A Certain Death
July 15, 2013 § Leave a comment
Moments after the verdict in the George Zimmerman case was released, moments after watching his attorneys and legal team smile, pat him on the shoulder, and congratulate themselves, moments after not hearing one word about the deceased Trayvon Martin from the Judge’s closing remarks, a sea of words flowed through my body. Course, angry words played on my tongue. Sad, defiant words rose and fell in the back of my throat. Bitter, resentful words settled in my heart, and after a few hours of restless sleep, three final words tugged at me until I finally wrote them down. A certain death.
We all know those who have come and gone, people whose lives were lived to the fullest or those whose breaths have been fatally cut short, and while death becomes an unwanted friend to us all, certain deaths leave us hanging on the edge of tomorrow wondering what or who will be next, Trayvon Martin’s death was this kind, if not for the simple reason that there was nothing certain about it. The word certain comes from the Latin words certanus, certus, and from past participle of cernereto which means to sift, to discern, to decide. It is akin to the Greek word krinein to separate, decide, judge, and Old Irish criathar, to sieve. On that Sunday in February, there were perhaps many things in Trayvon Martin’s life that were certain, his relationships with his family and friends, what he planned to do during the next week, what he wanted to eat for dinner and even where he wanted his life to go after high school. One thing that was not certain was encountering George Zimmerman on a simple walk home from the 7-Eleven. Unfortunately for Trayvon, all the uncertainty of his encounter with George Zimmerman was overshadowed by the certain ways in which his seven-teen year old black – male body was criminalized without cause by Zimmerman, whose emergency call voiced, “These assholes always get away.” The uncertainty Trayvon would face in those moments was also overshadowed by the certain way in which George Zimmerman followed him – wielding his pistol, even after he was advised not to. Perhaps the only thing that was certain for Trayvon in those last few moments of his life were that if George Zimmerman had a gun and the gall to use it, he was in trouble and so he screamed for help, but no one came.
I reflect upon these moments within the contexts of certainty and uncertainty to say that if we properly sift through the particulars of this case we will see that George Zimmerman was predisposed to make the fatal shot because in his mind and heart he was certain that Trayvon was a threat regardless of proof. So if Zimmerman is to shoot and kill Trayvon, to murder him with impunity – what does that mean for the rest of us? It means that certain deaths are acceptable by the state, and certain excuses for murder are within the laws of reason. It means that Trayvon, like so many other black youths throughout this nation’s tragically racist history was always living a bare life in which his humanity was debased to the point of political and legal indifference. There was no justice for Trayvon on Saturday, but like many of you have said this verdict ushered in a second death, and this death certainly affects us all. It declares to these United States, which lives are expendable in a court of law, or as one of my friend’s stated, “This is what it means to be the child of slaves.”
The most contemptible part of this saga is that neither Trayvon’s death nor George Zimmerman’s actions are exemplary. This is not the first time a person of color was unjustly murdered and their perpetrator set free. And while the internet trolls will want to bring up stats on black-on-black crime, and the various media outlets will want to temper our reaction with “legalese” citing case stats, reasonable doubt and other comments that make it seem as if the system did in fact “work,” those of us who are left to send our sons and daughters off to school or just down the street, will have to seriously weigh the risks. We will have to pray fervently that we and our children will not be profiled and or attacked. We will have to teach our kids how to survive in their own backyards, and most of all we will have to teach them the names of every victim including Trayvon Martin.
Certain deaths remind us that life is fleeting, and we must live it to the fullest, while others – whose origins are more uncertain remind us that this world we have created is not fair and for those of us whose work takes us to the front lines of race in America we see that systemically the roots of racism can not be undone overnight or in one sector of society alone. We must address it in housing, education, voting, justice, incarceration, entertainment, employment, and even in our houses of worship. Certain deaths remind blacks in particular that we have been enslaved in this country longer than we have been free, and each new freedom continues to bring uncertain consequences.
Check out the NAACP Petition to urge the Department of Justice to open a Civil Rights Case against George Zimmerman here: http://www.naacp.org/page/s/doj-civil-rights-petition