Saturday, July 20, 2013

Living (Surviving?) in a Post Trayvon World

My sons are not expendable
Thanks to George Zimmerman, a man whose toy cop zeal initiated a chain of events that led to him shooting dead Trayvon Martin, my unborn son gets to be birthed in a country where the life of a dog seems to have greater value than that of an African American boy. (People go to jail for running a dog fighting business.)
               As a result of the literal interpretation of Stand Your Ground statutes in Florida and other states, the eight-year-old kid I regularly mentor has to grow up learning early- and mid-20th century post-slavery survival techniques, in addition to reading and writing and arithmetic.
               Because of those statutes, combined with Right to Carry gun laws, my young adult son gets to raise his own kids with the possibility that someone who looks like him can be bullied, then gunned down for no reasons other than the color of his skin, being in the wrong place, and/or having an uppity attitude – just like 100 years ago.
               As for me, I get to grow old knowing my sons are considered by a lot of people as largely expendable. That they can be gunned down out of someone’s fear of their black skin or in anger – and our court system just might not hold anyone accountable, shrug its collective shoulders and point to the letter of the law.
               Admittedly, there has been significant progress in some quarters as it relates to racism at the individual level. Yet young African American males still remain the pariah of a nation that regularly exports values like liberty and justice for all around the world but systematically curbs and in some cases ignores those same rights on our own soil.
               People claim incidents like what happened to Trayvon Martin are ‘complicated’ and ‘tragic’ and insist ‘race played no factor.’ Yet this historically familiar scenario plays out time and again for African Americans on the wrong side of a gun. Or not too long ago, a noose.
Trayvon Martin vigil at Sojourner Truth monument
               Why do laws and human rights always seem to be a moving target when it comes to justice for people of color? While some white people are fed up, others crack jokes like Zimmerman’s defense attorney Don West did after a trial in which someone lost his life. Still others, such as Florida State prosecuting attorney Angela B. Corey, play politics by delivering a losing side ‘thank you speech’ that featured all the pompous platitudes displayed at a post-Super Bowl press conference.
               Thanks to the Zimmerman verdict, my sons have to contemplate which white man (or woman) with a gun on his hip might follow, intimidate, harass and then shoot them. And wonder what are the chances the shooter will bear no significant consequences for his actions. Especially if there are no witnesses. After all, African American males seem to be considered suspect in general. Zimmerman’s exoneration implicitly suggests that if followed by a strange white man, black men and boys have no right to fear for their lives, talk back or take action when challenged on an empty street.
               My sons get to re-live a time when keeping your head down, saying, “yes ‘um,” and never, ever losing their temper to any white person increases the odds of survival.
               And me? I get the chance to hear people say, “You’re overreacting and paranoid. None of that Jim Crow stuff could ever happen again; this is America.” But it’s already happening, in obvious and not so obvious ways.
               Still, I believe we all can do better; we just need more people talking about and addressing issues of race, rather than insisting no problem exists. Do it for your children. For my sons.They are not expendable.


  1. ...your comments are all well and good but until we (Black People) can change ourselves and start respecting who we are and whose we are, why should anyone else? a lot of our young Black men cannot even pull their pants up, speak coherently without using Ebonics or use a sentence without vulgarity pinging from sentence to sentence and being the missing father to all of the children they have spawned.

    It's not about what "they" can or can not do for us. It's about "us" stop blaming our short comings on "them" and what they have done to us and what they are holding us back and how they are racially profiling us. In today's world our getting racially profiled has a lot to do with how "we" are projected on tv and in the movies and music videos, heck 50% of the population in the jails are "us".

    When are "we' going to start taking responsibility for our actions, our failures, as well as our success". It's not about them, it's about "us".

    As for your son you have a choice as a father, you can hold onto what happened in this case as a crutch to emphasize to your son how burden we still are as Black People or you can teach him how to over come in spite of "them" and us the many successful Black Men and Women that have overcome to become!

    It all starts with where we are....

  2. The real travesty that has gotten lost while the media has been targeting 2nd Amendment rights and Zimmerman is the fact that a large number of blacks have been murdered by other blacks. About 20 a day in fact.

    Stand Your Ground laws helps people from the inner city with the rights to defend themselves. They are the ones disproportionately impacted by crime.

    From ijReview:

    To update, in the 503 days between Trayvon dying, and the Zimmerman verdict, 10,865 African Americans have been murdered by other African-Americans.

    To be exact, the shameful truth is that 93% of African-American murders are committed by other African-Americans. That is breathtakingly awful when you consider how incensed the African-American community is about the Trayvon tragedy, no matter what you believe about Zimmerman’s guilt.

    Let’s do the gruesome math, not out of morbidity, but because it manifests the incredible self-centered insanity of people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

    8,000-9,000 African-Americans are murdered each year.

    93% of them by other African-Americans.

    That’s 7,905 (from average)

    That’s 21.65 murdered each day by other African-Americans.

  3. mpthewizard,

    I appreciate the facts and statistics, but believe they drift into a different conversation. My commentary is about racial discrimination, no matter who the person of color is or their background. There is no denying the fact that even the most well-heeled African American males have at some time or another have been treated with prejudice, disrespect and in a lot of cases animosity - for no other reason than the color of their skin.

    I'm talking about black men and boys who DON'T sag or commit felonies. They speak standard English, dress Brooks Brothers, graduate college and become leaders in their field. Yet despite all of that, we still are subject to bias and racism. I'm also talking about male persons of color who dress and speak different but are active contributors to our society.

    This bias against male persons of color may be expressed intentionally or unintentionally, but it is perpetrated in American society.

    You didn't mention if you were male or female but I urge you to check in with fellow African Americans as well as other persons of color about their experience. I seriously doubt you'll find many who have not been touched by this implicit bias.