Watching the trial I knew there was a chance for not guilty.
I hoped for at least manslaughter, but the state struggled to even justify murder two charges, let alone manslaughter, as they could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin out of malice and not out of fear. Because if he was afraid for his life, you have to take his word for it since the injuries don’t fit and Zimmerman, wisely, didn’t take the stand in his own defense. Plus, Florida is a state with laws where you’re better off killing someone you get in a fight with because at least you can claim self-defense with “Stand Your Ground.” If you don’t kill them, well darn, you could get attempted murder charges since that other living person might tell a different story from you.
So reasonable doubt is likely why Zimmerman got away with it. But who do you really blame for this travesty? Obviously, there’s wannabe cop Zimmerman. But what about the cops who took Zimmerman’s word for it so hard they were basically witnesses for the defense? How about how slow the state of Florida moved to do anything, wasting time and not gathering evidence? What about the state for not presenting a better case with the material they were given, or the history of institutionalized racism that got this whole ball rolling in the first place? Because if there were no racism, there’d be no racial profiling, no cops who just “take your word for it” when you kill an unarmed black kid, no slow moving state who had to be pressured into justice. These are all things caused by racism and the devaluation of black life and without racism you have a fair trial. But there was no way for this to ever be fair.
And this is probably why, initially, I was not as mad as I thought I should be because, quite honestly, like a lot of black people, the outrage button inside of me was broken so long ago. It might have been broke when I was born, passed down from generations of relatives – free and slave – who all disabled their buttons in order to make it through the day. And besides, even if it’s not broke you can only press it so many times before it wears out. For some, it wears out so bad they fall into the camp of blaming victims and saying “Oh, well. What do you expect to happen when you’re black and in America.”
What’s supposed to happen? Babies are born. The sun rises. Black men and boys die violently.
Black men and boys get profiled. Black men and boys go to prison. Something to the tune of 1-out-of-3 black men will spend some time in prison. Probably lose his rights to vote. Probably won’t be able to get a job when he gets out. Probably went to prison for a minor drug offense while others (and by others I mean many, many white people) gleefully experiment with drugs in college, in their 20s, 30s, smoking it up with Woody Harrelson through their 40s and 50s and somehow never make it to the prison industrial complex’s great human recycling system. Because no one is ever looking for them and if they do get caught, their sentences are lighter, their stigma is lessened, they are kids being kids and youthful discretions and all the other breaks you get when you aren’t born guilty by skin tone.
It’s the sort of holocaust that you don’t see as a holocaust because your outrage button is broken. You’ve been convinced – brainwashed – into thinking this is normal. That this is how it has always been and will always be. So you should just accept it.
Stop fighting, the critics say. Just stare at this picture of the Obama family if you feel sad. That foot on your neck is a massage. And other indignities. Other ways of being dismissive. Last night someone celebrated the murderer of a young boy walking free and it didn’t bother them in the least because that young boy was black and male and since he smoked weed once (like they did) and said some goofy stuff in text messages (like they’ve done), he deserved it. Because all black people kind of deserve it, don’t they? Because they keep refusing to accept their role.
Black people were brought to America for two reasons – free labor and entertainment. And every day you spend doing something other than serving your masters or playing court jester to their ever-changing tastes – you are deserving of whatever happens to you. If you’d just play your role, you’d be safe – that’s what we’ve been told. But be free? Don’t play your role? Don’t follow Jim Crow? Don’t drastically modify your behavior to accommodate the whims of the masses even in the age of Obama?
You deserved it.
It’s what you get for not knowing your place. Which, obviously, is either serving our captors or existing out-of-sight of those who are most offended by our insistence on living as free people.
If you are angry, as so many are angry over George Zimmerman getting away with starting a fight and murdering a teenager over it, be angry. If you are sad for the parents of Trayon Martin who essentially had to experience the death of their son twice, be sad. If you are a mother or father of a black boy and now you’re more worried for him, go ahead and worry. But remember, the system that let George Zimmerman kill a boy and get away with it existed yesterday. It existed a week ago. It existed six months ago. It existed 60 years ago. It’s always existed. Parents have always worried for their sons. People have always been sad or angry over the injustice and indignities we suffer.
So what do you do?
Should we all throw up our hands and collectively return to servitude? (You win bigots who funded Zimmerman’s defense!) Well, now that’s just silly. Can’t put that spilled milk back in the bottle. We’re all “free” now. Do we tell our sons to not wear hooded sweatshirts, even if it’s raining? Do we lock them up in our houses until they turn 35?
If you want to best honor Trayvon Martin it is to keep living your life without fear or care for what someone thinks you shouldn’t be doing because of America’s original sin of racism. Walk to your store like you always walked to your store. Wear your hoodie like you always wore your hoodie. Go to school. Go to work. Call out injustice and fight against it. Fall in love with whomever you want to love and loves you back. Relish in that love and not care what anyone thinks. Go to college. Get married. Make babies. Teach them our history. Tell them our stories so they know. But not so they will be afraid, but so they will be fearless.
Fear is what racism wants, what it needs in order to suppress us. It needs submission. It needs fealty. It needs weakness. It needs a broken outrage button. It needs acceptance. It needs the status quo.
But you cannot accept that.
Live your life like Trayvon Martin should have been able to live his — to be a kid and out-grow the awkward phases and become an adult like his older brother. Live the life his parents wanted for him. Live the life you have wanted for yourself. Change nothing for racism and all its desires for fear and control. Fight it. Seek and destroy it. Speak out against it. Overcome it. But don’t let it stop you from enjoying every moment, minute, second we have on this earth with those we love. Don’t let it taint your love. Don’t let it taint your joy.
Instead, reach down inside of you, find your outrage button – the one all free people are born with – and fix it. You will not be a broken person out of survival in an unjust world. Do not accept what is given to you, the dead corpses of black boys, because there have always been corpses. Free people don’t accept something just because it was always there. Free people live and react as free people with all the power and indignation their creator bestowed upon them. Don’t let this injustice lead to acceptance or apathy. Don’t let an injust world change you.
Trayvon Martin was born free. You are free. Stay free.