Monday, July 15, 2013

Uncomfortably Numb (Trayvon Martin and America's Sickness)

James Baldwin once said “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in rage all the time.” For me, my anger is slowly hardening and replaced with numbness as injustice continues in various forms.

Being Black in America means at some point, you’ll go from shock to anger to numbness at how often things happen to people who look like you. No matter how optimistic you want to be, you start losing hope that things will ever change.

What happened Saturday was the justice system reminding us that it’s not fair. George Zimmerman, due to his legal team doing a great job, wasn’t found guilty of killing Trayvon Martin despite initiating the confrontation. A kid is dead because of racial profiling and perhaps winning a fight he didn’t expect to be in and yet his killer walked.

Martin’s reputation became fair game during a trial instead of Zimmerman’s tendencies for violence and other behaviors. Despite a fair trial, all Zimmerman is guilty of being a vigilante who disobeyed orders and started a fight. Manslaughter was an option and yet the jury could not to find him even guilty of that. More or less, Martin is somehow responsible for his own death.

Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant. Two victims of the same killer - American prejudice.
But real question. How is this any different than how I felt about Oscar Grant exactly three years ago? Or Sean Bell? Or little Aiyana Jones? Or Chavis Carter? Or Amadou Diallo? How can I be shocked when this happens like clockwork?  

I’m tired of seeing innocent people killed and nobody answering for it. The fact that Grant’s death saw a police officer get only seven months in jail is mind-blowing. Yet when you consider the killers of Bell, Jones, Diallo and more were exonerated, that’s actually a rare victory.

All I am right now is numb. And frankly, I’m tired of feeling that but it’s reality sinking in about this sick world.

Yes. America is sick. Sick because it was born in war, nursed in slavery and matured through the same evil tactics of its mother England. Sick because Black life is still not valued enough to warrant suitable justice.

I still love America enough to criticize it but I’m losing faith that things will change, especially for people of color and folks who appear to be Muslim or Middle Eastern. My eyes turn toward Jordan Davis and his killer, whose trial begins in September , but how can I have faith Davis will get justice?

For centuries, America has created an atmosphere where certain people are seen as threats and certain lives are deemed more important. If you don’t fit the right profile, you’re at risk to be targeted by people, groups or the government. At best, you’ll be demonized to provoke people to stay on edge.

Those reasons have people living in perpetual fear and it wouldn’t be America without it. Because fear is profitable. Fear will lead people to do anything to get rid of it. Fear has led to so many laws and accidental murders. It’s an episode of Twilight Zone come to life.

Trayvon is dead because of an idea that was planted in Zimmerman’s mind and the minds of others. Zimmerman pulled the trigger but via Inception, America made him get the gun. Just like Soon Ja Du did with LaTasha Harlins in 1991, a move that along with Rodney King was the final straw before the 1992 riots here in Los Angeles.

So America, Trayvon’s blood is on your hands too. Your hands for endorsing prejudices instead of challenging them. Your hands for the Fear of a Black Male Syndrome. Your hands for creating circumstances where Zimmerman thought Trayvon was a threat instead of a kid going home. For not doing more to encourage others to change their thoughts before it’s too late.

God bless Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton as they continue living with this pain everyday. My heart bleeds for them and reading their tweets made me weep for them.

I’m sad for my male cousins, one of whom will be a college freshman. I’m sad for my young cousin Jordan and my future male cousins who will go from cute kids to being seen as possible threats. I'm sad for many more who will grow up in this society and see how they'll be treated because of how they look.

Most of all, I’m sad for this country. We can and must do better to treat people with respect and love without prejudice. I just don’t know if America wants to or will ever encourage this.

It requires deep, hard change and analysis that folks haven’t been willing to do. It requires listening on all sides and caring for all Americans, not just those who look or believe like you. It’s a dangerous call to commitment and not seeing the world you were told to but forcing yourself to see it as better than it is.

Yet we’ll watch our media, listen to our music and keep feeding into how popular culture wants us to believe a narrative. No matter how many of us wake up, it feels like it pales to the thousands who don’t get it. And that saddens me.
America has always been a stubborn mule that believes what it wants despite evidence to the contrary. Its citizens share that attitude and until we collectively renew our minds and change how we process, we will lose more young men and women to death, indifference or living with preconceived notions of how to see the world and its people.

Sadly, I fear that will continue. To grow older in America and be relative aware of her ways is a draining process. I can’t give up at 28 and I won’t but each defeat makes it harder to believe that my work – our work – is making progress. Not when you see another Black face dead without proper justice.

Rest in eternal peace Trayvon Martin. We can’t bring you back and we can’t trust a court to give you justice. But we can live to make this world better and fight the numbness when we get knocked down again and again and again.
"And according to what they deserve I will judge them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord" - Ezekiel 7:27


  1. Well said... I just wish these words didn't have to be written.

    1. Me too Bree. I've almost abandoned hope and I thank God I haven't. I worry for those younger than me who will see this and lose hope. Somehow we have to keep trying and working for better even when the systems tell us better is not yet in the plans.

    2. Very very well said my brother.