Monday, March 19, 2012

"..the burden of Black boys..."

Ever since I heard about Trayvon Martin, the 17 year-old African American boy who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a paranoid neighborhood watchman with a history of violent behavior, I have been attempting to process my own emotions.  My initial anger and horror that I live in a country where -- 44 years after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. -- being young, Black and male is still a crime worthy of punishment,  has faded to a deep, deep sadness and anger.

Now, 23 days after Trayvon's tragic death, there have still been no arrests made -- despite the fact that George Zimmerman admitted to shooting Trayvon, who was described by a teacher as an "A and B student who majored in cheerfulness," because he "looked suspicious."  The police in Florida have been accused of tempering with witnesses to try and fabricate an altercation between these two men in order to back up Zimmerman's claim that he acted in self-defense.  (For those who are less familiar with the case, Trayvon Martin was a 140 pound, 17 year-old, walking with Skittles and an ice tea, and George Zimmerman is a 28 year-old, 250 pound man driving an SUV and armed with a 9mm handgun.  George Zimmerman pursued Trayvon and confronted him.  Trayvon was also heard crying and screaming for help by at least three witnesses.  But obviously it was Zimmerman who was in immediate physical danger.)  To me, this case exemplifies the deep and insidious racism that still pervades so much of this country and that too many people are unwilling to even recognize, let alone take a stand against.

Yesterday, Charles Blow wrote an opinion piece that really hit home with me.  It's worth reading in it's entirety, but here's the quote that got to me in particular.

This case has reignited a furor about vigilante justice, racial-profiling and equitable treatment under the law, and it has stirred the pot of racial strife.
As the father of two black teenage boys, this case hits close to home. This is the fear that seizes me whenever my boys are out in the world: that a man with a gun and an itchy finger will find them “suspicious.” That passions may run hot and blood run cold. That it might all end with a hole in their chest and hole in my heart. That the law might prove insufficient to salve my loss.
That is the burden of black boys in America and the people that love them: running the risk of being descended upon in the dark and caught in the cross-hairs of someone who crosses the line.
xo kate

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