Why does it hurt so much? Why the anger? Why the outrage? I continually ask myself these questions days after the miscarriage of justice witnessed this past Friday in a Sanford, FL courtroom. Is George Zimmerman the first person to ever be cleared of gunning down and killing an innocent Black male? Of course not. Is this the first time the so-called justice system has shown itself to Black people to really be the Just Us system? Or course it hasn’t. The spots on the Leopard of oppression that is the perpetual oppression of the Black man and woman in America has not changed one iota in our centuries long sojourn on this Ameriklan plantation.
Surely there is no laboring in the cotton fields of the South at the behest of a Master’s whip. Nor are there dogs and hoses being turn against us because we dared to vote or shared the same fountain. We even have a First Family that looks like us. Yet, injustice reigns supreme if you have the wrong skin color, speak the wrong language, practice the wrong religion, or have the wrong sexuality. Are our Black males any less safe than a century ago? As a male parent of five sons, I surely don’t believe we are, and the smiling faces of George Zimmerman, his family, lawyers, and supporters leaves little reassurance that there may be anytime soon.
The Zimmerman trial was about the anguish of one family’s quest to seek recompense for the slaughter of their son. Yet it was so much more than that. In Trayvon Martin, millions of Americans saw themselves, their sons, their family members, and their hopes and dreams were capable of being easily snuffed out by by a vigilante wanna-be who got away with his crime protected by the very people who on any other day would oppress him for his Hispanic heritage. What we saw was the dreadful replay of the same movie acted out with different people for certain, but the outcome the same nevertheless. The fact remains, that in America Black skin, and in particular Black male skin, is not worth justice, because the club of Just Us has ensured that equality is only a word used to make one seem more than they are not.
The myth of inequality can be seen everyday in American society and it seems that the only demographic in America believing that such exists are the very perpetuators and facilitators of the inequality that would deny people the same protections under the law and would allow a child killer to walk free. In defense of George Zimmerman the tactic was clear. Nevermind that had the killer never pursued Trayvon Martin that he would still be alive. No the fact that Trayvon Martin like many teens of his generation, dressed a certain way, engaged in certain activities, and of course was Black, meant that he deserved to die. There was no way around it. In the minds of Zimmerman supporters, poor armed George Zimmerman had the right to follow this teenager at night, it was his right to ignore his Neighborhood Watch handbook as well as the 911 dispatcher, and regardless of what happened it was his right to kill and unarmed teen.
But what about Trayvon Martin’s rights? Did he not have the right to walk home without being followed? Did he not have the right to defend himself from the unjust harassment of a stranger approaching and confronting him because that stranger thought his Black skin made him look suspicious? Of course not, and unfortunately he will never be able to tell his side of the story even though Zimmerman supporters had him on trial the entire time.
In my mind, this case was reminiscent of most rape cases. The defendant and their supporters will always come up with ways to prove how the victim somehow asked for it. It was the way she dressed, the way she looked, her demeanor, and the way she approached the defendant they will argue. They’ll even go into her past and question her morality. All in the name of character assassination with the goal of diversion from the crime and the one accused in preference to focusing on the victim and explaining away the many ways they got what they deserved. This is the most disturbing aspect that I as a Black man with five male children will always remember most about the Zimmerman trial. Not the specifics nor the verdict, but the zealous fervor of his supporters who for weeks leading up to, during, and even now after the trial continue to give reasons why Trayvon Martin deserved to die. He wasn’t a child he was 17, he smoked weed, he was a thug, he shouldn’t have fought Zimmerman, etc. they say. I guess it’s those of us who see this verdict as a further reminder of the gross injustice prevalent in America that have it all wrong, because afterall a Black male 17 year old since he’s old enough to go into the military with parental consent surprise, surprise, or because he’s experimented with drugs and no one’s ever done that before Trayvon, or because he dressed a certain way or hung with certain crowds, he, we, should all know that he had zero rights concerning his person, protection, and ultimately life when confronted with a stranger with a gun.
What we are supposed to teach our children when it comes to being Black in America in light of this verdict is that only God can help you if confronted with a stranger, cop, or any other member of the supremacist establishment. It doesn’t matter if you are just walking home from the store at night, or standing outside with friends after watching a movie as I recently was, when questioned, answer immediately, when threatened, stay still, and whatever you do regardless of the situation, take whatever comes your way, because otherwise you can be killed and the killer will walk free. This is a timeless lesson and has been taught in many Black households since our arrival to this country in chains. Should we really be surprised that the lesson has to reinforced in 2013? I mean we’re still Black aren’t we?