Some days you will never forget. Your sixteenth birthday. Prom. Your first crush. All of the moments that we’re taught to remember. Then there are days that you wish that you could forget. Ones that you feel like should have never ever happened. The day that George Zimmerman, a Sanford, Florida neighborhood watch captain who fatally shot Trayvon Martin walked free was one of them.
It was a Saturday. July 13th to be exact. We, Black America and its supporters, had been anxiously awaiting the verdict for quite some time. I didn’t think that they would hand it down on a weekend, but they did. I was gathered with friends at my apartment. It was the summer, and we usually got together at someone’s house once a week for dinner and drinks. We had discussed the case earlier that evening, with me saying that they absolutely had to give the man something, but not expecting much from the land of the free’s justice system. When the verdict came down around 9:15 p.m. that evening, we were good and tipsy and had moved passed the Trayvon Martin case for the time being. My friend received an alert to her phone and it was as if time had temporarily stopped for all of us. On one side of the room, two of my friends mourned. They placed their heads in their laps and silently wept. On the other side, where I was, we were angry. Because I had been drinking, my emotions were heightened. I cried. I screamed. I beat on things. The fact that they were shooting outside of my apartment complex didn’t help much.
The compilation of events, the news, the alcohol, the gunshots sent me into a world of madness. I was ready to fight. In many ways, ready to kill. But instead, I simply felt defeated. Let down once again by the powers that be. How can you NOT give the man something?! I thought. At least 10 years, it’s not nearly enough, but something. Something to validate that black lives matter. Time served to show that we ARE NOT disposable. But…we got nothing.
Instead, the months following the verdict were something like a damn freak show. Each and every headline just about turned Zimmerman into a spectacle. From the allegations of abuse by his then-girlfriend, to the ridiculous celebrity boxing match, this man was capitalizing off of his new-found “fame.” In many ways, that was even more sickening than the verdict itself. Not only was the life of a young black male tragically cut short, but his killer is now a f***ing celebrity?! Really makes you wonder where blacks, particularly black youth, stand on America’s list of priorities.
As I reflect on the verdict, I can’t say that things have gotten better for blacks since last year. Next week, Renisha McBride’s killer Ted Wafer is expected to take the stand. He gunned down the 19-year-old black woman as she sought help after a car wreck. Like Zimmerman, he is also claiming self defense. Just a few months ago, 17-year-old Jordan Davis’ killer Michael Dunn was convicted of everything but the murder of Davis, despite firing at least 10 rounds into a vehicle occupied by the Florida teen and his friends.
The work of young black activists is critical in changing the way that people of color are treated in America. Racism may not come in the form of hooded white men on horses anymore, but it is very much alive and well.