Trayvon, Emmett and America’s Unfinished Business

Brothers forever bound together in blood.

When special prosecutor Angela Corey announced George Zimmerman had surrendered to authorities and would be facing second-degree murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin my immediate thought was simple.  Good. One less criminal roaming free on the streets.

Was I happy?  No more than Trayvon’s parents were.   The only thing that had been resolved was finally Zimmerman would have to answer for their son’s death.   There was no satisfaction and if there is such a thing as closure we’re a long way off from that.    A young man would still be dead and nothing could ever change that.

A few weeks ago after going ballistic on some poor dumb bastard for saying about the case something that angered me (and I’ve been in an extended state of smoldering anger for a while now), I got an e-mail from a guy asking me why.

I know you’re not going to appreciate this, and I assume you’ll just tell me to fuck off, but your responses to people lately have been filled with an anger and rage disproportionate to anything that has been said by them.

I’d really miss you, but that’s where you’re headed—and, very much on purpose, it seems.

What’s up with that?

I answered: Well, now that’s going to require you to make a choice. Do you want the answer that makes you feel good or the answer that might piss you off?

The thing is, I didn’t want to explain why I was filled with anger and rage. It didn’t seem disproportionate to me in the least.  If anything anger seemed they right response to the way  Zimmerman’s defenders had tried so diligently  to justify killing Trayvon.

More than that, I wasn’t interesting in trying to legitimize the anger.  Why do Black people have to shout before they are heard?   Why do they have to constantly remind their countrymen they have the same expectations of life, liberty and happiness even if their skin is darker?

I respond poorly to being talked down to, cavalierly dismissed and attempts to “handle” me. under normal circumstances.  The circumstances of Trayvon’s death were anything but normal.  Bearing witness to how Trayvon was transformed from a sympathetic victim into a caricature of a bad boy who had it coming enraged me.   I have been told in no uncertain terms if only he had been more “polite” to Zimmerman he might still be alive. Another malicious little turd wrote as the attempts to dirty up Martin by the scummy likes of Matt Drudge and Michelle Malkin intensified, “If what we’re learning about Martin now is valid it’s very likely he’d have been killed at some point by another Black.”

George Zimmerman mug shot: 2012 edition

That’s kind of hard to blow off with a smile and a shrug of the shoulders. Now amplify that with the professional talking heads like Geraldo Rivera, Bill O’Reilly and George Will railing about the high number of Black men who die at the hands of other Black men, co-signed by good Negroes like Shelby Steele and what began as a Hispanic man with a Caucasian-sounding surname gunning down a Black teenager evolved into the none-too-subtle subliminal message that it’s really not such a bad thing Trayvon got shot because if George hadn’t done it, some other hood rat would have.

Sunday night I placed a long-distance phone call to ream out another friend who took me to task after NBC fired a staffer for manipulating an audio tape of George Zimmerman’s 911 calls and how it was so awful and terrible that Spike Lee had mistakenly Tweeted the address of the wrong Zimmerman and Black thugs were beating up White people and yelling, “This is for Trayvon” and wasn’t I happy I was finally going to get the race war Jackson and Sharpton were trying to start and what kind of parent lets their child out at 3:00 a.m. to buy candy and ice tea anyway?

Who needs to hear that kind of crap repeatedly yet be told if you don’t put up with it, you’re the one with the problem?   Why is it an Angry White Men are to be taken seriously and an Angry Black Man have to explain WHY he’s mad at the world?

It’s taken something out of me exerting this energy trying to set people straight on why Trayvon was the only victim that night, why he had every right to expect he could go buy candy and ice tea without some vigilante wannabee demanding he explain where he was going and why life doesn’t work like CSI or Law and Order and everything wraps up neat and tidy in the last five minutes.

I could not defend Trayvon Benjamin Martin from those whom wished to destroy him in death as George Zimmerman destroyed him in life any more passionately or fiercely than if he were my son. I get it when I’m asked, “When are you going to let this go and write about something else?”

Truth be told, this story has been a welcome reminder that even though I write this blog in the hopes others will read it, the idea never was to only write about things others wanted to read. The saying goes, “better to write for yourself and have no public than to write for the public and have no self” and it’s absolutely true. When I stop writing about what moves me and start thinking, “Uh-oh. My page hits are way down. I’d better lighten things up.” that is when I’ll know I’ve gone from being honest to simply pandering.

Which while this is not about to become a Trayvon-Free Zone, it won’t be as Trayvon intense as it has been. This blog did not drive the story into the mainstream. The tireless efforts of the Martin family did, but to whatever small way something I wrote helped that effort, I feel I’ve made a contribution beyond signing an online petition.

This story is about to enter a new phase and one that should take it where it should have been in the first place: into a court of law and out of the court of public opinion.

After a month of spin, scenarios, second-hand hearsay treated as the gospel truth, experts, eyewitnesses, spokespersons, talking heads and the dead body of Trayvon Martin batted back and forth along political and racial fault lines, I find myself ready for the story to recede from the headlines.

If I don’t hear anything more about Geraldo Rivera, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the Pseudo New Black Panthers, neo-Nazis, John Derbyshire, the friends of George Zimmerman and those two ambulance chasers that were his attorneys for a few months, I’ll be a happy man.

The networks have been full of “experts” second-guessing whether Angela Corey should have gone for 2nd degree murder and whether she can make it stick. Of course, she has one huge advantage over them: she’s seen the evidence and they haven’t. Prosecutors often are ambitious with the charges they initially file knowing they may have to settle for a conviction on a lesser charge instead.

The story should cool down considerably as the legal proceedings grind slowly on. This should be all be welcomed by the same conservatives who never wanted any part of all this Trayvon talk in the first place. It’s not the sort of conversation they are comfortable with as it brings up issues about race and justice in America, two topics many of us would rather not discuss in the first place.

This was always supposed to be about finding justice for Trayvon and the arrest of George Zimmerman was the first step in the long process of getting it. Him behind bars isn’t the end of the search, but it’s a damn good first step.

But don’t tell me the system worked. It didn’t. The system failed Trayvon and it almost failed his family.

If it had worked as it should have when an armed man kills an unarmed teenager, George Zimmerman would have been arrested and charged over a month ago. Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin wouldn’t had to go through all this hell trying to convince America their son was worth fighting for and we all wouldn’t have needed yet another reminder why race remains both America’s original sin and the most divisive wedge issue of them all. .

There is one often repeated phrase I have resisted repeating here. At least until now.  “Trayvon Martin is our Emmett Till.”   There is a long chain of broken and bloody Black bodies that link Emmett to Trayvon and as Emmett was a martyr and catalyst for the modern Civil Rights era, so too is Trayvon a martyr and a reminder of the nation’s unfinished business.

A small bit of justice, but a long ways to go for peace.

One thought on “Trayvon, Emmett and America’s Unfinished Business

  1. There is no joy in the situation of Zimmerman behind bars waiting trial but more of maybe a small sense of relief that finally Trayvon’s parents will know that their son’s life is considered by society to have value, and that this country is not going to let what happened to him fade away until he’s forgotten. We owe Trayvon’s parents that. We owe them a judicial system that takes their son’s murder seriously.

    It’s about time.


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