What in the hell went wrong?
How did this happen? Why did this happen? How did an admitted killer walk out of the courtroom a free man?
I am not going to attempt to dissect the trial, the minds of the prosecution or the jurors. There are others far smarter than I who can take on this exercise, I am sure they will.
On March 31 of last year, I wrote this Trayvon and Me, his murder came on the heels of the anniversary of my assault and I was compelled to compare the two events. Last year, one of my offenders was Released as an Inmate after serving his entire twenty year sentence, the other two were released to parole after serving twenty years of their thirty-five year sentences. Yesterday I received from Texas Victim Services notification the second of the two has been violated and will be returned to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence. This means both will now be back in prison after less than 6 months of freedom.
I found myself sitting on the stairs reading that letter my mind returning to a justice system that does not seem to serve justice equally. While my fury ran red hot at their release to parole, I cannot help how I feel as a victim, I find I see beyond my victim status in light of current events and weep for lives wasted. Young lives wasted by society’s inattention, by poverty, by misery, by bigotry, institutionalized racism; by a Drug War focused on those who could not fight back one that irrevocably broke families and communities. Lives devastated by thirty years of economic destruction of the hope, opportunity and finally of the middle class.
I haven’t always had a compassionate heart; yesterday I found my heart had less fury and more empathy more compassion.
With all this being said, the more vital topic remains how will the killing of Trayvon Martin and the “Not Guilty” verdict of George Zimmerman change the national conversation?
- Should we be talking about Stand Your Ground? Eric Holder said it best in his recent Keynote speech to the NAACP when he noted SYG fixed a problem that did not exist and talked about the conversation he felt compelled to have with his own 15-year-old son.
- Should we be talking about guns, conceal carry and how NRA and ALEC have pushed an agenda, one that is dangerous to all of us but most especially to Black and Brown young men.
- Should we be talking about Racism and Bigotry in this nation? I believe we must have these discussions. We must stop hiding our head in the sand, stop saying, “I cannot be a bigot I have a Black / Brown / White friend”. The truth, racism is making a strong comeback and as a nation, we are showing our true colors. We might not like it, in fact might hate talking about it but the results of the 2012 AP Poll cannot be ignored. I have not included the comparisons from 2008, in all cases the increase averages 3%.2
What does this mean? First, it means despite opinions to the contrary it is not getting better in the land of the free and the home of the brave. It means, despite having elected our first Black President, bias and bigotry runs deep in America and those who held power for over two hundred years, are truly not prepared to share it, not prepared to see it slip through their hands. It also means, despite all of our good intentions, many of us still cross to the other side of the road without intending too, we still unintentionally profile and thus we perpetuate stereotyping and allow racism to continue as both an emotional response to our fellow citizens and an institution.
I responded to a question the other day on Facebook: “Why does the media refer to President Obama as Black when in fact he is bi-racial”.
My response, it is history and tradition, the history of our nation going back to Emancipation, Reconstruction, The One Drop Rule and Racial Integrity Laws. The person I responded too and many others did not like my response, in fact, they ripped into me calling me names (many of them true) and attempting to debate my premise. They could not; it always helps to know history. This unfriendly discussion though led me to understand how poisonous some are in their anger, to deny a history that is less than 50 years past. I was stunned by the virulence of some of the responses and finally left the discussion in dismay.
What in the hell do we do?
I don’t have an answer; I don’t think any of us do. I know this; young men in communities across this nation are dying every single day. Most of them are Black or Brown, their mothers weep beside their graves. It is unnatural to bury a child. With the expansion of the Castle Doctrine, many feel a target has been placed directly on their sons, directly on their husbands, directly on their fathers, directly on any male that isn’t White or at least can pass. I am not sure I don’t disagree with this assessment of what SYG really means, I am not sure I don’t disagree that it isn’t simply a license to commit murder.
I also know this; we must begin to talk about what ails this nation. We must pull our heads out of the sand and out of our own proverbial asses, if we don’t we fail. We fail our children we fail ourselves and we fail the future. We must change the laws that encourage vigilante justice and while SCOTUS has told the police they may not profile based on Race, any citizen may do so with impunity and then shoot to kill because the streets are now his castle and he has no duty to retreat. We must change what ails us. We must remove the targets from the bodies of our young Black and Brown children, from our husbands, our fathers and all others in our lives.
We must begin to heal this nation.
I leave you with this beautiful song, that I dedicate to all the young men who leave the house each day with the potential someone will find them threatening and do them grave harm.
The Defense of George Zimmerman https://lizboltzranfeld.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/the-defense-of-george-zimmerman/