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July 16, 2013 in personal commentary, social commentary | Tags: Activitst for Trayvon, Black in America., Emotional after Zimmerman Verdict, Frantz Fanon, George Zimmerman Verdict, Justice for Trayvon, Traybon Martin | 2 comments
“When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for a variety of reasons, we can no longer breathe”
― Frantz Fanon
In March of 2012, a few days after I first heard the name Trayvon Martin, I wrote a blog post about being outraged that Zimmerman had not been arrested and how “justice” for Trayvon was in order. Less than a year and a half later I find myself outraged again – this time crying into my pillow and staring off into space trying to wrap my mind around the events of the last few weeks leading up to this verdict and I’m having a hard time.
People have used words like “activist” and “organizer” and even “freedom fighter” (mostly my daughter) to describe the work that I do and have done over that last 25 years. I never know how to describe any of it personally, but if pressed I usually say something like “I love Black folk and I’m committed to the work of making us free – in whatever form that takes.” Although I could never predict the twists and turns my life in this work would take, I was clear from a very early age what it would involve: commitment, tenacity, honesty, resilience, and love, lots and lots of love. But, what I didn’t know until it was too late to turn back, was that it would involve living my life in a political, spiritual, and sometimes moral duality that I can never quite fully comprehend but have an overwhelming need to maintain. I know what Dubois said about Double Consciousness and what Fanon said about Cognitive Dissonance, but I’m talking about my lived experience not intellectual rationalizations as much as I appreciate them. For example, when I heard Trayvon Martin was murdered my deepest desire was that his murderer be brought to “justice” and arrested for his crime. I wanted George Zimmerman to be arrested by the police force that, like every other police force in America, is grounded in white supremacist principles and racist practices. A police force that could have very well been the culprits in the profiling and murder of Trayvon Martin. I also wanted Trayvon’s murderer to be prosecuted in a state that has routinely and systematically disenfranchised and discriminated against people of color. In hindsight it seems preposterous but, it’s the same thing I wanted in the countless other cases that I rallied around in the last 25 years (Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, Rodney King, Latasha Harlins, Yusef Hawkins, The Central Park 5, Bernard Goetz, Sean Bell and dozens of other names between New York and Alabama that never made a blip on the national radar) – justice.
But what is justice?
This is not a diatribe about how “I knew the verdict was going to be not guilty” or “why anyone would be surprised at this outcome?” This is a person who loves Black folk with all her heart trying to make sense of the hate and vitriol heaped upon us on a daily basis, the all too familiar pain and anguish and heartache that accompanies these moments and the seeming insanity of consciousness. Each one of those ideas is a study unto themselves, I know. But I have been so numb for the past few days since this verdict and every time I read a status message or an article or look at a #justiceforTrayvon hashtag, the same questions keep crawling through my mind and I don’t have any answers, I just have thinning breath, and swelling temples and teary, bloodshot eyes. I feel crazy in a sense to think that what we commonly refer to as justice in the context of the American judicial system is possible for Black people in the way that the people who devised the system intended. This is not to say that I don’t know what justice can look like outside of the American judicial system. The opposite side of this coin is that I know that I have to, like thousands of others who have the capacity to do so, create “justice” for Trayvon Martin and others like him. That form of justice happens as we take to the streets to express our outrage, as we, not just call for people to organize, but make efforts to help organize groups of people to continue work that protects and empowers young black and brown men and women and it happens when we use these moments to turn inward to our communities and spread the compassion and understanding that we have for the Martin family and friends amongst each other. I know this is happening everyday in some communities and as a result of this trial and verdict will continue to happen. I’m not completely dependent on America to provide closure through their system of justice because I know better. But, I also can’t stop myself from ramping up every, single time to * demand * it or from being genuinely outraged when it’s not served. For the larger part of my life I have described myself as an “African living in America” or just Black. I was raised not to pledge allegiance to the American flag – for political, not religious reasons. There were never any flags in our home unless they were RBG and although, as a family, we gather together some time around the first weekend in July – we NEVER celebrate American independence day. In fact I can’t even wear a combination of Red, White and Blue clothes around my mother. My grandfather gave me Before the Mayflower to read on my 11th Birthday and moved up to Franz Fanon, J.A. Rodgers and Ivan Van Sertima before I was out of Jr. high school. I have studied at the feet of Dr. Asa Hillard, Mama Marimba Ani and Faya Rose Toure and have read practically every speech ever made by Malcolm X and I do know better – but still I yearn for American “justice” and ache when I can’t find it – and that makes me feel unhinged. I knew there was a good chance that Zimmerman would be acquitted, but I still had some hope that he would not get off. I had to have hope. I can’t live a life where hope is outweighed by cynicism – not if I want to continue to love Black folk. And, not if I want to feel sane. Part of me feels like having hope is for suckers and the other part knows that if I don’t hold on to hope then what does that mean about me and the work that I say I’m committed to. The duality again.
Really, I’m just talking. I went through the range of emotions like most of my friends and millions of others when I heard the verdict. I haven’t been extremely vocal on social media because…I just didn’t know what to say or had too much to say, I’m not sure. I’ll have more to say soon, I’m sure. But for now I just needed to get these thoughts, feelings and emotions down in the off-chance that someone might relate.