With all the literature and updates on this issue, I’ve tried to refrain from putting my thoughts on the Trayvon Martin case out here. But as more details surface and more opinions are shared, I became more eager to express myself.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Treyvon Martin case, click here or here or just Google it. It’s a case of an innocent and defenseless African American teenage being gunned down by the captain of an unofficial neighborhood watch team.
Many times meaning gets lost in labels and key words such as justice, hate, racist, etc. Hopefully I can refrain from using such words as I describe how I feel.
The first time I heard the case, I thought ‘a teenager killed by a neighborhood watch captain - there has to be some justifiable reason for this.’ The second time I heard about the story, I was listening to the 911 tape recorded with an unknown neighbor speaking to the dispatcher. My body began tensing as I listened to the boy scream for help and water began forming in my eyes as I heard the gunshot then dead silence. I sat there half listening to the news spokeswomen detail the story in a trance like state remembering all the times when my mere presence was a reminder that the door was unlocked; a reasonable cause to pull behind me, run my license, and speed-off when it was clean; the reason behind the last empty seat on the train, or a prompt to the question “Are you in the right place?” Ironically those were the same thoughts that stopped the watering and reignited a small fire. As more details surrounding the murder began unraveling, I felt a growing connection with Trayvon in his last minutes. The hopelessness, anger, and hurt he must have felt knowing that the sole reason he was being targeted was because of his skin.
No. I cannot relate to someone chasing me down with a gun trying to take my life. I can, however, relate to the feeling of hopelessness. Knowing that no matter what I say or do I’m still a suspicious, dangerous threat to society. I can relate to the anger of living a relatively saint-like life but still being the object of fear, aggression, ridicule, belittlement, and ostracism. I felt the hurt of knowing no matter how obvious my cries for help were no help would arrive, and in the end it still was somehow my fault or somehow not the perpetrator’s fault. I felt these emotions because this was not the first instance of its kind to occur. Above all, I felt these emotions because this will not be the last instance of its kind.
I sat in my emotions for a change. I allowed myself to honestly feel. First there was anger. The prevalent idea was ‘how is Zimmerman still on the streets.’ The next was ‘someone should begin pursuing Trayvon’s murderer if the Sanford police was not up to the task.’ This was an idea that I began to hear being murmured. The following thought was ‘how many Treyvon’s were killed by whites as well as blacks and never got the media/public attention this has received – thus never were properly pursued.’
The next emotions were fused - a mixture of frustration and bleakness. I could no longer support a system that didn’t support me. I was tired of hearing innocent black men bearing the punishment for guilty ones, and exhausted with the harsher handling and viewing of the guilty blacks than of their counterparts. Most of all I became annoyed with the questions of ”What could I do about it?”
Finally, I resolved the solutions being discussed were not solutions: the firing Sanford’s Chief of Police, showing my support by throwing on hoodie and protesting, even the arresting of Zimmerman or worse. None of these steps would bring Treyvon back. None of these actions would change the prejudices of Zimmerman and billions of other world citizens. None of these steps would prevent something like this from happening again.
So the question remains, What can I do about it? I’ll try to continue working in my small space to create change, but until I can answer that question I won’t feel complete. I’ll continue to feel like a Black Boy lost.