What I Hope For. . .

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin

Today, February 5, 2014, would have been Trayvon Martin’s 19th birthday. To honor his life, which was so brutally and tragically cut short, I am reposting my blog from July 11, 2014, written after listening to testimony during the George Zimmerman trial.

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On Wednesday the defense rested in the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager who was walking home from a convenience store, in 2012. Some time in the near future, we will find out whether the jury was convinced by Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.

As this trial comes to a close, I am still thinking about the testimony of Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, last week on July 5. I admired her courage on the stand, and I felt agony when I heard the 911-recording, in which there is a scream and then a gunshot. When she identified that scream as being her son’s voice, I’m sure she was “dying inside but outside [she was] looking fearless.”

When it was the defense attorney’s turn to question Fulton, he had an odd line of questioning about “hope.” The defense tried to shake her resolve by asking, “You certainly had to hope that was your son screaming even before you heard it. Correct?” She replied, “I didn’t hope anything. I just listened to the tape.” Then later in re-cross, the defense asked, “You certainly would hope that your son Trayvon Martin did nothing that led to his own death. Correct?” After some wrangling she said, “What I hope for is that this wouldn’t have never happened, and he would still be here. That’s my hope.”

She handled herself beautifully against the defense’s implication that her “hope” might have influenced her response to the 911-recording, that she was more interested in getting a conviction than hearing the “truth” about her son. The defense’s “truth” is that the unarmed teenager was the aggressor, and Zimmerman shot him in self-defense.

Unfortunately and tragically, there are many other cases in which young black men have been targeted because they fit the profile of a “suspect,” because they were in a places they didn’t “belong,” because they were playing loud music, or some other equally inane justification. I have been to the building where Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old West African immigrant, was killed by New York City police officers (wearing plain clothes) in 1999. Diallo fit the profile of a rape suspect. When reaching for his wallet, the officers assumed he was reaching for a gun and fired 19 bullets into his body.

Amadou Diallo Place, The Bronx, New York

Amadou Diallo Place, The Bronx, New York

I have stood under the street sign (Wheeler Avenue in the Bronx) named in honor of Amadou Diallo. Will there be a street sign with Trayvon Martin’s name on it one day?  “What I hope for” is that there won’t be any more street signs like “Amadou Diallo Place.” I don’t want to see memorials to young black men whose lives were cut down before they really began, signs in memoriam of short lives with tragic ends instead of long lives and great accomplishments.

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Keep Calm: Thoughts on the Aftermath of the Zimmerman Verdict

2 Dope Sistahs

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”–James Baldwin

As the trial of George Zimmerman came to an end, I began to hear a troubling refrain, keepcalm“keep calm.” In anticipation of a “not guilty” verdict, those who might be upset by the verdict were implicitly and explicitly asked to abstain from violence.

Perhaps, it is understandable that authorities in Sanford, Florida, where both the shooting and the trial took place, feared the reaction of the crowd outside the courthouse. The Sanford police chief and the Seminole County sheriff made a joint appearance and issued a statement. Sheriff Don Eslinger declared, “We will not tolerate anyone who uses this verdict as an excuse to violate the law.”

However, the pleas for calm were not only from Seminole County. The Kansas City Star (Missouri) reported that both the mayor and the police…

View original post 318 more words

Keep Calm: Thoughts on the Aftermath of the Zimmerman Verdict

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”–James Baldwin

As the trial of George Zimmerman came to an end, I began to hear a troubling refrain, keepcalm“keep calm.” In anticipation of a “not guilty” verdict, those who might be upset by the verdict were implicitly and explicitly asked to abstain from violence.

Perhaps, it is understandable that authorities in Sanford, Florida, where both the shooting and the trial took place, feared the reaction of the crowd outside the courthouse. The Sanford police chief and the Seminole County sheriff made a joint appearance and issued a statement. Sheriff Don Eslinger declared, “We will not tolerate anyone who uses this verdict as an excuse to violate the law.”

However, the pleas for calm were not only from Seminole County. The Kansas City Star (Missouri) reported that both the mayor and the police chief wrote blogs in which they urged the public to “remain calm” and “work together to quell any disturbances.” In fact, it seemed as if the whole country was getting an admonishment when President Obama issued a statement the day after the trial. He asked Americans to engage in “calm reflection,” emphasizing that “we are a nation of laws” and that “we” must respect the jury’s verdict.

But I knew that this was a very specific message to black communities when I read the tweets from civil rights activist and Rainbow/PUSH founder, Rev. Jesse Jackson. In tweets from July 12 through 14, he urged people to “avoid violence” because it would only “compound our pain with street justice.” A tweet from Howard Rambsy II, director of Black Studies at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, confirmed that I was on the right track with my analysis. On July 14, he wrote, “From the African American Leader Handbook, Rule #1: Tell black people to remain calm. Rule #2: See Rule #1.”

I was angered, though not surprised, by the verdict. There is nothing wrong with being angry, being outraged even. Trayvon Benjamin Martin, a teenager who took a walk to a convenience store, was targeted for “walking while black” and is now dead. The person who killed him was acquitted. Shouldn’t I/we be angry at this pointless violence and loss of life. After he was killed, people raised their voices in protest, organized, marched, petitioned and wrote to keep the memory of Martin alive and demand justice. Many African Americans could relate to this case because they or someone they knew had been pulled over, stopped, frisked, or questioned by “authorities” when simply minding their own business. Thus, a guilty verdict was not only important for Trayvon Martin’s family but also for the larger black community by extension. The paternalistic advice to “keep calm” plays into stereotypes of African-Americans as the likely perpetrators of violence. Now, isn’t that racial profiling?

What I Hope For. . .

2 Dope Sistahs

On Wednesday the defense rested in the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager who was walking home from a convenience store, in 2012. Some time in the near future, we will find out whether the jury was convinced by Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.

As this trial comes to a close, I am still thinking about the testimony of Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, last week on July 5. I admired her courage on the stand, and I felt agony when I heard the 911-recording, in which there is a scream and then a gunshot. When she identified that scream as being her son’s voice, I’m sure she was “dying inside but outside [she was] looking fearless.”

When it was the defense attorney’s turn to question Fulton, he had an odd line of questioning about “hope.” The defense tried to shake her resolve…

View original post 303 more words

What I Hope For. . .

DialloPlace2

Amadou Diallo Place, The Bronx

On Wednesday the defense rested in the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager who was walking home from a convenience store, in 2012. Some time in the near future, we will find out whether the jury was convinced by Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.

As this trial comes to a close, I am still thinking about the testimony of Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, last week on July 5. I admired her courage on the stand, and I felt agony when I heard the 911-recording, in which there is a scream and then a gunshot. When she identified that scream as being her son’s voice, I’m sure she was “dying inside but outside [she was] looking fearless.”

When it was the defense attorney’s turn to question Fulton, he had an odd line of questioning about “hope.” The defense tried to shake her resolve by asking, “You certainly had to hope that was your son screaming even before you heard it. Correct?” She replied, “I didn’t hope anything. I just listened to the tape.” Then later in re-cross, the defense asked, “You certainly would hope that your son Trayvon Martin did nothing that led to his own death. Correct?” After some wrangling she said, “What I hope for is that this wouldn’t have never happened, and he would still be here. That’s my hope.”

She handled herself beautifully against the defense’s implication that her “hope” might have influenced her response to the 911-recording, that she was more interested in getting a conviction than hearing the “truth” about her son. The defense’s “truth” is that the unarmed teenager was the aggressor, and Zimmerman shot him in self-defense.

Unfortunately and tragically, there are many other cases in which young black men have been targeted because they fit the profile of a “suspect,” because they were in a places they didn’t “belong,” because they were playing loud music, or some other equally inane justification. I have been to the building where Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old West African immigrant, was killed by New York City police officers (wearing plain clothes) in 1999. Diallo fit the profile of a rape suspect. When reaching for his wallet, the officers assumed he was reaching for a gun and fired 19 bullets into his body.

I have stood under the street sign (Wheeler Avenue in the Bronx) named in honor of Amadou Diallo. Will there be a street sign with Trayvon Martin’s name on it one day?  “What I hope for” is that there won’t be any more street signs like “Amadou Diallo Place.” I don’t want to see memorials to young black men whose lives were cut down before they really began, signs in memoriam of short lives with tragic ends instead of long lives and great accomplishments.