It was 9:30pm on July 13th, I’d just landed in Chicago after spending three weeks working on my music in New York. For the entire day, everyone from my Pakistani cab driver to the Vietnamese lady sitting next to me while we waited for our delayed flight to depart were watching the coverage of the Zimmerman trial. When I got off the plane, the first thing I did was check the news coverage to get the Zimmerman verdict. My heart fell into my stomach. Vigilante justice has won. Zimmerman is a free man and Trayvon Martin is a dead boy.
The real reason why Zimmerman is free is pretty simple. In the trial, the prosecutors had to prove their case to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt. They failed to do that. It doesn’t matter whether or not Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon, it doesn’t matter that he disobeyed police orders. All that matters is what happened in that court room. If you know anything about the way societies function then you should know that injustice for one means injustice for us all. Every high profile case like this sets a new legal precedent, that means it establishes a new rule that a court or other judicial body can adopt when deciding future cases under similar circumstances. That alone is a reason for people to be concerned.
In addition to people’s reactions of grief and disbelief on social media, I have seen a ton of other reactions that really pissed me off. And no, I am not talking about the racist assholes posting their attention-whorish hate speech. I don’t react to stupidity. The statements that pissed me off were the ones from people saying stuff like:
“I don’t see why people care so much about Trayvon when black children are dying everyday in Chicago.”
“People shouldn’t be worried about the Zimmerman verdict, they need to worry about the violence in their own communities.”
“I don’t give a fuck about Trayvon Martin, plenty of kids die all the time. Why does everybody care now?”
There were NUMEROUS messages like this. I can’t even deal.
I consider this type of small thinking to not only be insensitive, it’s also dangerous. For you people who don’t understand why we are “so upset about the Zimmerman trial” let me break it down for you.
First of all, I resent the implication that Trayvon’s case is somehow separate from or less tragic than the deaths of other black kids in the US. Honestly, anyone who is moved by that issue should be able to understand that Trayvon’s death has only become a national issue because individuals who are outraged and sick of the senseless deaths of black kids decided to make this case an issue. We spread the word, we participated in protests, we wrote about it, we took his death personal. Why? Because it sucks that my nephew lost a friend to gun violence when he was 12 years old. Because it sucks that black people still have to deal with being profiled. Because it sucks that so many black kids think so little of themselves that they willingly go into the streets and kill each other. If you can’t understand why so many people of various races would care about justice being served for the death of a 17 year old black boy, then it’s probably because you never cared much about the safety of black children in the first place.
As a young black woman, the idea of ever raising a kid in a country where I can neither insure their safety nor justice for them makes me extremely upset. It makes me feel as if I never wanna be a parent, because no matter what I will never escape the troubles associated with raising a black kid in America. When I try to imagine what Trayvon’s mom must have felt when Zimmerman’s verdict was announced… I feel terrible just thinking about it. If a grown man who provokes and shoots an unarmed teenager is “not guilty,” then what the hell does guilty actually mean? Because there are people serving time for doing far less. The only real argument for why we shouldn’t be upset about the Zimmerman verdict is the fact that this isn’t the first time that black people have faced injustice in the legal system. But at least this time the whole country is watching.