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Dear Trayvon,

Monday, July 15, 2013

Trayvon Martin shooting protest 2012 Shankbone 5
By David Shankbone (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I usually keep my blog a politics-free zone. But since the verdict was announced in the George Zimmerman case, I cannot hold my tongue. You see I have been engaging in quiet protest since the tragic shooting of this young black man in February 2012. I signed the family's petition and wrote to legislators about banning stand your ground laws. But quiet action is almost the same a saying you are ashamed about what you are doing. I am going to speak my mind and not worry about how readers will react.

I actually started writing this post on MLK Day, the day our first black president gave his second inauguration address. I was reflecting on the Reverend's dream about not being judged by the color of our skin and whether it had finally come true when Trayvon popped into my head. I pictured him in his hoodie and answered my own question with a heavy no. The one-year anniversary of the shooting that claimed Trayvon's life was approaching and so was the trial of his killer, self-deputized neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. I hoped against hope that justice would be served but was careful not to get my hopes up.

In the aftermath, many people implied that Trayvon somehow deserved what happened to him. Questions about what he was doing walking in that neighborhood at night wearing a hoodie (read: the uniform of a hoodlum) rose above questions about the actions of the man in violation of his own community's code of conduct. They dragged Trayvon's history into the debate (a suspension from school for marijuana possession) as if that proved he was up to no good that fateful night. At the end of the day he was a kid. All kids make mistakes, none of them should die for it. If every adult in this country were given a death-penalty hearing for the bone-head mistakes we made in our youth very few of us would be found not guilty.

The fact in plain black & white is that an unarmed black teenager was stalked and shot like an animal by a suburban vigilante with a gun. And America largely sees no problem with this because, after all, black boys die on the streets of LA, Chicago, and Brooklyn all the time (often by the hands of one their own). So what makes this kid so special, right?! To put it in simple terms: everyone's life is precious. those who steal life must be held accountable. George Zimmerman should have been punished for instigating a confrontation that ended with a child losing his life.

Now a jury of his peers has let Zimmerman walk away from his crime. He gets to walk away, AGAIN. The country will move on to other issues. But his parents won't. His friends won't. Social justice advocates won't. I won't. His face will haunt me, reminding me to keep agitating. When I look into my son's eyes, I see Trayvon's reflection sometimes. And I make a vow not to raise my son with double standards. I refuse to subject him to Jim Crow-like rules such averting his eyes and mumbling "no-sir" when confronted by an authority figure. I refuse to because that would be teaching my son that he is second-class citizen.

There was a time when men settled their difference with their fists and the loser left with a broken nose and a bruised ego. But both men lived to fight another day. These days a grown man can pick a fight with a teenager and then shoot-to-kill when he loses the upper hand. So who is really the thug in this scenario?

Trayvon stood his ground that night but the law was not on his side.

13 comments:

Derrick Brown said...

Good piece, my sister. Speak your mind, and stand your ground.

Mrs. Pancakes said...

such a powerful reflection...the thought that his parents will have to deal with this pain forever is just so devastating. i am still hopeful that justice will prevail...there is no way that this man can get away with this...there is just no way...not in America!

Help! Mama Remote... said...

oh God....thanks.for speaking your mind. I promise to not let Trayvon and any other life taken so soon be in vain. We have been spit in the face with this one.

Christa aka The BabbyMama said...

Speak out! People need to! The mister and I were livid when the verdict was announced. Anyone who says we live in a "post-racial" society doesn't know what they're talking about.

Deb said...

When I heard the verdict on Saturday night I just sat quietly and cried. I was not the least bit surprised by the verdict, I just knew Zimmerman was going to be found innocent. As much as we would like to think and hope that America has changed it very much has stay the same when dealing with race issues, especially concerning African American men and the law. My husband said to me after the verdict, "Michael Vick served 2 years in jail and was vilified for dog fighting, while George Zimmerman received nothing for killing a human being. He will probably go on to make millions for interviews and writing a book on his "truth" about that fateful night. Will Trayvon get justice, probably not in this world but one day Zimmerman will face his maker and God knows the truth. Thank you for writing your article and for having the courage to speak out.

Kristin said...

I couldn't agree more with everything you said. However, there's another issue that this event has brought up, and I find it very troubling. I could go the rest of my life without ever hearing the phrase "playing the race card" again. For people of color, discussing the implications of race, racial bias, racial stereotypes, and so on, is not a game, it's not a ploy, it's not a cop-out. It's very real and it's oppressive. I am the white mother of biracial children, and I find it disgusting that the minute race is brought up, all (white) people have to do is make the accusation that one is "playing the race card" and that's supposed to be enough to shut everyone up or silence you out of shame for having dared question any event, any injustice, or any bias.

I'll tell you what, saying that the George Zimmerman prosecution (not persecution, as some scream that it is) is a product of "playing the race card" is beyond outrageous and offensive. Trayvon Martin was profiled for a reason -- because he was a young black male in a hoodie. Those who fought for justice didn't make this a racial issue...George Zimmerman did, when he made call after call about "suspicious" people in his neighborhood -- and they were all black males. The same thing happened on February 26, 2012, except that time, the "bad guy" didn't get away. Zimmerman made sure of that.

Stacy H said...

I am very much with you. Extremely disheartened.

Barb S. said...

Teresha,
I agree with you! I was quite upset when the verdict came in late Saturday evening. I was talking with a friend of mine (whom I've worked with off and on for the past 15 years), and yes, she was an Afro-American woman. We've had several discussions over the weekend over Trayvon, and she was able to calm me. I prayed for Trayvon's parents.
Hopefully, Trayvon's parents will be able to sue George in civil court.

Barb S. said...

Teresha, Check out William Jackson's blog, My Quest To Teach----http://myquesttoteach.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/have-blacks-grown-too-comfortable/

He's a blog buddy of mine of whom I met at a FLBlogCon conference last fall! He always writes some great posts!

Maureen Sklaroff said...

The big problem here is that a stand your ground law is/was legal in FL. It pretty much goes against the legal system, as I know it, leaving the window open for all sorts of abuses...

luvlymskrissy said...

I loved everything you said. I can't read anything about this without getting misty eye'd. I don't have any sons but I have a dad and uncles and a brother and cousins and nephews and friends who could all easily be Trayvon and that reality continues to break my heart over and over.

Tene said...

I just read this and it is so powerful. I'm emotional reading this Teresha! Thank you. Your words are eloquent and motivating!

Tene said...

I just read this and it is so powerful. I'm emotional reading this Teresha! Thank you. Your words are eloquent and motivating!

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