Saturday, July 20, 2013

JUST US? The Race for Justice

"Man I gotta protect myself"... "Protect yourself from what?".... "You don't understand"

I really didn't understand why my ex-boyfriend felt the need to purchase a gun. He knew I was afraid of them. I begged him to change his mind, but he wouldn't. Later on, he proudly showed me his permit license and his new "toy". I had never seen one up close. He cradled it in his hands. I glanced at it. Then, I told him that I never wanted to see it again. I couldn't soothe his paranoia. I couldn't digest his pain. I'm Black as well, but I'm a woman, and I just couldn't relate...

You'll never understand what it's like to be a Black male, unless you're a Black male. 

I know that now, especially after closely following the trial for Trayvon Martin's murder; a 17 year old Black male who was walking home from the store, carrying a pack of Skittles (my favorite candy) and a can of Arizona Iced Tea. His killer, George Zimmerman, profiled him and categorized him as a "punk" and an "asshole" while speaking to the 911 dispatcher. "Fucking punks"... "These assholes always get away"... Trayvon was wearing a hoodie. It was raining. And, according to Zimmerman, he was walking with no direction and looking into homes. Zimmerman admitted that he was following Trayvon while in his car. "We don't need you to do that", he was advised. However, Zimmerman chose to get out of his vehicle anyway. 

In one of his recaps, he claimed that Trayvon was circling his car and egging him on. However, Trayvon was on the phone with his friend, Rachel Jeantel, before the confrontation ensued. She described their conversation on the stand during the trial, with a heavy attitude and snappy remarks directed towards the defense. That, along with her inability to communicate properly, apparently did not make her a credible witness, even though she was the only one who could actually speak for Trayvon, who she said described Zimmerman as a "Creepy ass Cracka." 

Rachel told Trayvon that Zimmerman could possibly be a rapist. Trayvon laughed it off, but Rachel could sense that he was afraid. He told her that he was close to home, and Rachel thought that he would make it there safely. Then, she heard a "bump" and "wet grass sounds". The call dropped. Trayvon attacked Zimmerman. Or Zimmerman attacked Trayvon. We'll never know who was the actual aggressor, but we do know that if Zimmerman would have waited in his car for the police to show up, Trayvon would more than likely still be alive. The speculation began to outweigh the truth, and Rachel soon became a victim herself. She was ridiculed and criticized for not being articulate. Her speech was slurred. She rolled her eyes. She got feisty with authoritative figures. She was obviously frustrated, but she still had the courage to represent in front a national audience for her friend, Trayvon; the only person who never picked on her. People called her ignorant. I even got into a heated discussion with someone trying to argue ignorance versus incompetence. 

This trial made me emotional. Why was it so hard to convict someone who confessed to shooting an unarmed teenager? Oh yeah, Zimmerman said he shot Trayvon in self-defense, so justice died right along with that justification. Then it occurred to me that Zimmerman wasn't even initially arrested after the shooting, and Trayvon was a John Doe for 3 days before the morgue released his body to his parents. Some people dispute the claim that this was a race case because Zimmerman is Hispanic. Some people don't know the difference between race and ethnicity. Just as some people don't know what it's like to be profiled. 

Race: How you look | Ethnicity: Cultural background/where you're from

Not only was Zimmerman unapologetic; he had the nerve to state that killing Trayvon was God's plan, and initiated the support from other like-minded individuals who believed that Trayvon was nothing but a thug. Zimmerman is a hero in their eyes, so they freely gave donations for his legal fees and saluted him for taking the law into his own hands. As the community watch captain, he saved his neighbors from having to deal with another crime... a crime that he assumed would take place because Trayvon looked "suspicious". 

"A system cannot fail those it was never built to protect..."

Last weekend, I marched for (in)justice; just as we had to march to have Zimmerman arrested and subsequently march again for a/an (un)fair trial. The verdict? Not Guilty. Zimmerman was found not guilty of second degree murder. He was also found not guilty of manslaughter. But that doesn't mean he is innocent. Free to walk, nonetheless. Free to resume whatever is left of his normal life. Free to celebrate a victory. Free to have his gun back. Free to stand his ground and shoot another suspicious, Black teenager. Free to laugh at our pain... 

A jury of "his" peers sympathized with him. Unlike me, in reference to my ex-boyfriend, they could relate to his fear. They believed that Zimmerman was the one screaming on the 911 tapes, even though he was strapped with a gun that he was trained and ready to use. So well-trained that with one good aim and steady focus, he was able to shoot Trayvon directly in the heart, after allegedly having his head bashed into the concrete numerous times. *side eye* 

Juror B-37 even agreed to an interview to defend the not guilty verdict. She admitted that she (white) and 5 other women, (4 white, 1 Hispanic) were confused about the stand your ground law. They questioned the manslaughter charge, but still could not fully apply it to the situation that "George said" took place. Juror B-37 was even preparing to write a book about an experience that she "never wanted to be involved in." However, Juror B-37's husband is a lawyer, who has some type of connection to Zimmerman's defense attorneys. 

Just as we have the right to remain silent, we also have the right to question the system about our right to walk home, unbothered; the right to defend ourselves against someone who thinks we are capable of doing something wrong at first glance. 

At this point, I will no longer attempt to portray Zimmerman as a liar. I will no longer offer my rebuttal for speculation and theories. I will no longer pretend like we have overcome the discomfort of racism. We have not. It's evident every day, everywhere, but I/we ignore it because we want to truly believe that our ancestors' sacrifices for change were not in vain. We want to believe that we are a nation "with liberty and justice for all." We are not. We want to believe that Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream is now in effect. It is not. Though it's currently in progress, we have a long way to go. Equality is to justice as harmony is to peace. In the midst of so much racial tension, that is the one thing that remains clear. 

*Music is Life... Poetry is Love*