by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Forgive me for being out of style, but I’m having a hard time getting into the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin trial. I feel for the family, and one must fully appreciate the sadness of a young man losing his life under any circumstances. But when the media has called to ask me what I think about the latest developments in the case, I just freeze up and say, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
I just can’t force myself to find this case to be interesting, not because Trayvon doesn’t matter, but because the case doesn’t make any sense. I feel incredibly sad for Trayvon and his family, believe me, I do. I don’t know what I’m going to say next week when I see Rev. Jesse Jackson at the annual Rainbow/PUSH convention, because I know everyone is going to be talking about it. Like Rev. Jackson, I am haunted by the spirits of all the dead Black boys across America, but it’s difficult for me to put my energy into one case.
Here are a few things about the trial of George Zimmerman that just don’t make much sense to me. At least these are some things I wonder about at night, when no one’s looking or listening:
1) If Trayvon Martin had been killed by a Black man, no one would be talking about it. Why do most Black people get sensitive about Black male homicides only if the killer happens to not be Black? I feel deeply for the parents of Trayvon Martin (I need to keep saying this, so I am not accused of being insensitive), but I find it oddly ironic that we can’t have the same degree of sympathy for the parents of the dozens of young Black men who are shot and killed over the last few weeks. Unfortunately, you’ll never hear about their deaths because Black-on-Black violence is incredibly uninteresting, like the fourth man to go into outer space, or the school shooting that took place right after Sandy Hook – we might hate the George Zimmermans of the world, but the truth is that the enemy is AMONG US. Even worse is that we’ve been trained to embrace music that leads us to sing and dance to the tune of our own inevitable genocide. Yes my friends, that’s just sick.
2) Why are the courts concerned about what kind of person Trayvon Martin was? If one man has a gun and the other has Skittles and Ice Tea, you can’t quite call this a fair fight. It seems that some people believe that if Trayvon fought back after being followed by an over aggressive rent-a-cop, that he somehow deserved to be killed. I don’t care if he smoked weed, had bad grades, got into a fight in school or even punched George Zimmerman in the face, the fact is that he didn’t deserve to die. It is good old fashioned American RACISM that makes us even ask such ignorant and ridiculous questions, like asking a rape victim how short her skirt was before she was tackled in a dark alley and assaulted.
3) None of this would have happened if George Zimmerman had never gotten out of his car. The 911 operator clearly told Zimmerman to stop pursuing Trayvon, and he disobeyed the order. Has anyone forgotten about his fact? George Zimmerman caused ALL OF THIS TO HAPPEN. Had he followed instructions and stayed in his car, Trayvon would be alive and he would be a free man. I wonder if this thought has ever crossed his chubby little mind. The truth is that he’s in jail for being an obsessive idiot who doesn’t know how to listen and follow directions. Now, he’s embarrassing his entire family.
4) If Zimmerman is convicted, many of us will be overwhelmed with excitement. But the tough question we must ask ourselves is whether or not anything has changed. Are Black boys less likely to die as a result of George Zimmerman being taken off the streets? Has racial inequality been mitigated as a result of this trial? Are Black people less poor, better educated, or enjoying a better quality of life with Zimmerman behind bars? I say not. Maybe we should be as critical of ourselves as we are of George Zimmerman, for the solutions to resolving the Black male violence issue in our communities go far deeper than this one trial in Florida. That’s why I can’t even watch it.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the author of the lecture series, “The 8 Principles of Black Male Empowerment.”