Trayvon Martin case: How 5 young black men see race and justice in US

The Monitor approached, at random, five young black men in Boston, Los Angeles, Coral Gables, Fla., and Louisville, Ky., and asked them to talk about the Trayvon Martin case, race relations, hoodies, and, of course, their own life experiences. Here's what they had to say.

Jonathan Page, 30, junior at Berklee College of Music, Boston

Joanne Ciccarello/Staff
‘We can’t complain about being targeted if we’re not doing anything to counteract those stigmas.’ – Jonathan Page

Jonathan Page grew up in a particularly bad section of Los Angeles. He says he was 17 when he became aware of racial stereotyping. As he drove home from McDonald's, he noticed an unmarked police car following him.

"When I was across the street from my house, they pulled me over and asked me why I didn't pull over earlier," Mr. Page recalls. "At that point, the officer pulled a gun in my window, and his partner pulled a gun, too, and they were yelling obscenities at me. They took my license and registration, and 15 minutes later came back and let me go. No explanation.... I felt very threatened by the very people supposed to be protecting me, and I felt very helpless."

It wasn't the last time police stopped him. When he was 21, he was pulled over and held in his car in an alley for 45 minutes because his vehicle fit the description of one used by a kidnapping suspect. "I realized then," Page says, "that things on the surface may have changed or might seem different, but that a lot of underlying racial tension remained."

Page also says that if he and other African-Americans want change, they have to take some responsibility for it. "We can't complain about being targeted if we're not doing anything to counteract those stigmas," he says.

Page changed how he dressed as he matured, so as not to be associated with certain stereotypes. And he credits the women in his life with giving him good advice.

"I was raised in a family with a mother and a grandmother who told me you have to be the best person you can be," Page says. "I told my brother, if you are the best version of yourself ... then the way you speak, the way you carry yourself, it matters. You don't have to be fake. But keep yourself in high regard and have a high standard for yourself."

– Meredith Bennett-Smith, contributor 

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