I couldn’t watch the George Zimmerman trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin for more than 10 minutes at a time. The pain was too acute. The trial was such a mockery of everything that we are told to believe the “justice” system is supposed to be. I couldn’t bear to listen to the “balanced” coverage discuss how it’s about race and also not about race.
To see exactly how the system is rigged was simply too much.
And yet, there was a split second last night right between the time the judge asked the jury if they had a verdict and the moment that the verdict was read that I thought that George Zimmerman would be convicted of murdering Trayvon Martin.
A split second.
That is it. That is all. That is how long black men and black women get to have any hope that their lives matter. That this nation has truly progressed as much as everyone constantly says it has. That is all we get.
It wasn’t one of those moments that felt paradoxically long. It was so short that it actually feels like maybe I didn’t really even have that hope. How could I?
And in the next second I didn’t burst into tears. There was a profound sadness though. One that filled me up immediately and made me strangely calm. It’s a sadness rooted in what I know is a deep seated anger that has been with me from the first time I realized that this nation views me as a nigger.
I felt it when my 7th grade math teacher told me I couldn’t do Algebra and tried to put me in her basic math class. I felt it when I had to raise my hand to tell my 9th grade social studies teacher that our history book’s one paragraph about the Black Panthers was a lie and became all too aware of my status as the only black kid in the class. I felt it every time the working class whites I went to high school with called me “Ethiope” because I was tall and skinny and black. And again when my vice principal told me I only got into a good college because of affirmative action. And, yes, again the first time I was pulled over by a policeman when I was 19 driving from New York to New Jersey and forced to explain where I got the used Toyota Camry I was driving. I felt it every time I tried in vain to get the teachers of three black boys I mentored to work just a little bit harder to teach them instead of suspending them when they just didn’t want to deal with them. And I felt it over the last couple weeks as I watched our nation systematically accelerate the end of the Second Reconstruction my ancestors bled, struggled and died for.
There’s been a lot of talk about the dignity and class of the Martin family throughout this ordeal. How they are remarkable and gracious and have put so much faith in a country that had every intention of spitting right in their face. And I get it. I admire it. But I’m Angela Davis.
I talk a lot about race and injustice and how sick this nation is on this blog. The words lack power right now. They are like air. I know that there is so much work to do to dismantle our white supremacist capitalist patriarchal criminal “justice” system. But all I can think about is what my nephew and niece are going to have to deal with as they attempt to grow up in this cruel, hostile, racist, unjust world. What are the black boys I mentor thinking right now?
I don’t know if writing this honors Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Kimani Gray, Sakia Gunn, Amadou Diallo, Wendell Allen, Ramarley Graham, Timothy Stansbury Jr., Jordan Davis, Sean Bell, Rekia Boyd, Aiyana Jones, Troy Davis and the countless black men murdered by the state, Emmett Till and the countless men lynched for simply being, or any young black man or black woman who dies too young in a nation too indifferent to the losses. But it’s what I got right now. Tomorrow’s another day.
I haven’t yet cried. Maybe, soon.
For all the black boys and black girls this nation has no love, no justice, no hope for: