A young man, an African American 17 year old young man, was walking home from the store, during a time when people walked their dogs and did their evening jog. He was shot by a man who, when he called the police dispatcher, was told to stay in the car. This made sense because he was a part of neighborhood watch, not security or law enforcement.
When I heard the verdict, I was angry, disillusioned, disgusted, but not surprised. The Scottsboro Boys, Emmett Till, and personal incidents of racial indignities flashed in my mind. A segment of this country still doesn’t believe, after decades of empirical evidence, that these incidents continue to happen. In listening to the national interview of juror B37, for example, we see that the victim often is viewed with a level of blame equal to or greater than the perpetrator. This points to the composition of the jury, which in my mind put victory in the hands of the defense before the trial began.The post-racial society that media convinces us is real is but a rigged shell game. The truth is, as of this writing, there exist several cases that but for some additional publicity, would trouble our national consciousness as the death of Trayvon Martin has done. And this particular case needed a national public outcry in order for George Zimmerman to even be arrested for murder on April 11, months after the incident that happened on February 26.
The reality is that racial profiling exists. National, state and local studies over the last ten years prove that judgment based on the color of one’s skin is alive and well. From West Virginia, Illinois, and New York City, African Americans find themselves subjected to more stops and searches than whites. On the other side of this same coin, due to societal realities and our own devalued sense of ourselves, several African American communities have become killing fields, with many of us being held hostage.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy out of this verdict is since 1955, employees have had raises and cost of living increases, and the minimum wage has gone up several times, but the societal value of a Black man’s life remains the same. Let dogfights happen in a home you own? Go to jail. But get caught ‘breathing while black’ in the wrong place? We will be talking about you in the past tense. As the perpetrator, you will receive a ‘get of of jail free’ card. The judge after your acquittal tells you that your gun, the murder weapon, will be given back to you.
We have ‘stand your ground’ laws in 22 states, including Tennessee. We must position ourselves against these laws,seeking their eradication.The 16th largest economy, by spending, exists in Black America. Why can’t we harness our consumerism into an economic powerhouse? The killing fields in our communities will change because of our efforts.The systemic poisons designed to kill us must be quarantined. We must work, position ourselves and be ready, and when we trust and allow God to then do what we can’t, we will see the conceptual valuation of a Black life become much more precious and respected.