of himself in a hoodie, Nash has joined the efforts of other athletes showing similar signs of support, like the entire Miami Heat Team, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and others.

Nash and everyone else who calls attention to this tragedy deserve our respect and admiration; hopefully none of those contributions will be tangled in a web of post-racial spin.