#LongLiveZimmerman? So yeah, let’s talk.
First, it’s impossible to develop a productive dialogue when there is a consistent game of keep-away in play at the first mention of racism against African Americans. It’s as if it is the dignitary of all indignities, that which shall not be mentioned. “It’s time black people start taking accountability for their own livelihood and stop blaming the racism,” is an actual Facebook comment from a white woman posted Saturday night and a common sentiment. We’re asked to overlook racism and yet no one is willing to let pass the persistent and dire effects it manifests, like violence, profiling and unemployment, when blaming African Americans for their own fate.
I don’t know whether or not Zimmerman is racist. I just know a kid is dead because a man had a hunch that Trayvon was an intruder in his gated community. It didn’t occur to Zimmerman that the boy belonged there. That he was outside to take a private phone call or needed fresh air or was en route from the store or just found solace in the drops of rain on his skin. He saw a young black man, deemed him a criminal, felt threatened and pulled the trigger with full confidence in the law of the State of Florida. And he is today, walking the earth freely without so much as a chafe on his wrist from a handcuff. Admit it. Accept it.
And by the way, we deserve an explanation for what sparks that fear. It’s not enough to point to the aggressive music a black boy enjoys or his sagging waistband as signposts of danger. We continue to endure these incidents in which the sight of blackness elicits deadly reactions with alarming regularity. While some claim that race played no part in Trayvon’s death, we know history so we know better. We know that these “accidents” happen with fair regularity to young men of color. We know Sean Bell. We anticipate the film portrayal of Oscar Grant. Perhaps white men carry more recognizable wallets or cell phones because it seems police rarely mistake their accessories and movements as life threatening.
Brothers on the other hand, are under attack in gated complexes and every day within their own communities. While Trayvon has become a national symbol, it is true that there exist local casualties by the thousands that don’t elicit coast-to-coast protests. Black kids kill their peers at an alarming rate and it goes largely unnoticed by the national media. Once again, there is a tendency to use the hood to deflect attention from racism perpetrated by whites against blacks as if there is no room for resentment on both fronts. To deny there is outrage over the shooting death of a16-year-old boy in Chicago over the weekend is to sidestep the curbside vigils and prayer services held in cities daily. If thousands gather for a stop-the-violence rally in New Orleans or Newark or Detroit or Oakland but it doesn’t appear on CNN, did it really happen? Don’t insinuate that tears for Trayvon equal apathy for the countless youngsters gunned down by their own. Both are appalling examples of the scope of assault on our children.