I haven't posted yet about Trayvon Martin because frankly, I don't even know what to say. I don't know what to say because every time I look at the photos of a smiling kid who's now dead for the crime of carrying a can of iced tea and a bag of skittles while walking around a neighborhood in which a sloped-foreheaded asshole fancies himself to be Florida's own Sheriff Joe Arpaio, I just start to cry and I can't stop.
Oh, I'm sure that the fact that I have been working 7 days a week for the last four weeks doesn't help, nor does the fact that I can't seem to sleep more than 5-6 hours a night when I really need 7-8 hours. But it's more than that. It's thinking back to January 20, 2009, when for a couple of minutes, we envisioned this country as it could be...as it SHOULD be, one in which a man (or woman, or a 17-year-old kid) could be judged by the content of his character instead of the color of his skin. It's looking at the American landscape now, in which this country's first black president has been, and continues to be, hounded about his birth certificate by self-appointed vigilantes just like the murderer of Trayvon Williams and the police department that for some inexplicable reason is protecting him. It's looking at a country in which a candidate for president of a major political party can dogwhistle in a way that's hardly even dogwhistling, calling the current occupant of the White House "the food stamp president". It's a country in which someone can put out a bumper sticker reading "Don't Re-Nig in 2012" and insist it's not racist. I would be tempted to say that it's a good thing that the racists and hatemongers who populate this nation have felt safe in coming out from the rocks under which they live, because now we know where they stand and we can expose them, except that the life of an unarmed 17-year-old kid is too high a price to pay for a "dialogue" that isn't going to be a dialogue at all.
I have two black colleagues with whom I'm pretty close. One of them is a man in his 40's who's experienced firsthand what it's like to be pulled over for "driving while black." Another is a woman who has a teenage son. Yesterday I went to work and while the three of us talk about current events all the time, Trayvon Martin's name didn't come up at all. I don't know what my colleagues were thinking, but all I wanted to do was say, "I'm so sorry" and wonder how the heck they can even LOOK at a white person as a friend or ally today.
The sounds of Trayvon Martin screaming for help in a neighborhood, a town, a state, a nation that didn't give a shit about him echo throughout the country. They are etched into my brain and my memory for the long as I live. I will never, ever forget what I heard on those police dispatch recordings. It's a sound that could come out of any black person you know or that you don't, on any given day, just because someone believed that they didn't deserve to walk the earth because of the color of their skin. THAT is the truth about America. And that a black man emerges from the White House every day doesn't change that one iota.
When Jonathan Capehart knows that he too could be targeted by racist self-appointed "Neighborhood Watch" gun nuts for the crime of walking while black, it's time to stop deluding ourselves that we are "past all that." We aren't. And unless people like George Zimmerman face the full brunt of the law and there is UNIVERSAL outrage about what happened to Trayvon Martin, and what could happen to any black man anywhere in this country, we won't be. And it is to our shame that we aren't.
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