GZ may finally be going to jail. Some are rejoicing because GZ is “reaping what he sowed” or “God, true to his word, is showing him that “whatever is done in the darkness will come to light.” The elation of the less religiously inclined is related to beliefs such as GZ is facing the chickens that have come home to roost and they are high-fiving to the tune of “I knew he’d get his” or “I hope he rots in jail.”
Now, I however, am not quoting the bible. I am not being philosophical. I am not reveling in the thought of GZ suffering from a variety of debilitating diseases or a prison guard finding him dead in his cell at 11:58 p.m. the night before his 97th birthday. I am just plain old pissed off. There is no other way to say it. Who am I pissed off at? Everybody except me and one or two other people I know and Yahoo Contributors Kristin Watts and Moderate Somber, who wrote articles titled, Why A Conviction of Second Degree Murder Seems Unlikely.
Do the people who are not experiencing the raft of my pissed off agree with me? Absolutely. But I am not suggesting that the phase, “water seeks it own level,” does not apply to me. After all, I am flawed.
Why am I pissed? I am pissed because GZ is free to live the rest of his life as he sees fit even though he is (BASOD) beyond-a-shadow-of-doubt guilty of killing Trayvon. He is BASOD guilty because he acted as if the following exchange between him and the police dispatcher never occurred.
“Are you following him?”
“Ok. We don’t need you to do that.”
This, in hindsight was a life or death conversation. It is an example of one of those moments in life when the decision to do or not to do will alter your life and that of others, including some not yet born, in ways that it is impossible to imagine.
When we get pass all the speculation, GZ made a conscious decision to continue to follow Trayvon. That is what ended 17-year old Trayvon Martin’s life as quickly as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) can end the life of a 7-month old. Maybe GZ hates black teenage males, was frustrated by “these assholes who always get away,” was overzealous, or was a “Wanna-be-cop.” Maybe he killed Trayvon because he is a racist or because Trayvon “sucker punched him.” Maybe he intended to “just” shoot Trayvon, not kill him. I do not know and I do not care because it is irrelevant – all of it. The jury should have been able to bring back a guilty verdict and GZ should have received a prison sentence that is befitting for the person who shot and killed a 17-year old youth simply because his response to the dispatcher shows that he clearly understood what “We don’t need you to do that” meant. Then people would not be waiting with their fingers crossed and praying that GZ is found guilty of whatever his girlfriend accused him of because he would have been in prison “getting his” and “reaping what he sowed.”
There is a chance that someone reading this is in the midst of a conniption because I said GZ killed a 17-year old male and not a 17-year old African-American male. Sorry! That was not an oversight. Nor does it cut the significance of yet another example of law enforcement’s failure to respond in a way that communicates color-blind justice. It also does not mean I am oblivious of the rainbow of people who marched and demonstrated in hundreds of city across the United States to express their outrage over GZ’s acquittal. It will, I hope, help me to make the following point: The insistence that racism is the primary reason GZ shot and killed Trayvon Martin is also the reason Trayvon Martin’s parents did not receive a drop of justice.
“Insistence, as defined by Merriam-Webster.com is the act of demanding something or saying something in a way that does not allow disagreement.” Insistence is not just about wanting to have your way; it’s a strategy that’s employed when someone believes the only way to be heard and taken seriously is to make “a solemn and often public declaration of the existence of something.” Now, most of us, I think, know at a personal level the feelings of hurt and helplessness that can accumulate when it seems we’re not being heard, not being understood, not being valued. This accumulation causes us to react while at the same time hoping that maybe, just maybe this time things will turn out differently. If this resonates with you at all, then you can imagine what this is like for a designated group whether it is their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or wages that bring them together.
Insistence leads to doubt. I am not talking about everyday, ordinary, run-of-the mill doubt. I am talking about the kind that is comparable to an injury that is no longer visibly crippling but can hamper your day-to–day functioning as much as when it first happened. It is the kind of doubt African-Americans should not be having 148 years after the 13th amendment of the Constitution officially ended slavery and 49 years after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law. It is the kind that is making people across race and class lines ask will African-Americans ever be judged by “the content of their character and not the color of their skin?” It is why so many of us wonder whether the life of African-American men will ever be equal in value to that of white men.
This kind of doubt has power. It energizes both the doubters and the doubted. It provides the doubters with the fuel they need to tell their story as often and as loud as they can. It gives the doubted the fuel they need to express dismay at what appears to be the doubters unwillingness to acknowledge that things are better than they once were.
This is, in my opinion, the dynamic that played out from the time the shooting of Trayvon Martin was made public to the moment of GZ’s acquittal. Law enforcement knew GZ continued to stand his ground even after one of their own instructed him not to. That should have been enough for them to immediately take him into custody. The failure to do so aggravated that injury that was inflicted by slavery and has been maintained with institutional racism. The failure to make an immediate arrest looked and felt like what African-Americans have experienced so many times before. And by the time of GZ’s arrest six weeks later, it was triple digit doubt that propelled so many African-Americans to insist that Trayvon Martin was murdered by GZ, the racist. It is why so many of us needed the court to sentence GZ to nothing less than second-degree murder so he could spend all or most of the rest of his life in prison. It is why a lesser sentence was unthinkable. It is what fueled the fear that a lesser sentence such as manslaughter would have been the criminal justice system’s excuse for shuffling the “Get out of Jail” deck of cards it has so often pulled from when African-American males are murdered by “white” men. This is what happens when an injury is reactivated. It makes you focus on the original pain and wonder if “things are better than they use to be,” is nothing more than wishful thinking.
If I was, as someone with whom I had one of my many Trayvon Martin conversations said, “thinking like an African-American – a real one,” I’d be mad at the judge, and prosecutor “every member of the All-white (except one who was coerced into agreeing) jury.” And, there’s a whole slew of other white people who are either directly or indirectly responsible for “deliberately selecting a racist jury, throwing the case, cutting a deal, intimidating the Martin’s attorney, and plotting to make sure GZ (who is really a white man conveniently turned Hispanic) got off scot-free,” I’d be mad at were I not a fake African-American.
I am not mad. I am pissed. But not because I know that all of the things my “real” African-American acquaintance rattled off have been and continue to be true when it comes to justice for African-Americans, specifically males. I am pissed because political careers, personal gain, group pressure, appeasement, special interest, 15-minutes of fame-ers and sensationalism are just of few of the agendas that raised their distorted heads and influenced both the direction and the outcome of the trial and the way the pain of their son’s murder will be experienced by Trayvon’s parents as surely as Chicago winds determine whether you walk or are blown down Michigan Avenue.
But, more importantly, I am pissed off at people who, for all of their heartfelt efforts and good intentions, acted as if Trayvon Martin would be less dead if he was killed by someone who acted irresponsibly than he would be if he was murdered by a racist.
In most situations, it is important to be able to distinguish the forest from the trees. And then there are those that require us to pay as much attention to the trees as we do the forest. Justice for Trayvon Martin required the later.
During the Jim Crow era, individuals and institutions wore the the label of racism proudly as people today wear $250 Air Jordan gym, I mean, athletic shoe. However, most racist never owned their acts of racism. And, victims of racism always carried the burden of proving that the racist act occurred. When it was impossible for a racist to deny, for instance, torturing, murdering and throwing the body of a 14-year old male in the river, or torturing innocent black men until they confessed to hideous crimes even accusers knew they didn’t commit, the racists insisted that the victim caused him or her to behave as he or she did.
If it was painfully difficult to get a conviction based on racism when it was overt and an obvious source of pride for some individuals and most institutions, it stands to reason that it would be even more difficult today when far too many people believe no visible signs means no racism. This in no way is meant to minimize the significance of the passage of the 1964 civil rights act and all the valiant and successful efforts made by so many people to prove that the Act is more than just some words on pieces of paper bearing the presidential seal. The Act caused some people and institutions to change their hearts and minds, some to change their minds and some to cover their asses. Either way, change – positive change, from which we have all benefited, has occurred. But that change does not mean that the “justice for all,” work is complete.
I have gone all around the Mulberry Bush to make a point: Trying to prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, that GZ is a racist was a waste of time. It is like trying, for instance, to prove a “Standing My Ground” fanatic isn’t afraid for her life when she snatches a GLOCK 23, (recommended for female Christians), out of her designer holster and shots the #it out of “that menacing” looking African-American teenager, who by the way, is running in her direction because the bus he needs to catch to make it to his after-school job on time, stops a few feet behind her. GZ may be the biggest racist is the world but proving it, even 44 years after the first man to walk on the moon said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant step for mankind,” was impossible. And, because of that GZ walked out of court and into the future he took from Trayvon who, by the way, had lived less than a quarter of his potential lifespan.
GZ may go to jail for domestic violence, as anyone who is found guilty, should. But, let us not fool our self or each other. It will not be for Trayvon. It will not change the fact that GZ got away with sentencing Mr. and Mrs. Martin to a life time of wondering why. And, he got away with disturbing the minds and hearts of thousands of people, whose multi-colored voices and sad tears said, “We have been here too many times before” and “There are no new words to say what has been said in so many ways.” GZ may indeed “get his” but not for what he did to Trayvon.
It has been a little over two years since Trayvon walked the streets of Sanford, Florida carrying a bag of Skittle. On February 5, his parents celebrated another of his birthdays without his physical presence. And the rest of us, in one way or another, rubbed Ben Gay on that injury and wondered What will I say to Trayvon if he ask “At what point did “getting” GZ become more important than achieving justice for me?”
Am I still pissed? Not as much because you let me have my say.