George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin.
I know that as a journalist, it’s my job to defend my stance with facts from the Zimmerman trial: who was screaming, who was winning the alleged fight or Zimmerman and Martin’s backgrounds. At this point none of that matters. Trayvon Martin is dead and the man who killed him is free.
I don’t have inspirational quotes, words of wisdom or anecdotes to deal with George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict. I don’t have Bible scriptures or lessons from my father. I don’t have desire to convince you to understand or empathize with how I feel right now. I just have sharp tinge I felt in my chest as soon as the verdict was passed down. It’s the way I felt when I held my son while watching the verdict – when I looked at him and knew he was among the least-valued people in this country.
I feel hopeless in America.
Here’s what’s indisputable: If George Zimmerman had never gotten out of his car, Trayvon Martin would be alive. Argue about marijuana or fights or school records or parents. The fact remains that George Zimmerman saw a Black kid as a threat and followed him with a gun. Trayvon Martin didn’t die because he may or may not have attacked a man who followed him around at night. He died because that man saw a young Black male, grabbed his gun and went on a hunt.
Now that child is dead and nobody is being punished for it.
This is what feeling hopeless in America looks like.
I felt this way after watching Oscar Grant get murdered in cold blood. I felt this way when Troy Davis was executed. I felt this way when Sean Bell was murdered with no justice. I feel this way every time Chicago has a bloody weekend. I felt this way just two weeks ago when the Supreme Court hijacked our voting rights.
I feel hopeless because once again I’ve been told that there isn’t anything worth less than a Black life in America. That a Black boy deserves to die for wearing a hoodie. Or having a friend who doesn’t speak English well. Or walking around at night. We’ve just had a new price tag placed on the Black man’s life — and it might as well be placed on our toes.
I was holding my son when the Seminole County judge announced her verdict. I looked at him and thought that no matter how well I raise him or ensure he’s well-educated, that he could be Trayvon Martin. A court in Florida has just ruled it perfectly legal for a man looked at my son, find him to be a threat based on his attire or race, follow him with a gun and shoot him. There isn’t anything I can do as a father to prevent that from happening. And that terrifies me.
This is why I feel hopeless in America.
A picture of Trayvon Martin’s dead body was circulated around the Internet in the last few days and it’s sickening: a skinny teenager, eyes and mouth wide open looking to the skies. His skinny slacks cuffed at the bottom to show his Jordans. He looks like a teenager. A kid with his whole life ahead of him. He looks like a million other Black kids who died before him and have died since. In a country that couldn’t care less. Trayvon Martin was followed because he was Black. He got called a “punk” because he’s Black. He’s dead because he’s Black. And his life was treated with little regard by George Zimmerman and a large segment of this country because he’s Black.
I’ve written enough articles on the Internet to know how the comments are going to go. I’ll get called off-base, overreacting and racist. Commenters will say that Trayvon deserved to die for a bevy of reasons. And many will dismiss what I’ve said in this article.
Honestly, I don’t care. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything; just how I feel. All I know is, as an African-American, I feel hopeless in America. And I’m not alone.