America is witnessing a second murder as the George Zimmerman trial comes to a distressing and despicable conclusion. What is left is the verdict, the possibilities of which terrify and anger many before it is even stated. We hope for justice but we expect the worst. That is because, first, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was pursued and shot by Zimmerman on the night of February 26, 2012, apparently because this Black boy posed such a grave threat to this man, and in spite of a police dispatcher telling Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon. Now, for days, I’ve watched a joke of a trial, in which Zimmerman has been magically transformed into the innocent victim while Trayvon Martin has been morphed into a monster, his character assassinated by the defense and certain media outlets.
The more we go forward in America the more we seem to go backwards, too. That is because the real issue here is racism, something a lot of us like to pretend no longer exists. But I say later for the talk about a post-racial America because Barack Obama is the president. Later for the pomp and circumstance around 2013 being the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation or the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. America has a long and deep-rooted race problem, and if ever a scenario puts that on blast, it is what happened to Trayvon Martin, and what has happened since.
For me the most jarring episode of this trial was how Rachel Jeantel (pictured above), Trayvon’s friend, and the last person to speak with him on his cellphone before he was killed, got mugged by the defense, and by the media, and by many of us from her own community, because of the way she looks and speaks. Ignorance is a mighty thing when it does not know its own history. For Rachel Jeantel is a former slave named Sojourner Truth asking in 1851, “Ain’t I A Woman?” to this day a classic expression of women’s rights; Rachel Jeantel is Moses Wright, Emmett Till’s great uncle, saying in his Mississippi dialect in the 1950s “Thar he” in a courtroom in reference to the murderer of his nephew; Rachel Jeantel is Fannie Lou Hamer, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, summing up American racism: “sick and tired of bein’ sick and tired”; and Rachel Jeantel is Kanye West saying, bluntly, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” as the then president took his time responding to Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans.
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Kevin Powell is an activist, public speaker, and author or editor of 11 books, including “Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and The Ghost of Dr. King: Blogs and Essays.” He is a former senior writer for Vibe. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter (@kevin_powell).
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