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.

Will Jones, 24, Wal-Mart employee and graphic designer, Louisville, Ky.

Patrik Jonsson/The Christian Science Monitor
‘My rule is to never throw the first punch and always try to talk my way out of situations.’ – Will Jones

As he strides through Louisville's Smoketown neighborhood, Will Jones fits the profile that seems to arouse suspicion among some Americans: skinny, young, black, male, earphones, hoodie.

It's a perception that Mr. Jones is aware of, though he considers himself "pretty much the nicest guy you'll ever meet."

The hoodie, he says, is his most comfortable article of clothing, and it advertises Jones's interest in anime cartoons – but he also believes it played a role in the three occasions when "white cops" stopped him for no apparent reason, asking what he was up to.

Perhaps surprisingly, Jones has not heard of the Trayvon Martin case. Told the basic outlines, he says George Zimmerman never should have gotten out of his SUV. But he also wonders what Trayvon's attitude was during the confrontation.

"I think a lot of it has to do with how people perceive themselves," says Jones. "My rule," he adds, "is to never throw the first punch and always try to talk my way out of situations."

Growing up, Jones lived in places ranging from Jackson, Miss., to Columbus, Ohio. During his family's stints in Jackson and Atlanta, he says, his mother worried a lot about social attitudes toward young black men and whether his attire could get him into trouble. In grade school in Jackson, a white classmate once warned him off an interest he had in a white girl.

On the other hand, when Jones moved to Ohio and became the only black kid in his class, he dreaded prejudice that never materialized.

These days, he feels "kind of in the middle": shunned by some blacks as a "sellout" for his proper diction, and seen by some whites as "just weird" for the way he dresses. "You get it from all sides," he says. "Sometimes it's pretty lonely not to have either of those worlds to completely inhabit."

– Patrik Jonsson, staff writer 

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