A torrent of emotions raced through my heart and knitted knots in my stomach and formed lumps in my throat Saturday night.
I was home for the weekend from my month-long residential training in Columbia. My husband and I were taking in a poetic, lyrical, smokey, and beautiful Jazz at the Bistro concert featuring Miss Anita Jackson. Being away all week, I had spent Saturday morning and afternoon tending to the children and trying to find some pants that would fit the pounds I gained from this carb-heavy diet they are giving us. I wasn't watching the news.
Saturday evening, before he left, I told my 19 year old son to be on the lookout for anything while he was out, that I hadn't heard the verdict yet. My husband and I had just returned home and he was anxious to be with his friends from high school.
When I got home after the concert, showered and was finally able to sit down and watch the news, scrolling at the bottom of MSNBC was the news that Zimmerman got off, got away with murdering a seventeen year old (barely) boy in cold blood. That in America, in 2013, he got away with stalking, driving behind, getting out of his vehicle, confronting, wrestling, and murdering a skinny boy.
I felt like someone punched me in my gut.
My sons are 26, 24, and 19 (my angel baby would be 31). It was a mother's worse nightmare come true. I could not believe it, I sat down on my bed and called my babies to me. I called my youngest son who had just left with his classmates from highschool, all home from college. He had been watching his little sisters all week and needed to get out.
We told the sons, all of them, how to behave, taught them to be respectful and polite. Had to run through the "what to do if stopped by the police" chat. Dealt with them when their own antics caused an eyebrow to be raised. We are like other parents who are invested in their children, we poured blood, sweat, tears, and more grocery store trips that I can name, into all of our children.
No mother wants to fear the police, yet thousands of black mothers of black sons, and increasingly, black daughters, fear those whom my white friends believe are there to "Serve and Protect."
Living in the suburbs didn't save Trayvon from a vigiliante, a wanna-be cop who had more trouble with the law than that kid. That was a kid with manners, faith, and a stellar GPA. The conservative news put him on trial and continued to otherize him and play on the fears of white women. They showed the one-time rebellious stage of a younger Trayvon with the "grill" in his mouth. They did not show the one who George Zimmerman confronted, the clean-cut, innocent kid who a week before was horseback riding and hanging out with his mom. He was being a good future big step-brother when he was killed, simply running to 7-Eleven to treat his younger sibling to Skittles and an iced tea. Something my son would have don and has done for his two little sisters.
Now, we, black mothers, fear them making it home alive thanks to the NRA and their fettish with guns and crazy, racist, fearful wanna-be community watch wanna-be trigger happy cops.
I am numb, my stomach still feels like someone sucker punched me.
It was hard for me to leave my family last night to come to Columbia for training. I held them, and held them, touched their hair, hugged and kissed them. My children are my soul expression.
How can we make sense of this and how could this jury of white women, white mothers, let a child, an innocent child's murder go unpunished? Because they bought into the defense attorney's portrayal? Because of their own latent fears of the black male body? Why? Because we have a black president and in Florida, black bodies are still suspect? Why? Why did a black women who invoked the Stand Your Ground Law end up doing hard time when she fired a warning shot in the ceiling as her ex-husband was attempting to assault her after breaking into her home? Why was the white woman, chief prosecuting attorney not concerned about the child Trayvon the way she claimed to be when she brought down the book on this black woman because children where asleep in the house when she fired the shot in the ceiling? Why?
Why aren't our children just as precious as their children?
Why aren't our lives just as much of value as their lives?
It is 2013, July, we should be able to be that country where we are not fearing the white men running around with guns and their prejudices jeopardizing our lives.
True, Chicago has been happening and shocking us all. True, St. Louis has been happening. True all that senseless murder of young black men by young black men. True, the chorus has been sounding and rounding all spring, all summer. Interventions and impact has been happening.
But this is different and we all, collectively know it.
Why, even, the deafening silence from my so-called progressive white friends - mostly all female? Only one posted in response when the verdict was known and we turned to the picked fence of our day - social media. Only my adopted white daughter was outraged. Only my children's book buyer. Three out of many. None of the ones in my inner, inner circle bothered to feel the numbness, the pain, or even to recognize that this was a collective gasp that impacted us. The ones who have been striving for five, six years to bridge the racial divide, to understand our stories. Silence. Consent, that is silence.
Or is it that they are fearful and are afraid of my sons?
I told a group of white men and women, during diversity training in 1995, that then, they considered my sons cute and cuddly, but in 5, 10, 15 years, they would be afraid of them. I was right.
Because white male republican gun owners want everyone (but black men) armed to keep the masses in check. Remember, it was Nixon, in response to the Black Panthers arming themselves with shotguns in Oakland, California, to protect their community from the police, that caused Nixon to pass the restrictive gun laws. White men can protect their families from the spooky black man, but can black men protect their families from the spooky George Zimmerman's?
I am numb, sad, angry, disappointed, scared, and mad that we have to live this all over again. That Sybrina Felton-Martin is today's Mamie Till Bradley. That Trayvon Martin is Emmett Till. Where today, like then, a nation saw the horrors that white men did to an innocent, unarmed, skinny black kids and that they got off. Then, the wives and children of the murderers were paraded into the courtroom to invoke the fear of whites, the young faces of the young wives fearful that their husbands would not be there to protect them. Then and now, race played a part.
No one can tell me it was not about race. No one. We are not postracial. We are not all safe. We are not all treated equally in a country where we can pursue life, liberty, and happiness.