Sunday, July 14, 2013

How I Really Feel Today

I'd like to turn myself in for giving a false representation of my feelings. On the outside, I agree with the verdict in the George Zimmerman case. I admit that the prosecution didn't do a good job. Hell, they couldn't even be bothered to prep their own witnesses. I ignore the fact that all Zimmerman had to do was identify himself or better yet, leave the police work to the police. I blindly overlook the hypocrites who in one breath say that Zimmerman had every right to follow Trayvon but in the next breath condemn Trayvon for not running home when he had every right to be where he was and to return to his leisurely pace after he thought he had ditched the guy who was following him. I concede that it was an uphill battle when only two people knew how the fight really started and one of them was too dead to tell his side. I understand that in the American sense, justice has been served. Zimmerman and Trayvon had their day in court. Zimmerman was exonerated and Trayvon was convicted. I understand that there are no winners in this situation. I understand all of this.

I respect the views of others and I understand that I shouldn't be bothered when Zimmerman supporters engage in what I call the "ho shaming" of Trayvon. For those who don't know what I'm referencing, I'm talking about when you excuse the rape of a woman because she was a prostitute, she was dressed the wrong way or because she has had sex with a lot of different guys. I don't care if Trayvon was a thug every other night, that night he was a teenager walking home in the dark with a man who pursued him by vehicle and then seemingly by foot. He was a teenager who either asked the man "why are you following me?" or "do you have a problem?", either way, the man, by his own words didn't simply say that he was neighborhood watch. People are quick to point out that Zimmerman didn't have a legal obligation to disclose this information but I think that was necessary information. I think it would have somewhat diffused the situation because it gave him a reason to be patrolling the grounds. Without knowing that he's a member of the neighborhood watch, he remains just a creepy guy who has God knows what intentions. We teach our children to never let the stranger take you. We tell them to fight back, to scream, to do whatever they have to do to get away. And then we have a case like this and we have to rethink what we tell our children.

This case has left me with more questions than answers. Should we tell our children not to walk too slowly because people won't assume that they are listening to music or that they are on the phone, but rather that they are casing the area? Should we tell them not to run or walk too quickly when someone is following them because then people will think that they are trying to escape? How do we judge the appropriate speed for them to walk? Should we tell them that they don't have the right to walk around at night because that makes some people uncomfortable and bad things could happen? Should we also go ahead and tell them that if they encounter a creepy stranger they should ask the stranger a few questions or let the stranger put their hands on them or just wait and see what the stranger wants to do to them or with them, because if they refuse the stranger and heaven forbid fight for their life, said stranger, even knowing that help will be there soon because he’s the one who called the police, might panic and shoot them in the heart at point blank range and since they're dead and it was too dark for anyone to really see anything or to record what happened, the only account we'll ever hear will be that of the man who killed them and some will turn them from the victim to the criminal?

Outwardly, I will say that I accept the verdict and that I agree with all the people who say that we shouldn't make it about race. The logical part of me understands that the verdict did not declare open season on the young black male. I get that it has been open season on the black male for a very long time whether at the hands of people who look like him or others. I agree that the focus should be on the fact that a teenager, regardless of race, was walking home to watch a basketball game and he never made it.

On the outside, I thank the jury for their service and for looking at the evidence. I thank them for establishing that the intentional act of shooting someone in the heart at point blank range is okay as long as you’re losing the fist fight and have a few wounds to bolster your case. But on the inside I’m thinking about all the times that I have been followed for no apparent reason. I’m feeling the need to be ignorant and say let’s go out and exert our legal right to follow people and see how they like it, but I’m not stupid enough to do that because I know that wouldn’t end well for someone like me. 

On the inside, well, on the inside, at least today, I feel like this:

I’m not one of those people who want something bad to happen to George Zimmerman or who want Trayvon’s family to pursue other legal means of holding Zimmerman accountable for his actions. The case is over and I just want to leave it at that. I freely admit that I don't know what happened that night and that I thought it was a shame that Zimmerman might have gotten a long time in prison for something that I didn’t think was malicious, but I was okay with his potential sentence because it put him in the same boat as a lot of people in Florida who were subjected to mandatory sentencing. The first person who comes to mind is Marissa Alexander, who had an opportunity to shoot and kill her estranged husband but instead aimed her gun away from him. She fired at the wall, so she received a mandatory 20 year sentence. If I was Marissa, and I knew how my story would end, I think I would have just shot him. If I’m going to do 20 years or more in prison, at least let me commit a crime that inflicts bodily harm on someone else. I think of the father who fired a warning shot for his daughter’s boyfriend and received 20 years. Now back to my point, I don't think Zimmerman was or is a racist. Nor do I believe that he set out to kill Trayvon, but I do think that his actions set up a tragic string of events that left a 17 year old dead and it saddens me that there are no legal consequences because according to the American judicial system, Zimmerman was well within his rights.

That said, on the outside, I'm not going to let you know that in my heart I believe the outcome would have been different if the roles were reversed. I'm going to keep that to myself because I know that you will accuse me of pulling the race card when all I was trying to do was tell you my opinion. I'm not going to explain to you that it's not about black people playing the part of the victim, but rather the fact that Trayvon Martin was not allowed to be one. For me, this is an issue of equal protection under the law and equal rights for all, because the verdict confirms that Trayvon neither had the right to be where he was nor the right to defend himself from what he perceived as a threat and that is why people are so upset. Then you have people like O'Mara who made the comment that if Zimmerman was black he never would have been charged with a crime. To that, I respond much the way O’Mara did in his closing argument: really?  I think if Zimmerman was black, he would have been arrested that night and he would have been charged without people having to protest and he would have had to prove that he was innocent and no one (except their respective friends and family) would have cared because black on black crime is rarely newsworthy. In honesty though, I actually don't care what race Zimmerman is because the root of this case is that Trayvon committed the crime of walking while black. This is the conversation that I can't have with a lot of people without them getting upset or defensive and so I think it, but I don't say it. I'm not angry about it or even bitter. It is what it is and all I can do is live my life and continue to follow the laws of this country. I know that I control my destiny and that I have to work hard for what I want in life. I refuse to let my skin tone dictate my status in society or be an excuse to underachieve; however, I am aware that no matter how successful I become, there are some people who will always view me the way Zimmerman viewed Trayvon that night. 

What hurts me the most is that I know myself and I know that this won’t stir me to act and I’m disappointed by my willingness to accept the verdict because I know that means that I will soon move on as if it never happened. I wonder how other people are going to face the aftermath of the verdict. I wonder if all the “outraged” people will use that feeling and channel it for something good or if they will pay lip service to the verdict for a while, add it to the list of perceived wrongs that they have in their back pocket and move on without trying to cause change or open a dialog about issues that need to addressed. 

Whatever the case may be, George Zimmerman is a free man and it’s time for everyone, myself included, to either turn it in to a movement for a positive change in society or to move on, but there's no reason to keep rehashing it if all we're going to do is sit in our seats and repeat the same arguments.