What Suspicious Looks Like; On Trayvon Martin's Senseless Death
By Erin Bella on March 19, 2012
…My body had such an intense reaction. I felt both nausea and goose bumps at the same time. How could it be that a man sees a young boy walking through his own neighborhood, candy and soda in hand, and think the boy looked suspicious? What does suspicious look like? Like Black boys? Like Black men?
…I cried. I cried for a life ended too soon. I cried for his mother. I cried for the boy who witnessed the murder. I cried for all the victims of gun violence, so often young Black boys and men. I cried because I am so tired of reading about dead Black boys. I am so tired of them killing each other and I am so tired of other people killing them.
...I thought about how my nephew's father moved his family out of my hometown for a safer (read whiter) community, how neither my sister nor I thought anyone was actually any safer out there. The threats just manifest themselves differently.
...I wanted answers. I wanted to know why George Zimmerman still walks freely among us, especially since the transcript of numerous 911 phone calls were made public today. He's a murderer. Or does this boy's life not warrant justice?
...I wondered if anyone in Florida with the authority to do something about such a flagrant disregard for human life gives a shit about this boy or if they just see him as another dead [fill in the blank].
...I wanted revenge. Who watches over our neighborhoods? Who guards our children from ineffective and corrupt police officials? Who protects us against terrorism masked under the guise of vigilantism*? How could any court in Florida or the sixteen other states with "Stand Your Ground" legislation allow vigilantes to shoot someone on the basis of the perception of "great bodily harm"? What prevents masses of white men in robes from taking to the streets with weapons to fight back against unarmed, young Black males?
...I wondered who created this kind of society where a grown ass man sitting in his car feels threatened by an adolescent Black boy. What purpose does it serves to live in a society where people fear Black men? Who benefits? What will we do to send a different and more true message? Black men are not dangerous; but the stereotype is.
...I wondered how to break the news to my nephews. Not about Trayvon Martin specifically but they need to know that their cuteness and safeness time tables will run its course. When they age anywhere between from twelve to fifteen, people will see in them what that [insert expletives] Zimmerman saw in Trayvon Martin.
...How do you tell a ten-year old who still wants to be tucked in at night, who secretly likes Adele, who's afraid to slide down the pole at the playground, who reaches out his hand to hold mine during after dinner walks that some people will see the color of his skin and wrongfully decide that he's evil?
...You don't have to lock your doors or clutch your purse or hide your daughters. You don't have to treat our sons like criminals. Not only is it heartbreaking to know the world at large is against Black boys, it's embarrassing and disgusting to teach them to be morally responsible, hard-working, respectful and compassionate individuals and in the same breath tell them what the world will truly be like for them. We already have to warn our children about the dangers of drugs and gun violence, sext messages and peer pressure; but Black boys face the additional danger of being placed in the box white America will try to lock him in. It's not fair.
...I was incensed with rage. Because what people see when they look at young Black boys does not at all reflect what I know to be true about them. When you look at someone and see a mass of stereotypes, it makes you the threat to society. It's not right. How much more do we as a people stand to lose when we're the only threat to society even though we're the ones continuously victimized?
...I wanted to write about the fears that come with loving and raising little Black boys in a society that still views them as a threat to be reckoned with through incarceration or body bags. But I couldn't stop crying.
*Because it's not vigilantism if the "suspect" didn't do anything unlawful.
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