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Friday, July 19, 2013

"I am Trayvon Martin"

I’m not surprised by the verdict regarding George Zimmerman’s murder of Trayvon Martin. I wasn’t surprised because in my lifetime, I’ve only remember one case that a White person got off by unjustly killing a Black person. Unfortunately, I saw Trayvon’s body, but what I saw was a kid with skinny jeans and a hoodie that looked more hipster than thug. When I was in high school, I looked more menacing if you went by appearance alone.

I was Trayvon Martin in 2002. At 17 years old in Knoxville, TN, I had baggy clothes, cornrowed braids, often seen with no shirt at sport practices, and rarely smiled standing at 6’1 and 170lbs. I rarely even talked to anyone outside my friends, which may have been cause for suspicion as society view introversion as something wrong. I ran track, but also played football, where I can be violent legally. I was also an honor roll student, painfully shy, never suspended from school, never took drugs or alcohol, attended school almost all the time, and helped my grandfather in the yard every weekend. With all of that said, I’m convinced that I too would’ve been shot dead in Sanford, FL by a self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman as Trayvon for looking worse than him, despite of my clean record and grades. I’m convinced that my killer would’ve been found not-guilty because from my skin and my age because I embodied what they fear the most. By appearance, I was a thug and up to no good. In reality, I wore those clothes because rappers wore them. I wore cornrowed braids because Allen Iverson and the group Outkast had them. What I wore was not evident that I was a thug; it was evident that I followed popular culture. Though I lived the All-American life, I didn’t have the All-American image.

The murder and the verdict proved that Black males were born suspicious. Black masculinity is what some fear the most. Fear is why we have to go way out our way to be as approachable and as safe as possible. A flawed society and system are reasons why I have to appear safe. Black masculinity is why there are systems in place to bring us down, which is why Trayvon was doomed before he was born.

There always has to be some reason why a Black male dies at a young age. If a Black male dies, you often see gangs or drugs as the main factors to their demise as if he provoked his own death. The same has been said against Trayvon. By his appearance alone, he was destined to die? He only defended himself against a man stalking him, but since Trayvon chose to fight, he somehow chose his fate.

If you take a look at his supposed drug use, remember that the last three of our U.S. Presidents smoked weed AND cocaine. President George W. Bush was arrested for a DUI. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger smoked weed. Using drugs is not a factor; it’s a Black male using drugs that’s the problem. Even with Trayvon’s not so squeaky clean record in school, it was impossible for Zimmerman to be aware of that on that day. What Zimmerman perceived is what many perceived: a walking monster.

The fact is that teenagers often do dumb things. We’ve all done it; however, those dumb things should not be cause for murder. Teenagers do dumb things, and then they grow up, and start to do less dumb things.

Trayvon did what you’re taught to do and that was self-defense. The case also proves that Black males cannot engage in self-defense because it will always be their fault.

A Black death is always arguable. Thus is why there are so many reasons as to why he and many like him should’ve died. It is why I know that if I were killed in the same manner some would believe that it was my destiny because of the body I’m in and where I come from. When Emmitt Till’s killers were acquitted, one of the jurors said “If we hadn't stopped to drink pop, it wouldn't have taken that long.” There isn’t much difference with Emmitt and Trayvon. No matter how Black males strive to be a productive member in society, that same society will strive to condemn you, so what can we possibly do to not seem like a threat?

Most importantly, the law that made this case crazy in the first place is right here in our backyard. The ‘Stand Your Ground’ exists in Tennessee and was lobbied by the National Rifle Association. If anything is to be done, it is to strive to have that law taken away. That law and the verdict just gave some open season to shoot anyone for any perceived threat. I for one will not stand for it because there will be more Zimmermans birthed and more Trayvons killed.

----Andre Canty