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Pass The Mic: Black Men in the Wake of the Zimmerman Trial

It’s exhausting to keep thinking, talking and reading about this trial.

It’s exhausting to feel this sad, this intensely — to have any sign of relief get crushed by another relentless stream of events that only illuminate how deep we’ve actually dug.  Each peaceful protest in the day time is followed by a night of copter surveillance and Twitter chatter over the inevitably of a riot.  This night is the always the night– until it isn’t. Until no riot comes to pass.  Morning comes and while the bean bags and rubber bullets shot by the cops may litter the streets of Los Angeles and Oakland– no riots have been waged in Trayvon’s name.

I keep hearing people say that now is the time to have a conversation on race and every time I hear it my instinct is to want to (peacefully) flick them off.  I’m tired.  Until now the best I’ve been able to manage is to retweet words said or shared by folks like Elon James White and dream hampton — what they said.  That’s how I feel.  It hurts too much to try and find new words in part because I know that regardless of how those words are strung together, someone is going to outright dismiss them. Zimmerman’s lawyer Mark O’mara preemptively did so– questioning why folks were up in arms before I had a chance to finish wiping my fucking tears. The message is the same. You don’t matter. You will never matter…

Why is that George Zimmerman need not face any actual danger to warrant the use of deadly force– and yet I can wake up to the existence of perpetual danger and still be expected to keep my mouth shut.

That’s not going to happen.

At a loss for words, and in an attempt to find any sort of momentary catharsis or relief– I’ve been scouring the web for anything that feels real.  In the process, I came across a Tumblr that sincerely moved me. Under the banner; “I Am Not Trayvon Martin” — post after post, individuals eloquently and brutally examined their privilege. [cont’d.]

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Pass The Mic: Black Men in the Wake of the Zimmerman Trial

It’s exhausting to keep thinking, talking and reading about this trial.

It’s exhausting to feel this sad, this intensely — to have any sign of relief get crushed by another relentless stream of events that only illuminate how deep we’ve actually dug.  Each peaceful protest in the day time is followed by a night of copter surveillance and Twitter chatter over the inevitably of a riot.  This night is the always the night– until it isn’t. Until no riot comes to pass.  Morning comes and while the bean bags and rubber bullets shot by the cops may litter the streets of Los Angeles and Oakland– no riots have been waged in Trayvon’s name.

I keep hearing people say that now is the time to have a conversation on race and every time I hear it my instinct is to want to (peacefully) flick them off.  I’m tired.  Until now the best I’ve been able to manage is to retweet words said or shared by folks like Elon James White and dream hampton — what they said.  That’s how I feel.  It hurts too much to try and find new words in part because I know that regardless of how those words are strung together, someone is going to outright dismiss them. Zimmerman’s lawyer Mark O’mara preemptively did so– questioning why folks were up in arms before I had a chance to finish wiping my fucking tears. The message is the same. You don’t matter. You will never matter…

Why is that George Zimmerman need not face any actual danger to warrant the use of deadly force– and yet I can wake up to the existence of perpetual danger and still be expected to keep my mouth shut.

That’s not going to happen.

At a loss for words, and in an attempt to find any sort of momentary catharsis or relief– I’ve been scouring the web for anything that feels real.  In the process, I came across a Tumblr that sincerely moved me. Under the banner; “I Am Not Trayvon Martin” — post after post, individuals eloquently and brutally examined their privilege.

It forced me to do the same.  In the early days of organizing on behalf of Justice for Trayvon, I got in an argument with an activist friend of mine over the ownership over the “I Am Trayvon” banner.  I was all for everyone jumping on the band wagon. I even ended a poem just last week with the sentiment.

I think I was afraid to make anyone feel isolated.  I’m a proponent of the concept of being radically inclusive and so it seemed like a natural extension.

But the truth is, I’m not Trayvon Martin either.

Failing to acknowledge our respective privilege leaves us ill-equipped to be real about the current state of America.

We can’t move forward if we don’t know what we’re up against.  If we haven’t lived the life of Trayvon Martin- if we’re unaware of the challenges that come with simply being born a black male –  then we are woefully ignorant of what we’re up against.

It turns out that what we’re up against can get you killed.

Saying that we’re post-racial doesn’t change that.

Acknowledging that the prosecution did a shitty job doesn’t change that either…

As reluctant as I am to want to talk about anything– I also can’t help but recognize that our only hope is in seeing our humanity in each other.

So with that I’m going to pass the mic…

Below you’ll find an assortment of art/ thoughts shared by young black men in the wake of the Zimmerman trial.  This is by no means a comprehensive list– it’s a small window into what I’ve come across and been moved by over the last few days. Please feel free to add your contributions in the comments.

These men matter.

Please, listen to them.

Stand Your Ground, Pharoahe Monch

 

Open Letter to George Zimmerman, By Alex Fraiser

“Dear George Zimmerman,

For the rest of your life you are now going to feel what its like to be a black man in America.

You will feel people stare at you. Judging you for what you think are unfair reasons. You will lose out on getting jobs for something you feel is outside of your control. You will believe yourself to be an upstanding citizen and wonder why people choose to not see that.

People will cross the street when they see you coming. They will call you hurtful names. It will drive you so insane some days that you’ll want to scream at the top of your lungs. But you will have to wake up the next day, put on firm look and push through life.

I bet you never thought that by shooting a black male you’d end up inheriting all of his struggles.

Enjoy your ‘freedom.’

Sincerely,

A black male who could’ve been Trayvon Martin”

Imagine if Tryavon Martin Killed George Zimmerman, By Jasiri X

Do you wanna know how messed up the system is?
Imagine if Trayvon killed George Zimmerman
You think Trayvon would have been found innocent?
He would have faced a lifetime of imprisonment
See Stand Your Ground only works if you’re a citizen
So that right isn’t his only whites benefit
We are not legitimate that fact is definitive
Don’t believe ask Marissa Alexander if it is
To protect herself in her own home with her kids
Fired a warning shot she got a 20 year sentencing
Now that’s ridicules but all Black are witnesses
Of the hatred in this nation that’s run by hypocrites
Would the NRA have backed Trayvon?
Would Fox news tell white folks if he gets off stay calm?
We know the truth so I won’t go no further
Cause Trayvon was found guilty of his own murder

Tryavon Martin and the Irony of American Justice, By Ta-Nehisi Coates

The injustice inherent in the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was not authored by a jury given a weak case. The jury’s performance may be the least disturbing aspect of this entire affair. The injustice was authored by a country which has taken as its policy, for the lionshare of its history, to erect a pariah class. The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is not an error in programming. It is the correct result of forces we set in motion years ago and have done very little to arrest.

The Zimmerman Jury Told Black Men What We Already Knew, By Cord Jefferson

It is a complicated thing to be young, black, and male in America. Not only are you well aware that many people are afraid of you—you can see them clutching their purses or stiffening in their subway seats when you sit across from them—you must also remain conscious of the fact that people expect you to be apologetic for their fear. It’s your job to be remorseful about the fact that your very nature makes them uncomfortable, like a pilot having to apologize to a fearful flyer for being in the sky.

#BYP100 Respond to Gerorge Zimmerman Verdict, By Black Youth Project

The Unwritten Rules, By Web Smith

Thank God that I had a daughter. She can go through life, completely ignorant of these unwritten rules. These are rules that I’ll never have to pass along to her, from my father, and his father, and so forth. But if you are of the merry few that are aware of these rules, consider this following advice. Play the game. These things matter. They should not matter but they do.

The Truth About Trayvon Martin, Ekow N. Yankah

What is reasonable to do, especially in the dark of night, is defined by preconceived social roles that paint young black men as potential criminals and predators. Black men, the narrative dictates, are dangerous, to be watched and put down at the first false move. This pain is one all black men know; putting away the tie you wear to the office means peeling off the assumption that you are owed equal respect. Mr. Martin’s hoodie struck the deepest chord because we know that daring to wear jeans and a hooded sweatshirt too often means that the police or other citizens are judged to be reasonable in fearing you.

Not Guilty? (George Zimmerman), By JusListenEnt

The Whole System Failed Trayvon Martin, Charles Blow

As a parent, particularly a parent of black teenage boys, I am left with the question, “Now, what do I tell my boys?”

We used to say not to run in public because that might be seen as suspicious, like they’d stolen something. But according to Zimmerman, Martin drew his suspicion at least in part because he was walking too slowly.

So what do I tell my boys now? At what precise pace should a black man walk to avoid suspicion?

And can they ever stop walking away, or running away, and simply stand their ground? Can they become righteously indignant without being fatally wounded?

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.