Could Trayvon have done anything differently?

Image credit: www.documentaries.org

 

Honestly, I’m tired of being angry.

I’m tired of having to hide that anger behind big words, soft sentences, and an agreeable tone since being angry (while Black) went out of style in 1993 and was canonized with the second election of Barack Obama.

Yet, try as I might, here I am…

I can’t write anything about the night that Trayvon Martin died that hasn’t already been written.  I will simply share with you the one question that has been fixated in my mind since I first learned of his death which is, “What could he have done to save his own life?”

To be clear, the purpose of me asking myself this question is not to blame Trayvon for his own death but to understand clearly, for myself, which de facto crime he committed that led to him being considered a threat, a presumption that ultimately led to his untimely death.

When approached by George Zimmerman (an armed adult who unbeknownst to him had just referred to him as a “coon”) should he have not felt as if he was afforded the same right, so liberally afforded to Zimmerman, to “stand his ground”?

Should he have instead opted for a button-up shirt, instead of a hoodie, out of fear of being perceived as threatening?

Should his pants have been less baggy, since all baggy jean-wearers apparently commit crimes, and have instead opted for shorts or European-cut kakis?

Should he have walked with slumped shoulders in order to better minimize the intimidating nature of his 6 foot, 2 inch stature?

Should he have not looked “threatening” as he walked down the street that fateful street, in the rain, but instead plastered a smile on his face to ensure that anyone who saw him felt comfortable with his presence?

Should he have walked down the street with his Skittles in one hand and his stepmother’s house deed in another?

What made him a threat and could he have done anything to change that perception?

I must ask myself these questions because if it were my husband on that street I don’t know if anything could have kept him alive.  He is much darker than Trayvon with much more facial hair and thus, much more “threatening-looking” than any picture that I’ve seen of the 17 year-old slain boy.  Despite my husband’s Ivy League degree, his dental practice, glorious facial features, our 1.25 kids, and the container garden on our back porch, I just can’t get him to stop wearing hoodies and he refuses to wear tight jeans for the sake of making anyone feel more comfortable.

I must ask myself these questions because of my own brother who lives in Florida and who also sports a 6’ 2’’ athletic frame.  If he were walking down the street that night, would it have mattered that he practices Yoga, eats organic food, meditates by the ocean, and has one of the most peaceful spirits of anyone that I have ever met?  With his stature and strength, I have no doubt that he, too, could have beat Zimmerman to a pulp if he needed to,  but if he was provoked into those circumstances, would he have been met with the same fate?

I must ask myself these questions because my own son, though only two and a half years old, could one day find himself on a similar block, with a similar physical stature, with a similar outfit on, approached by someone who hates him though they have never met.  Do I revert from the teachings of my own parents and teach him to not defend himself under any circumstances, especially when the aggressor has a lighter phenotype than he?  Do I teach him the skill of conforming so that he does everything possible to not be perceived as “threatening” (because of those things that come naturally to him)?  Do I teach him to be conscious of racism?  Do I teach him to ignore racism?  Do I teach him to understand that he could simply be walking down the street, perceived as a threat, and killed?

I would be lying if I said that I had the answers to any of those questions.

I woke up this morning with an uneasy spirit because of the life that was lost and for the unconscious bigotry that continues to pervade the world that he left behind.   My faith leads me to believe that Trayvon has moved on to better pastures, a place where he is free to wear whatever he chooses, a place where his skin color and height are glorified and not vilified, a place where XBOX5000 has already come out, and where Skittles rain from the sky.   For that reason, my concern is not for George Zimmerman nor the verdict but in the many others like him, who so easily quantify the value of his incorrect suppositions as being worth more than Trayvon Martin’s life, and the lives of so many who look like him.

 

 

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    Kay S

    Kay Smith is a Chicago-based freelance writer and blogger who focuses on race, politics and urban culture. Having worked on public policy at the state, regional, city and community level, her opinions have been featured in the Chicago SunTimes and a host of news websites (under very mysterious sounding pseudonyms). Follow her on Twitter @kaywillsmith or contact her at kaywillsmith@gmail.com.

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