I am still raw from last night’s verdict. I tried to watch the case over the past few weeks but it was too difficult. People were sidetracked by Rachel Jeantel’s color, weight and grammar. Sidetracked by a little weed in Trayvon’s system and old pictures of him on social media. And then last night, I thought I could handle news coverage after the case but a few minutes into watching the defense gloat and I was sick to my stomach. And then Zimmerman’s brother came on asking more questions to tarnish Trayvon’s reputation and push the idea that Zimmerman, who is alive, is the victim. I tend to get angry over verdicts like this, but last night I cried.
After last night, how can we look Black boys in the eyes and tell them they are valuable? We can’t act like this is an isolated incident when it seems every year an unarmed Black man or boy is killed and justice is not served. One can’t help but notice how Vick got two years for dog fighting and Placo got one year for shooting himself, but Zimmerman serves no time for admitting to shooting a child. What we learned last night is that you get a pass for hunting a Black child if you feel scared enough. We also know that every act of self-defense isn’t considered Stand Your Ground when a Black woman,who didn’t kill anyone, was given 20 years.
And what scares me more, this idea that your fists, your attitude and a slab on concrete are now dangerous weapons at Black men’s disposal and are so dangerous that they can be countered with a gun if you feel threatened enough. When I heard this come out of Zimmerman’s brother’s mouth, my first thought was of Douglas Reddish and how his case has already been totally rewritten. Instead of a Black man punching a drunk White man for yelling profanities and racial slurs at him and his girlfriend over lunch, I can already hear how the angry, drunk, belligerent man is the a victim because Reddish used the weapons of his fist and the sidewalk to knock him out. Because Reddish couldn’t just sit there and take the verbal abuse.
And perhaps the worst part, how so many people were sad about the verdict but not surprised. Some people weren’t surprised from a legal standpoint. I don’t really understand their argument, but I’ve heard if enough from lawyers and pundits on television that I have to believe at least some of it is true. But mostly, many people already know that the lives of Black men and boys are never valued as much as others. This is how you can have a case about murder and somehow manage to place the dead victim on trial. The irony of Zimmerman’s frustrated muttering, “These assholes always get away,” was not lost on me.
Today I am still sad about the verdict. Today I still wonder how do we explain to boys that even though there are countless examples of them being killed with no one being found guilty or sent to jail that their lives still matter and that they are still valuable. Today I wonder how can men balance protecting themselves and their families while juggling everyone’s fear. How can we look men in the face and say you can no longer protect yourself if you feel threatened because it’s not safe for you? You’re in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. It’s not fair and it’s not going to change anytime soon. I think Cord Jefferson nailed it: It’s a complicated thing to be young, Black and male in America.