I’m going to say some things on this post that are going to cost me some followers, some readers, maybe even some friends. I absolutely do not care. I’m going to say some things about White people. I’m going to say some things about Black people. I’m going to make liberal use of the f-bomb, and by that, I mean “fuck”. I am not writing from an intellectual point of view. This is full on emotion in M.O.M. Mode. You have been warned.
Less than 24 hours ago, a jury of 6 White women acquitted George Zimmerman of murder/manslaughter/being a slovenly, irresponsible mulatto racist with a chip on his shoulder and a gun in his hand. When the trial began in June, I posted a status on Facebook saying that we need to prepare ourselves for the very real possibility that Zimmerman was going to get off scot-free. No one responded, because no one wanted to believe that a man could get out of his car, stalk a kid who had run out to buy some candy, shoot him after struggling with said kid, and live life as a free man. No one wanted to believe that – or even acknowledge it – because we live in a “post racial America.”
Besides! All these women on this jury are mothers themselves. Surely they would be able to see through the defense attorneys draconian tactics! We all knew that they were going to assassinate Trayvon Martin while he lay dead in his grave, because Sean Hannity, Neal Bootz and Herldo Rivera had already told us so. Trayvon caused his own death because he was outside on a drizzling day with his hoody on taking a leisurely stroll back to the home he was visiting. Yes, he was courting death that night. For taking pictures of himself with gold fronts and having trace amounts of marijuana in his body meant he deserved to die… begged for it even. Somehow, Black American mothers convinced themselves that these six White women would be able to eschew this notion from their minds and deliver justice for Trayvon Martin by sending his attacker and his eventually murderer to jail – and by extension, send a message to America and the world that said Black life is not to be treated so irreverently.
The day that happens is the day that my husband willingly lets me spend chop money on lotto tickets.
There are certain realities White mothers – or mothers of any other race that isn’t “Black” (African, African American, Caribbean) – will ever have to contend with. They will never have to worry if they put their son in this pair of shoes will make him a target. They will never have to worry if his squinting face at midday will make that boy look “aggressive” and therefore “dangerous”. Oh it’s cute now, but what about when a man of George Zimmerman’s mental predisposition who harbors the same prejudices encounters this face at night on a hulking, 19 year old boy walking home? How are these women going to send a message to anyone about the sanctity of young, Black male life when they have never known what it’s like to raise and fret over one?
To most of “Majority” America, my future son is a problem, not something to be protected. My son is going to be a big teenager, and that face isn’t going to change. However even now, I’m coaching him on how to look less frightening to those who already loathe his future self.
“Stone. Don’t yell at people like that.”
“Stone. Don’t frown up your face like that.”
Eventually this will give way to:
“No, Stone. You cannot wear that color shirt. People might think you’re in a gang.”
“I don’t care if she strips down butt naked and puts it in your face. Unless you have put a ring on it, you scream NO! and run out of there as fast as you can!”
No one told Eric Frimpong these things when he came to America on a soccer scholarship, and it earned him six years in prison for “rape and attempted murder”. These are things he should have known. Never mind what the evidence (or lack thereof, in his case) said, the moment his frightened, Black scowling face showed up in court to face his charges, he was already guilty.
When I heard the verdict last night, I felt like the wind was knocked out of me. I felt gutted; like someone had scraped out my insides, laid them before me, and asked me to process this new reality. All these little bits and pieces that were once in perfect, functioning harmony that are now laid bare in the table in grotesque disarray. Trayvon is the Emmett Till of my generation, and I’m still working out how to deal with it. I’m pained, sad, weary. It was such a long fight. Black people had to fight and fuss and holler to get what others in this country get by right.
We had to fight to get an arrest.
We had to fight to get a trial.
And now we have to fight to keep our composure, because the establishment expects us to act out.
Why don’t we talk about that for a second? How external perceptions and regulations have gotten us where many of the less fortunate in Black America are today.
A friend of mine called me the day Rachel Jeantel testified in court, spitting mad.
“Why can’t Black people just learn how to talk!” she frothed. “Did you see this girl on TV? She can’t put two words together! She’s mumbling and incoherent! I can’t even mimic how she’s talking to you because she sounds so ridiculous! She’s going to cost the prosecution everything!”
Oh shut up, you entitled Talented Tenth Bourgeois aristocrat. With your hand wringing, and your platitudes and admonitions. Just. Shut. Up.
Surely you know about Black people’s history in the state of Florida? How they sent the most “troublesome” slaves there to perform the most grueling tasks in swamps and the most extreme environmental conditions. How they used to make Black children run around the plantation naked and eat from troughs like pigs, not plates like people, thereby instilling from a young age that you were inherently less than human. How they eventually built low income houses to shelter these people because this was good enough. How they barely provide these people an education funded by public schools that hardly get enough operational monies derived from taxes from low wage jobs. How historically, thriving Black communities were razed to the ground by crazed racists so many times that the entrepreneurs either gave up or moved away. You can only fight so long before you get tired. Rachel Jeantel is merely a recipient of the fruits of her forbearers’ fatigue. She did the bloody best she could.
“Well, at least she should have known not to say the word ‘cracker’ in court!”
Yes, well, Paula Deen shoulda known better too. The only difference is, Paula has millions in the bank and will rise again. Ms. Jeantel will forever be vilified by her own race because she could not measure up to W.E.B. Dubois notion of what an acceptable Negro should look and sound like.
Speaking of acceptable Negroes, let’s not exclude our president from the conversation. Oh, you had to know this was coming. For the record, Barack Obama is my president too. He makes that point abundantly clear when he’s out campaigning for the rights of gay White men to marry, or protecting the lives of White children in Newton, or disparaging the forces of evil who would dare to attack Americans as they ran a marathon. These things make him popular. These things show that he has a heart. Is it because he is already popular amongst Blacks that he cannot show us his heart? When congress failed to pass stricter gun laws as a result of Newton, he went off – saying it was a tragedy and an insult. But when this travesty of justice has occurred against members of his own race (or half of it, because he IS bi-racial after all), he remains almost mum. He cannot express outrage. He can’t say “I know you’re hurting”. He can’t even say that it hurts him too, if in fact is does. It would not be politically expedient. When do we get a Comforter in Chief? Or do we not deserve one? After all, we are used to enduring pain.
Ah. But it is much easier for him to hop on a plane and tell other Africans how to manage their human rights crises when he has hardly addressed the genocide against Black youth here in his own country. Take the plank out of your own eye before you concern yourself with my speck! We’ve seen this before, with John F. Kennedy. At the same time he was busy decrying Russia’s human rights record, images of Black students being burned and beaten alive were all over the international press.
“How can you judge us when you allow your military, police force and citizenry to treat your own civilians this way?”
There is nothing good that can come out of this verdict. George Zimmerman will be given his gun back, and he very well may kill again. His own brother Robert said that his brother has even more cause to carry now that this trial is over. All it’s going to take is for someone to look at him funny… mark my words.
Oh? This is hyperbole? I’m blowing things out of proportion? Let us not forget Jordan Davis who was shot to death at a gas station by a white man who was annoyed because he and the other boys in his car refused to turn down their music.
People want to keep race out of these incidences, say that this is about right and wrong, but that’s impossible. This is all about race, and it is all about gender.
Imagine with me for a moment that Trayvon was 17 year old Tracee, who had also gone out to buy Skittles.
She’s walking home at dusk and a car follows her. She looks like someone who vandalized some property last week. The guy in the car trails her and calls 911, just as George Zimmerman did. He gets out to pursue her when she suddenly bolts, afraid for her life. Zimmerman eventually catches up with her, throwing her to the ground. She gets the better of him and knocks his head into the pavement. Then she sees he has a gun. Whether she lunges for it or not is irrelevant, because Zimmerman now has it firmly in his hand, is on top of Tracee and he shoots her in the chest. When the police come, they see her lifeless 175 lbs body on the ground. Blond hair fringes her face. Laying on the ground next to her they see a cell, some tea, and some Skittles.
“What happened here?” the officer asks.
“She jumped me out of nowhere and attacked me! I was just looking to see what street I was on.”
“We have no reason to believe you’re not telling the truth Mr. Zimmerman. Go on home.”
44 hours pass and no one has told Tracee’s parents where she is, even though they’ve made a missing person’s alert. None of this even seems plausible, does it? In fact, it’s not even possible. Even more unlikely would be the wider public’s reaction that Tracee should not have made bodily contact with George Zimmerman first, even if it was in an attempt to get away. Rather, we’d be declaring her a hero and would have alerts and laws named in her honor. Tracee smoked marijuana on occasion and got into a few scuffles at school, but what did it matter? She was a young woman navigating a difficult world.
You cannot tell me that if Tracee had died in that manner and had a trial with this same outcome that Zimmerman’s supporters would be so boisterous in their gloating in justice being served. Not without the most severe backlash from Fox News.
I am so, so very sorry for you Sabrina Fulton. You will never see this post. It is one but of hundreds of blogs that are being written today and will be written for days to come. Your loss is our loss. Your fears have been all our fears. Yours is the reality we have all prayed to avoid.
What is it like to be a Black mother? Someone asked me on twitter today why “this case” got so much attention. I gave a long rambling answer, but the real answer lies in a phone call I received last night from an old friend. She’s childless, and looking forward to being married in a few months. She was sobbing.
“Why, Malaka? Why? What did we do to deserve this? Why do they keep killing our sons like this? What did we do, what did we do, what did we do?!?!?”
When her voice broke into keening wail, I wept with her. It was the sound of pain for lost sons not yet conceived.
“I don’t know, girl. I don’t know.”