What Happens to a Dream Deferred: The George Zimmerman Verdict

The 3/5 Compromise was a compromise reached between Southern and Northern states in 1797 that essentially counted every black person as 3/5 of a human being for representation purposes in Congress. It was one of many legal ways that blacks in America knew that they were not valued as whole members of society. How much more egregious and blatant could one be in this regard than by explicitly stating that you are only 3/5 whole. Since the passing of this doctrine there have been many ways, some legal and some not that still upholds the belief that blacks, especially black men are not whole members of society. From the passing of segregation laws, to the lynching of many, to the unfair treatment of blacks in every avenue of American society. It is clear to many that equality is truly an elusive dream. What happens to a dream deferred? We saw partially what that looks like on Saturday night by the ruling in the George Zimmerman trial.

I for one do not blame the jury one bit. In fact I feel deeply sympathetic to the task that these six women had to undertake. From a legal perspective, based on what was presented to them, they had no choice but to find George Zimmerman not guilty. There in lies the true problem. The laws in this country are skewed to favor whites than they are for blacks. Let's not sugarcoat this one iota. If you are a white person in this country and you find yourself in a courtroom, you are more apt to get a verdict in your favor than if you are black. I do not need to invoke evidence here, because of how simply overwhelming this fact is. If George Zimmerman were a black man, we can almost guarantee the outcome of this trial. Not only that. We can probably say for certain that the way the case was handled from the night of the killing would probably be handled completely different. Do we really think a black George Zimmerman could saunter into a police station uncuffed and walk out without being charged? If you believe that then I guess you believe that blacks and Latinos also get treated fairly when it comes to drug arrests as well. But I digress...

I believe from the very start that Trayvon Martin was on trial and not George Zimmerman. Throughout the course of the trial, every course of action was taken to discredit who this young man was. From his smoking marijuana, to his academic issues at school, to the fact that he was out on a rainy night. None of these points lives up to the final judgment that was ultimately handed down by a vigilante neighborhood watchman. Unfortunately this is not surprising. What Trayvon's death and this trial showed was that he was a soliloquy to every black and brown body, whether they are male or female. Your life will matter less in the eyes of this country and in the eyes of the law. The blood that he shed on that fateful February night was not just his blood. But it was the blood of an entire people, long pained by the oppression of a country that values them less than others.

Where do we go from here and how do we make this a movement and not a moment? I wish I had clear answers. It begins with protest. The act of protest is a visible showing of one's grievances with something. It is important that protest occurs on a consistent basis across this country. When a people's voice goes silent, then that is an affirmation that one is resigned to let the chips fall where they may. We can not and should not let this be the case. We must remember that protest is what even allowed for George Zimmerman to be arrested in the first place. But protest without a goal is counter productive. Clear demands must be made on the federal government to press civil rights violations against George Zimmerman. Jurisdictions around this country must begin to end controversial policies that target people of color unfairly. Clear ideas and hopes need to be articulated in a non-violent manner. Protest was a driving catalyst for social and political change in the 1960's in America. It can once again be that force today.

But at the end of the day we have to deal with the emotions that surround the verdict that was handed down. We have to wake up every day and pray that one of our own kids, students, brothers and friends will not die senselessly at the hands of others like them who are hurt and in pain. We have to hope that they are not killed by cops who judge them wrongly. And now we have to hope that they do not get killed by civilians who can claim self defense even when they initiated the confrontation. This can be almost too much to cope with.

Every morning I wake up hoping that my four brothers all between the ages of 15-26 return home safely. I hope that I don't get the call saying that I have to identify their bodies at the morgue. I hope I don't get that call saying that someone took their lives. This is the hope that many families, educators and friends hope for those in their lives. And it shouldn't be a mere hope. It should be a God given right. Unfortunately it isn't. And every day I ask God why is it so. Why must a people bear the pain of so many of its young men taken before their prime, often as a result of a system that devalues who they are? There are no clear answers. But there are clear things that can be done to address the issues that surround the problems.

"Young black men who feel angry because of the verdict, its ok to cry. We often say it isn't. But cry today. Cry for Trayvon. I did." This was what I posted on twitter yesterday. Allow the anger to come out. Let the tears fall. Cry for your fallen brother. But at the end of that much needed tear session, dry your eyes, stand up strong, join with others and make a tangible mark on a movement greater than yourself. Do it for Trayvon and do it for the unfortunate numbers of Trayvon to follow. Do it so the prayer and hope that everyone says for you as you leave the comfort of your own home every morning is answered.


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