Numb and Tired: My Reaction to the George Zimmerman Verdict
When I got a text that the jury had reached a verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, I paused the movie I was watching. I searched for a live feed of the verdict and watched as the words “George Zimmerman Not Guilty” scrolled across the bottom of the screen. Then I closed the tab and finished the movie, joking around with my friend.
I was surprised by just how unemotional I was: I wasn’t angry as some were, I wasn’t sad as others were. Had I become numb to the pain? So used to seeing injustice that it no longer had an effect on me? Yes, I saw this verdict coming a mile away, but to have virtually no reaction at all? Was something wrong with me?
I remembered the words of Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of fourteen-year-old lynching victim Emmett Till, as she described her actions on the day of her son’s killers’ trial. How she and her party made their way out of the courtroom before the jury returned from deliberation, and were on the road home by the time the verdict was read. They saw what was coming ahead of time and chose not to stick around for the result. They knew Emmett’s killers were going to go free, and what that would mean for them as Black people in a Mississippi courthouse. Their concern was one of safety, but I also believe it was because they saw no need to compound their existing pain by watching an oncoming tank run them over.
In some ways, I think it’s the same with many people concerning the Zimmerman verdict. I’ve had discussions with friends who had honestly admitted that they tapped out a long time ago. They weren’t following the trial, and had no feeling about the verdict one way or another. In almost every case, it wasn’t because they didn’t care, but because they knew all too well what the outcome would be. Emotionally, they left the courtroom. I’d like to think my initial reaction was something like this. I just didn’t have it in me to let it all out at that moment, so I unplugged.
But I do care, and I’m tired. I’m tired of the Trayvon Martins of our world who get hunted down like dogs in cold blood because people can’t look at a strange black body without thinking “criminal”. I’m tired of the Aiyana Jones of our society who can’t even sleep soundly without being riddled with bullets by the very people who are supposed to serve and protect. I’m tired of the Marissa Alexanders and the CeCe McDonalds of our society who get punished with prison time for “standing their ground” or fighting back while being the wrong color, sex, or gender orientation. I’m tired of being accused of “race baiting” and using this case for political gain and ignoring more prevalent black on black crime when the outcry concerning inner city violence has been deafening and ongoing for decades.
Perhaps most of all, I’m tired of looking at my young cousins, nieces, and nephews and wondering if they’ll even have the chance to experience life on their own terms. I’m tired of pushing them to strive harder and harder to make it in a world that makes their efforts all for nothing by taking a half look at them and giving them the labels of “criminal”, “hood rat”, “thug”, and “ghetto”. And I’m tired of wondering if someone will chose to act on their preconceived racist notions, deciding that my black family members have spent enough time on this earth.
(Starting from top left) Emmett Till, Oscar Grant, Marissa Alexander, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Aiyana Jones, Cece McDonald, Sean Bell.
After the movie, I walked from my friend’s house to the bus stop. I was a stranger to this neighborhood and all I could think of was Trayvon. Was this how he felt? What if somebody’s looking at me, thinking I’m up to no good. Am I one of those “fucking punks” who “always get away”? Would someone misinterpret my looking at street signs for direction as checking out potential houses to break into?
As I got off the bus to go home I was approached by a man on a bike asking for my bus pass. Since I didn’t need it anymore, I gladly gave it to him without a second thought. He rode off with a “thank you”. I’ll probably never see that man again, but I was overcome with this strange feeling. It was a feeling of community. A feeling of helping one in a position of need, and being able to be there for someone. There was no fear of ulterior motive, no labeling, just a simple interaction between two people of color.
In the midst of turmoil, we have not lost our humanity. We remain human, fearfully and wonderfully human. Not ravenous monsters chomping at the bit for our chance to spill the red blood of white people. We are not pillars of perfect strength either. Just as Trayvon wasn’t a little angel tiptoeing through the tulips or a thug life gang-banger who lived and breathed to beat up “creepy ass crackers.” And it’s that humanity and community that will see us through this dark night.
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