The Million Hoodie March in protest of the death of Trayvon Martin was today, so it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the injustice of his death.
The details of Trayvon’s death are simple: Trayvon Martin, carrying Skittles and an ice tea for his little brother, walked to his father’s house in a suburban Florida neighborhood. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, thought he was suspicious and called 911; the dispatcher told him that police were coming and not to pursue. Martin was found, unresponsive and unarmed. Zimmerman, claiming that he was defending himself against an unarmed teenager with his semiautomatic handgun, has not been charged with a crime.
Picture from the Million Hoodie March: a young black boy with a sign that says “Am I Next?”
This is the sort of world we live in. The kind of world in which a kid, a seventeen-year-old kid, a good student, someone who is planning on going to college and becoming an aviation mechanic, can be shot and killed for going to buy candy at a 7-11.
Because he’s black. Because a black boy walking alone isn’t just a kid out to get candy. He’s “suspicious.” He’s “up to no good.” He’s “on drugs.” He’s a “young black man who appears to be an outsider,” whom are definitely the sort of people we have to be on the lookout for, because we know that all black men are criminals. Clearly.
I grew up in Florida too; I know people who went to Trayvon’s high school. But I can go buy candy without fearing for my life, simply because of the color of my skin. You want privilege? That’s privilege. The sure knowledge that I’m not taking my life into my hands by walking outside. That should not be something that I should feel lucky for. That should not be fucking special.
Sean Hannity wants to know if the Trayvon Martin killing was just a “horrible accident.” NO. Trayvon was not asking to be murdered by his refusal to cooperate; even if Zimmerman were a police officer, he shouldn’t have killed Trayvon for simple refusal to cooperate, but he wasn’t a fucking police officer. If you see a strange person following you, and it turns out he has a gun, guess what? You’re going to not answer their questions, and you’re going to run the fuck away. That is normal human person behavior. That is not a fucking death-penalty offense.
The death of Trayvon Martin is only the most extreme example of the endless oppression of black men within the American criminal justice system. From stop and frisk to driving while black, from mall security guards that assume that black boys are thieves to the prison-industrial complex, black men are endlessly assumed to be criminals, to be drug addicts, to be violent, simply because of their skin color.
And when racism comes to its natural conclusion and ends in the death of an innocent black boy… well. The police are automatically biased in favor of the non-black shooter instead of the black corpse. Witnesses reported that the police were biased in favor of Zimmerman; the police assume that it was self-defense. Dude, in America we have these things called “trials.” If it were truly self-defense, then Zimmerman can present the evidence about such in his trial. Since there are tons of questions about whether “a high school student with no criminal record decides to attack a dude for no reason” is more plausible than “a racist fuckhead assumes a black boy is criminal,” you can let the jury decide. That is what they are for.
But, man, it’s just a black kid. Who cares when a black boy dies?
Not racist America. Black men are ultimately disposable. Black men don’t deserve safety, or security, or justice. As a culture, we don’t care about black men. But, as radical as it may seem to racist fuckheads like Zimmerman and his defenders, black men are human beings. The security of white people from the imaginary threat of young black men who are outsiders is trumped by the security of black people from actual people with actual guns actually attempting to murder them.
That phrase “young black men who are outsiders,” which Zimmerman apparently used as a Neighborhood Watch leader to describe the sort of people good (read: white) people ought to watch out for, is striking to me. Because in our society black men are, all too often, outsiders. They are the racialized Other. They don’t have the same basic human rights– to, for instance, not be murdered. Forever a threat, forever suspicious, forever a suspect, continually having to prove that they are not criminals just because of their melanin content.
Right now, across the country, millions of black parents are tucking their sons in and wondering if their child is next. Right now, black parents are sitting their sons down to tell them how to interact with police and with men with guns, and that if they do anything that even begins to look like they might attack they risk finding themselves dead.
Fuck. That. Shit.