President Obama got it entirely right when he said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” That captures it in a sentence. A broken heart, and profound sadness and anger at the shooting of Trayvon Martin. And that’s why, today, students across South Florida, who understand from their own experiences how easy it is to be hassled, frisked, shot, or killed, walked out of school in protest. The death of Trayvon just is too much to bear. What else could they do?
And that’s why so many people are wearing hoodies today in solidarity with Trayvon and to symbolize their desire that justice be done. I’m one of those. What else can I do?
And that’s why there are demonstrations in many cities that begin with the horror of the death of Trayvon Martin and go on to inevitable questions about the role of police, the constant frisking on the sidewalk. And the incessant of stopping of cars. And endemic surveillance and following and watching and stopping to ask questions. Was it Justice Brandeis who wrote in dissent about the right of the people to be left alone?
It’s obvious. There’s something incredibly wrong going on. And it’s not new. No. It’s been going on in one dreadful form or another for more than half a millennium in this hemisphere and for more than 400 years in what is now the United States of America. And it continues. In its simplest terms, it’s dehumanization. It has a long, horrible, degrading, exasperating history. And it continues. It continues in many forms. Some are new, but others are age old. And it is persistent. And I have no idea how to stop it. It has such deep roots and so much momentum. And despite all of the justified anger and all of the profound sadness, it continues. Nobody seems to be able to stop it.
Here’s the heartbreak: your teenager goes to the store to buy an iced tea and Skittles. Can he have two dollars? Sure. He doesn’t have any money. He says he’ll be right back. But he doesn’t come home alive. He gets shot for no reason whatsoever. And he dies. Can you imagine this? And then the person who killed him isn’t even arrested.
And why isn’t he arrested? Is it because the police are stupid? Or incompetent? Or racists? Is it because the prosecutors are incompetent or racists? Or because the law of self defense has been so perverted that its been transformed by a state legislature in awe of the NRA into a shield for wanton killings of unarmed people by people with guns? Is it all of these things? Is it more than that? Is it something incomprehensible? Does it even matter why there’s been no arrest? Doesn’t the lack of an arrest speak volumes about the situation?
Here’s the heartbreak again: your teenager did nothing wrong and he’s dead. And nobody gets arrested, or charged, or indicted. And you and many other people suspect that your teenager has been murdered. But there‘s no arrest. The police mumble on about the strange, new, self defense law and how somehow that ties their hands from making an arrest. And they won’t make an arrest. And the person who should be arrested goes into hiding. And the police chief steps down temporarily. And now there’s a new state prosecutor and now there’s a federal, civil rights investigation. But there’s still no arrest. I wonder. Will there ever be an arrest? How long do I have to wait, and what exactly am I waiting for?
I wonder. How many thousands of parents have a version of this terrible event? How many parents have buried their children? How many children were lynched and killed before Emmett Till? And how many killings of children have there been since? How many parents' hearts have been broken when children have been killed? How many soul crushing, heartbreaking murders of children have there been? How many oceans of tears have been shed because of events just like this one?
My heart is again broken. The murder of Trayvon Martin is inexcusable. It's yet another drop in the ocean of suffering filled with parents’ tears at the loss of their children. And the tears of the rest of us who feel their suffering. And it continues to grow.
cross-posted from The Dream Antilles