I have a pair of two year old nephews and I had the opportunity to see one of them this past weekend. Whenever I see them I can see the joy and wonder of life in their eyes. And since I’m on Team Estrogen it’s always nice to be around rambunctious boys once in a while. This weekend, however, was different. My nephew was his usual energetic self but in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial I was more worried about my nephews than ever. I don’t know what path my nephews will take in life but it frightens me to think they could be simply walking down the street and murdered because somebody felt “threatened.”
As a teen I was stopped several times for simply being a black teen driving in some of the DC area’s more tony neighborhoods. As cynical as I can be about society, I also held out the hope that twenty something years later authority figures (whether real or self-proclaimed) would not still treat young black men as the enemy. The frustrating fact of the Zimmerman trial is black youth are still targets.
Treating a young black male as the enemy is precisely what George Zimmerman was able to do. George claims he felt threatened and we now know Travyon Martin was armed and dangerous due to his proximity to the sidewalk. (Zimmerman’s lawyers suggested the sidewalk, in Trayvon’s hands, was a deadly weapon then Zimmerman’s brother repeated this asinine claim in a post-trial interview. Only in America is a sidewalk in the proximity of a young black male considered a more deadly weapon than a gun.)
Based on his non-emergency call, Zimmerman immediately projected Trayvon as a neighborhood menace. Zimmerman’s history of calls to the police to report young black man in his neighborhood and his statement, “these assholes always, they get away…” pretty much tells you his mind state that night. The question that reverberated in my head as my nephew bounced through my brother’s house was; how do we change that mind state? Is it even possible?
Some folks will argue, as Zimmerman’s brother and his attorneys (What was with those guys anyway? Their post-trial victory celebration interview was disturbing. They kept referring to the tragedy of Zimmerman being charged with a crime in this situation. They only begrudgingly mentioned Trayvon and attempted to subtly destroy his character. Would it have killed them to extend sympathy to Martin’s family?) alluded to in their post-trial interviews, that crime is a major problem in the black community especially among young black men. Yes, crime in black communities is a horrible problem but that in no way justifies treating each and every young black male as suspect. Black men should not be considered criminals for the offense of simply existing.
The sad fact is a 17 year old boy lost his life. A mother and father had to bury their son. George Zimmerman is free to lead his life. I’m not sure of the path and I wish had the answers for what actions to take. However, if we don’t do something now this set of facts will replay themselves. If we don’t confront the mind state behind racial profiling we all lose. Little black boys are confined to a permanent legal underclass and society surrenders to its most irrational fears.