I can remember being in college, looking around at the eclectic group of people joined together to learn from a single professor, and thinking that perhaps we were finally getting to a point where we could stop focusing on our differences and start realizing just how much we have in common. It wasn’t until I was riding around San Diego with a very dear friend who happens to be black and drive a BMW, being tailed by a cop for miles and miles that I realized just how wrong I was. And it wasn’t until much later that I realized how flawed my melting pot fantasy was to begin with.
We are not post-race. Unsurprising, the people who argue that we are always seem to belong to a homogenized brand of white. I am not Trayvon Martin. There are struggles I will never face simply because I was born with less pigment to my skin. For the most part, I can trust that if I am wronged the police would be on my side. If I decided to take up drugs recreationally, I am not likely to see any jail time for it. The probability that I would be stopped walking down the street and frisked is pretty slim.
And I am not his mother. I will never have to worry that my child will be walking home from a Skittle run and not make it back because of the clothes they are wearing or some misinformed idea of physical indicators existing to separate the inherently good from the inherently bad. If my child were shot in cold blood, I would not have to live through seeing the perpetrator of that crime walk out of a court room of their own volition, free to commit their next murder without fear of repercussion. No mother should have to.
When the Zimmerman not guilty verdict came in I was actually shocked and in that moment I realized my own naiveté. Facebook blew up with a hundred statuses, many of which made me seek out my unfriend button immediately. At first, I cried, I wept for a boy who would never see the other side of high school not because he was a troubled student but because someone felt they had the right to shoot him. I wept for his parents who would never again ground him for missing curfew or sit across from him at dinner. And then I was angry. I wanted to riot. I wanted to break things and make people listen. I was angry at all the people who seemed to feel that the result of this trial was acceptable. I was livid that a group of women who would probably clutch their purses closer had they encountered Trayvon on a street corner said it was justified. If he had been doing something illegal, then he should have been arrested and received as fair a trial as our society can manage. Instead he was given a jury of one man with a gun, who saw his clothes and his skin as a threat to our society. Who pursued him, questioned his right to be in his own neighborhood and then shot him when the unarmed boy acted out of alarm. There is nothing justifiable about it. The truth is had Trayvon been white, Zimmerman wouldn’t have followed him because he never would have seen him as a risk to his predominately white neighborhood. If this isn’t a testament to how much we need to reevaluate our values and how our society is structured, I’m not sure there is anything that ever will.
When are we going to realize that race is social construct? Yes, culture has spawned from it. Rich with variety and worth and perhaps that is it’s only benefit. Instead of melting together we should realized the worth everyone has because they are human. We should relish in diversity and celebrate just how vibrant the world could be because of it, if we learned to see it as the immeasurable asset it really is. Think of what we could be if we stopped shooting each other and started listening and making connections.
Until then, we need to keep having open honest conversations. We need to seek change. We need to open ourselves up to the possibilities of an America that comes together as people instead of segregating ourselves out of ignorance, fear and and hate. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to keep writing about the social issues that plague us and keep us from actualizing our potential. I’m going to raise my daughter in a community of good people who are aware and open-minded. And I’m going to march. I’m not Trayvon Martin and until no one else has to suffer his fate, I will be making too much noise to be ignored.
Photo credit: We Are Not Trayvon