It is a tired script in America and one that is offensive beyond words considering the present climate in our nation. As the trial of George Zimmerman, charged with the murder of Trayvon Martin nears its finish, and Florida and the rest of the nation anticipates the jury’s verdict, African-Americans are already being asked to subdue our rage in the event that Zimmerman is acquitted.
Our legitimate anger is the legacy of white indifference to the very injustice we see in the murder of Trayvon Martin and the spectacle we see unfolding in that Florida court room. It’s as if the circus came to town and we are being told not to laugh. Justice is withheld from Blacks like FICA and, unlike taxes, there is little to show for the deductions we each experience in our daily walk through life. Now, potentially faced with another travesty, another insult, we are being told to suppress our anger for the greater good. What greater good? If our children can’t walk the streets without being hunted down like animals there is no greater good.
Why is it that we are expected to simply “accept” being demeaned and then roll over in silence? That was certainly not the message of the abolitionist or civil rights movement. The legitimacy of our rage has been suppressed by a concerted effort to make it appear as though our claims have no basis in fact. We are accused of being irresponsible and irrational when we express a natural human reaction to inhumane treatment. Since the urban unrest of the 1960s we have been made to bear the guilt for the carnage that was precipitated by racism and the deprivation of our community by public policy. Blacks have always had to shoulder the weight of injustice for the ‘greater good.’
When factories closed and jobs were shipped to the suburbs where our presence was not wanted and redlining kept us out, we were told it was simply the transitory nature of the economy. As white families headed for those tree lined communities with their children in tow, public education in our cities suddenly became less important to legislators. When the homes we had worked to own were demolished to feed the redevelopment beast and our communities were fractured, we were told it was for the greater good. And when highways were cut through our neighborhoods to make it easier for the remaining white workers in the central city to make it to their suburban cul-de-sacs, we were told urban renewal was just the inevitable consequence of progress.
Now, as we stare at the face of injustice once again, we are told that nothing good will come from our outrage.
Judging from the chatter on social media, Blacks overwhelmingly sense that George Zimmerman is about to walk away a free man. From the sitting of a nearly all-white jury to the state’s feeble prosecution, the trial has had injustice written all over it. Now, with just days left and a sense that the man who killed a Black teenager in cold blood will be given a pass by his peers, preemptive messages are being communicated to the African-American community and nationwide to mute its outrage. Those messages should fall upon deaf ears.
If George Zimmerman is acquitted we should be angry and we should be vocal in our outrage. There can be no comfortable conversations. But that’s not all. We should commit acts of civil disobedience in Florida and elsewhere. If a Black teenager can be killed and his death defended through the invocation of a state law, then business as usual in that state must cease. There can be no fun at Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios or any Florida theme park if the lives of our children are so devalued. We need to shut down those destinations. A different type of heat needs to be inflicted upon Miami; the Marlins baseball team, playing in a stadium made possible by exorbitant public investment, should be targeted and nightlife in South Beach should be brought to a halt. Activity at the state’s largest airports in Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville and Tampa should be disrupted. Florida should be made into a no-fly zone. If Zimmerman walks, so should our patience and our money. And if we need any further motivation to move against this state we should remember the 2000 presidential election debacle and how our voting rights were trampled.
Sounds radical? Well, it is called demanding justice and accepting nothing less. And it is for the greater good. There can be no United States when the law serves to protect the guilty and defame the innocent, and declares the loss of Black life inconsequential. If we want the respect of our children, we must first demand the respect of this nation.