Wednesday, March 14, 2012
The More Things Change....
I will admit, being in my own bubble called "life," I was late in learning of the story of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African-American teen, shot to death by a Jewish neighborhood watch leader named George Zimmerman in Orlando, Florida. Like most, I was horrified at hearing about another senseless death, mortified that an investigation had uncovered that the police led questioning and changed eyewitness statements, and disgusted that the authorities involved chose to focus on what a stand-up citizen with a squeaky clean record Zimmerman has been (which turned out to be a lie) yet doing nothing to reveal the squeaky clean record the victim actually had. Lauded as a good kid that still allowed his parents to kiss him publicly, another young black man is dead for, well, it seems, just being black.
Of course there are the typical details of the suspect looking suspicious, of him "being out of place" walking in a gated community (which Trayvon's dad's girlfriend lived in), and after being approached by what I'm sure Trayvon saw as an equally suspicious-looking stranger (a.k.a the neighborhood watch captain) of putting up a struggle that ended his life. Zimmerman is claiming the shooting was in self-defense. However, details are slowly revealing what we all inherently know when we hear these stories. We've seen it all before--Rodney King, Sean Bell, the Jena 6. Dare I take a long trip down memory lane to 1955's civil rights icon Emmett Till? And in 2012, here we still are. Victims of suspicion; corpses of corruption.
At times like this, I am beyond answers. I realized just how far beyond, when my first instinctive thought after reading the details of the case was to say, "Dag, I wish Trayvon wasn't wearing that hoodie." Yep, that is where I am. Desperately trying to find ANYTHING that could possibly keep our youth from being targets. In my exasperation, I've unconciously put the blame on the victim, for I've lost all hope for the perpetrators. It's no longer about freedom of (fashion) expression; it's about survival. For no matter how many Black in America specials CNN produces, regardless of the countless number of dollars Will Smith brings to the box office portraying a heroic black male, no matter how many networks Oprah may own, regardless of how many "black friends you have," take most people out of their comfort zone--or worse, put a black face in theirs--and all they see is a suspect.
Sadly, even if this case finds Trayvon vindicated, it's safe to assume that victory will be short lived--until the next hooded black kid decides to walk to the store for a bag of Skittles. The only solution to it all lies in a complete overhaul of a thought process birthed by a racist nation and, sadly, kept alive by those who continue to find comfort in stereotypes, peace in segregation, and joy in superiority. Until everyone suffering from this "mental illness" is committed to a complete shift in their thinking, the protests and marches will continue right along with these tragedies. And thus, I'll continue to wish Trayvon hadn't worn his hoodie.