Tag Archives: George Zimmerman

An Elegy for Fairness: Jordan Davis, Defiance, and White Entitlement

jordan davis

This may not even be an essay. Already it feels more like an elegy—not just for Jordan Davis, or Trayvon Martin, or their parents, whose black sons’ lives have so little value in the eyes of the American justice system. This feels like an elegy for fairness: a lament read at the funeral of “right” and “good” and “humane.”

Because these things must be dead. I struggle to find proof that they’re living. George Zimmerman invades our daily consciousness, his arrogance taking up more and more space as the likes of CNN, who apparently know no shame, offer him an interview to tell “his side of the story.” I know what story he’ll tell: it’s the same story that Michael Dunn has been telling. The one where an adult man can claim to have been afraid of a 17-year old kid and everyone will nod sagely and understand because that kid was black. We know that the reverse of this would be seen as silly. What if an adult black man had shot and killed a 17-year old white boy for playing his rock music too loud, claiming it made him afraid? Everyone would smirk. Black men are tough, the racist narrative goes. Tough. “Thugs.” What does a black man have to be afraid of?

Everything, I would say. Everything. Just read the headlines.

A black man need not only fear a car accident, like any other human being, but he must also fear being shot while asking for help, as we saw with Jonathan Ferrell. The same goes for black women—the family of Renisha McBride will tell you.

Elegies have been written for these families, their lost children. But I am writing an elegy for fairness, for what their deaths mean, because they mean more than funerals. They mean more than black veils and sad songs. Their deaths mean our death, a collective slow withering of the soul. We are a country where a man can be convicted of the lives he attempted to take, but not the one he did take. We are a country where a man can shoot ten rounds into a car of teenagers, then go home, order pizza, take a nap—and face no justice. And in this we are dying. In this our humanity crumbles. We made these laws. We enforce these laws.

And with these laws, we tell black children that white men can murder them for any reason at all. The mythical laws of respectability do not apply. A black child can have one parent or two. A black child can wear a hoodie or a blouse. A black child can have trouble with the law or no history of arrest. Living in this country, I have learned the equation, seen the common denominator: blackness, and only that, is what links these victims together. It is not the music, or the hat, or the pants, or the name. It is the skin, and the emotions it incites.

I say “emotions” instead of “fear” intentionally, for it was not fear that caused Michael Dunn to get out of his car and fire his gun ten times. It was anger.

“You’re not going to talk to me that way!” Dunn yelled at Jordan Davis and his friends, according to witness testimony. And with those words, America’s racism rears up in my vision: a white man demanding that black youths respect and obey him. When they would not—for they were under no obligation to do so—he tried to kill them. He did kill one. “You’re not going to talk to me that way” reminds me acutely of America’s not so distant past, in which black Americans were warned to never “sass” a white person. “Don’t talk back,” as if every white man everywhere is an authority figure based on the sheer fact of his whiteness. Mr. Dunn can talk all he wants about imaginary guns he thought he saw that never appeared, but the fact of the matter is this: Michael Dunn was angry, and in his anger—his anger at being defied—he took a life.

Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman, aside from being murderers, have something else in common: a terrifying sense of entitlement that tells them black boys like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis are interlopers. Strangers. Outsiders. Others. The Michael Dunns of the world believe that black boys’ music, their clothes, their language, their skin, do not belong, and are subject to white dictation at any time. It’s their inherited white supremacy that tells them black boys “are not going to talk to [them] that way.” It’s been often said, and I will say it again: this mentality is distinctly similar to Jim Crow and apartheid laws, where free black people were still expected to comply with and obey white expectations at any given time. Noncompliance meant death. Means death. Now. For noncompliance meant the death of both Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis.

We are a nation that kills black boys. We are a nation where being black—and nothing more; your blackness alone—is an act of defiance. What if Jordan Davis had turned his music down and said “Yes, sir” the way the Michael Dunns of the world fantasize? Would it have changed his fate? Perhaps. But it also would have contributed to the belief of a man that his whiteness means authority; that his whiteness means obey; that his whiteness means be silent, don’t speak, you are an Other. Jordan Davis is dead because he would not comply. His parents weep because he would not comply. And the worst part is, he didn’t have to. Jordan Davis, a black youth, did not have to comply with the wishes of a white man. The jury would not convict Dunn on the count of murder because somewhere in their minds they believed that Davis violated the unspoken rule of white supremacy and black inferiority.

Other black children will die as long as white supremacy reigns, as it surely does, but what are the alternatives? How do parents of black children protect their babies? By telling them to be silent before white people? Don’t talk back to white people? Keep your music low. Keep your head down.

Surely not. To do so would mean stepping backward into Jim Crow. It would mean further sending the message of second-class citizenship, in which white children can live free from the burden of racism while black children grow up stunted and afraid. It’s not fair. And that’s why this is an elegy. Because fairness is dead.

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10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Watch the George Zimmerman Boxing Match

george zimmerman boxing match

I write this on February 5th, Trayvon Martin’s birthday, and despite all the things I would like to say to that young man, I’m going to say this one thing to you: don’t you dare watch the George Zimmerman “celebrity” boxing match.

The word “celebrity” comes from the word “celebrate.” When we celebrate people’s accomplishments we call them celebrities. Ask yourself right now: Do I celebrate what George Zimmerman has done? If the answer is no—and it damn well better be—then you should already know that watching this match violates the memory of a 17-year old boy whose life was taken violently and unjustly. But in case you need a few reasons why, I’ll provide you with some here.

  1. Watching this spectacle financially supports a man who gained notoriety by murdering a black boy. Let me phrase that another way: the man who got away with murdering a 17-year old will get your money if you watch him on TV. You will be financially supporting George Zimmerman, the man who murdered Trayvon Martin.
  2. Watching this spectacle will ensure we continue to see Zimmerman’s face until the end of time. Do you think the media will rest at one match? No. As long as there is green in the udder of the cash cow, they will milk it. One boxing match becomes another boxing match becomes more television exposure becomes a reality show. You know how it is. Do you want to see George Zimmerman on TV for the rest of your life? No? Then do not watch this match.
  3. You will be financially supporting George Zimmerman, the man who murdered Trayvon Martin.
  4. The match is being promoted by Damon Feldman, a guy who was charged with fixing celebrity boxing matches and promoting without a license. Do you really want to watch George Zimmerman win with a loaded deck? Again?
  5. You will be financially supporting George Zimmerman, the man who murdered Trayvon Martin.
  6. You are going to make yourself crazy. Every time I see Zimmerman’s face on TV or on the internet, I feel a little piece of my sanity start to burn. He is alive. Trayvon is dead. Zimmerman loses in the ring. Trayvon will still be dead, and Zimmerman will be even richer than he already is after all those donations from what I can only assume are members of Stormfront. The boxing match will change nothing. Not even for us, who would watch hoping for some twisted version of justice. We will not get it.
  7. You will be financially supporting George Zimmerman, the man who murdered Trayvon Martin.
  8. By turning on something called a “celebrity boxing match” that features George Zimmerman, you are implicitly agreeing with the media’s soulless categorization of Zimmerman as a celebrity. Your own soul will suffer.
  9. You will be financially supporting George Zimmerman, the man who murdered Trayvon Martin.
  10. And ten. This is the most important point. By watching this boxing match, by giving in to the notion that George Zimmerman is indeed a celebrity, you are accepting the subtle message that what Zimmerman did does deserve to be celebrated. By resting your eyes on the program for one moment, you are accepting that black boys who are murdered before their 18th birthdays don’t deserve justice at all, that their murderers should be allowed to profit from their crimes. By allowing George Zimmerman onto your television screen, you are contributing to a world in which the death of a black boy is one soulless scene in a shiny reality show; one meaningless event on a path to fame and fortune.

While Trayvon Martin is in his grave, George Zimmerman will be smiling for the camera. My greatest wish is that he will find himself there alone: the cameras unmanned, the opposing corner empty, the audience nonexistent: just roaches crawling in the stands waiting for popcorn that will never fall. My greatest wish is that, while Trayvon Martin is in his grave but wrapped in the love of all who preserve his memory, George Zimmerman will be alone in this world…wrapped in nothing.

Do not wrap him. Not even in your hate. Do not give his pockets a single penny. Turn your back on this spectacle, and turn your back on George Zimmerman. It’s all that he deserves.

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One White Woman Looking At Another White Woman

trayvon

I have been angry for days. For those of you who follow me on Twitter or know me personally, this comes as no surprise. But this has not been my usual anger––the daily anger that is generally bubbling under the surface as a result of reading the news, reading comments by trolls, witnessing and experiencing microaggressions, battling internet racists, etc.––but a tight wire in my heart that has been clanging since the verdict was read, since 5 white and 1 Hispanic woman in Florida found George Zimmerman not guilty after he stalked and murdered a boy of seventeen.

I watched every second of the trial. I seethed at Don West. I cringed at the 911 tapes. I cheered for Rachel Jeantel. And the whole time I felt my hope struggling with my pessimism, heard myself say “These bastards will probably let him walk,” while being conscious that I was saying this in an effort not to get my hopes too high. But they were high. Even in the face of grossly unjust convictions like Marissa Alexander’s, I thought, “There’s just no way. They can’t. Not this time.”

But they did. They let him walk, and are even giving him the gun back, the one he used to take the life of an innocent black boy. A bloody souvenir.

In the days since, I have engaged in vicious debates, some with people I formerly respected. One in particular stands out in my mind: a white man told me that we shouldn’t be angry at the jury or vilify them: we should be angry at the laws that “forced their hand” to acquit. Out of all the debates I’ve had, this is the one that irks me the most.

Yes, the laws need to be changed. Stand Your Ground needs to be smashed. But you know what else needs to be smashed? The racist ideologies that cling to the hearts of white Americans, proven by the fact that Don West could enter a trial with the strategy of “Scare the white ladies with tales of a big bad black thug” and succeed; proven by the fact that Trayvon Martin, in death, was on trial for his own murder; proven by the fact that white Zimmerman defenders have said over and over that Trayvon should have identified himself (Freedom Papers?); proven by the fact that despite our teaching our children to run away from suspicious adults who might mean them harm, Trayvon Martin was somehow wrong wrong wrong for trying to protect his own life.

During the trial, there was speculation that the jury would convict because all of them were mothers. Although white, it was said, these women have children of their own and would see through Zimmerman’s elaborate circus of lies in the pursuit of justice for a child. Those speculations were wrong. I have quoted a poem by Ai many times in my ongoing fight for equality, and I’ll do so again here:

 

“what can I say, except that I’ve heard

the poor have no children, just small people”

 

This is how these jurors—and, indeed, much of White America—see black Americans. How could this jury of 6 non-black women see Trayvon Martin as a child, when to their eyes he was a man? And not just a man: a black man. A dangerous man. A threat. A pestilence. A thug.

Last night I listened to Juror B37 during her CNN interview, her face in shadow, while she said “them” and “they” and “sorry” and “Georgie.” I listened to her implications of Rachel Jeantel’s inferiority and her disgraceful deference for George Zimmerman. And I wanted to scream. Cry. Break things. I wanted to burn the world down. She essentially admitted that he committed manslaughter, but that “his heart was in the right place.” In these words I heard her complicity with the murder of black children in Florida and everywhere. However terrible Zimmerman’s actions, his heart was in the right place. Why? Because a black child is dead. And how could that be wrong?

This is what we’re up against. By we I mean everyone who believes that justice was not carried out; who believes that black children matter; who believes black lives matter; who believes as long as people like Juror B37 exist, our work is not done.

There are many problems with this case, with Florida, with the United States, with this world that puts blackness on par with ugliness, danger, and ignorance. But of those problems, which one glares at me, twanging the wire in my heart? Whiteness. Whiteness and its lack of empathy, its refusal to take responsibility, its ego. Its inability to see a black boy as a black boy, to equate that black boy and his marijuana with your own white son and the pot you know is in his backpack. Whiteness and its refusal to sit down, shut up, listen, help. Whiteness and its blindness; its stuffy, raging defenses and finger-pointing. Whiteness and those—like B37—who wield it as a shield, then, behind that shield, attempt to write books and profit off a death that you blocked justice for.

We shouldn’t be angry at the jury? I am angry. I am one white woman looking at another white woman, who—along with her peers—saw a black child’s death laid out before her and chose to turn her back. I am not turning my back. Not on Trayvon. Not on Michael Griffith. Not on Marissa Alexander. Not on Jordan Davis. Not on Emmett Till. I empathize. I organize. I’m angry.

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poem for Trayvon Martin and other dead brown boys

trayvonmartin

George Zimmerman’s trial begins today. I thought it appropriate to post the poem that I wrote last year after Trayvon’s murder. I am praying for justice.

poem for Trayvon Martin and other dead brown boys

The delight of the airplane

is what sticks in my eye:

 

ground-bound, but the sky

is a butterfly you’re cupping

in your palms.

 

Just a few more beats

of heart and wing

and you could have been

in the blue, arms or engine

pumping.

 

I want us all to live

in your eyes:

 

to see how

in one breath

a boy can be

dreaming

and in the next

be a leaf

 

fluttering

carried away

 

red,

then gray,

then gone.

 

 

.

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