“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society … –then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern.”
-MLK, Jr. 1963
Now while Dr. King was speaking on the topic of segregation, his dissatisfaction with the current treatment of Blacks in America is still relevant. I’m writing today to talk about Trayvon Martin. A simple google search will tell you about the case but here are the facts. Trayvon Martin was 17. He was walking home from a 7-11. He had a bag of skittles and a can of tea in his hand. A neighborhood watch member shot him. There is a 911 call that has been released where you can hear Trayvon screaming at the top of his lungs for help. Then another shot is heard. Then there is deafening silence. George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch guy, has not been arrested. Oh. Trayvon’s Black.
So let’s talk about this. There are many layers, obviously. The race one seems the most obvious. But when there is a Black child dead, the last thing I’m here for is to debate if Zimmerman is racist or not. I’ll leave that to sensationalists who want to start race riots instead of talking about the real issue here. A murder took place. Damn near an execution. Zimmerman is claiming self-defense. But if you simply listen to the tape, Zimmerman had enough time to casually walk over to Trayvon’s screaming body and shoot him in the chest. Does that to anyone with a fully functional frontal lobe sound like self-defense? I’m going to assume no.
To be transparent, if this wasn’t already obvious, this is not an unbiased post. I have two brothers. I am Black. I am incredibly concerned and invested in this case. I was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia. When my parents moved us to Northern Virginia in 1998 my folks gave my brothers and I pocket Constitutions. My dad sat us down and in a solemn tone usually reserved for “death in the family” conversations, my father told us things would be a little different here. He told us we had to learn our rights because nobody was going to enforce a law if we weren’t even cognizant of its existence. He even warned us of police. He said if we were driving on a back road (Virginia is famous for these dark, winding country roads with no lights) and were pulled over, to keep driving to an excessively lit area with people around. I thought my Dad was doing the most. I thought he was being way too cautious. My Dad was born and raised in Compton, California, why was he afraid of Stafford, Virginia? He survived neighborhoods that Ice Cube and NWA earned their street credit in! Why are we afraid of a neighborhood where people ride horses and measure their wealth by how many acres their house sits on? We moved on up like the Jeffersons. My parents were overreacting.
Mom told us that if we say we’re going somewhere with someone, we need to be at that location with those people. There should never be a point in time where we aren’t doing what we said we were doing. I, of course, thought they were being strict and wanted to damper my fun. What they were really saying is, always have an alibi. Because some of you may not know me or my family, I guess this is the time for a disclaimer. We’re cool people. My “Michelle Huxtable” moniker is not for nothing. People meet my family and within 5 minutes they say as though they have seen a unicorn, “Woah. You guys are the real Huxtables”. In other words, we’re wholesome. We like each other and what not. Before we all left for college, we used to eat dinner together nightly. My brother Alex and I hang out, party together, and text almost daily. We have a family group chat on our iPhones that is on and poppin’ daily. I love them. These rules that my parents put in place weren’t because we were delinquents. It was because my parents knew the Trayvon Martin reality, before it was Trayvon Martin. They knew the Trayvon Martin reality back when it was Emmett Till. They knew that you can do everything right, be raised in the right neighborhood, follow the law, be respectful to police, get good grades, wear the right colors in the right hoods, but if you just happen to be wearing the wrong skin color in the wrong place at the wrong time, nothing matters. As J. Cole once said, “Got good grades but A’s can’t stop strays, so pray for me”. My parents knew that although their good parenting offered us opportunities that they were never afforded when they were our age, there is only a surface-level difference between Black mortality in the streets of Compton and the avenues of Virginia.
That being said, we need to make known the reality of being Black in America. Word to Soledad O’brien for the series, but it hasn’t even scratched the surface of what it truly means to be Black in America. And I’m here for that. Usually nobody wants to talk about this because it screams of playing the race card. But, this is necessary. Being Black in America means being incredibly aware that your life value is mythical. It means knowing that you don’t have a voice. It means being expected to be satisfied with muted voices and stolen culture. It means never speaking up out of fear of being accused of victimization. It means seeing people who look like you on TV being gunned down and the man who confesses is able to walk free. It means the government can put you on death row with little tangible evidence and kill you. It means all of this can happen with little outrage. It means getting a few thousand signatures on a petition and a few retweets. It means truly feeling outrage and physical pain with knowing that in a few weeks, nobody, including yourself, will think about this again. It means knowing that nobody cares about you.
I feel personally attached to this case because as mentioned, I have two brothers who I am incredibly close to. Trayvon Martin could be one of them. At the risk of sounding like a bad PSA, Trayvon Martin could be your friend, cousin, nephew, uncle, or you. And try not to feel safe if you’re a woman and reading this. Just because you don’t hear about women being gunned down, don’t for a second think your womb or femininity in America is safe. Let your Black mother or sister go missing and see if America cares. But that’s a different conversation. The point for this post is simple: Let it be known that it is perfectly legal and acceptable to murder Black people in America. What can we do to change that? There needs to be a movement of epic proportions. People were down with the whole #KONY2012 movement. We were down for the #OccupyWallStreet movement. Where is that same excitement for revolution? Where is Jay-Z with his “I Am Trayvon Martin” t-shirts? Where is Obama calling Trayvon’s family like he did when Limbaugh called that girl a slut? Where are you? Where is your name on the petition? Where is your phone that should be dialing the DA? This will keep happening if we don’t make a move. America has spoken. You will NOT kill or kidnap America’s sweet white babies or women. The FBI will be called. SWAT teams will assemble. They will shut this country down. But go ahead and be a serial killer who targets Black women or children. You’ll be fine. So now that America has spoken, what are we going to say in retort?
Be safe, people.
“Being here in America doesn’t make you an American… No I’m not an American, I’m one of the 22 million Black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million Black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disgused hypocrisy… I’m speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see American through the eyes of a victim. I don’t see any American dream: I see an American nightmare.”