Yesterday I attended the march and service to recognize with others in my town the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death. I found the march and service very moving for a couple of personal reasons, and so this post is just one person’s thoughts–better commentaries are noted at the bottom.
I had read several commentaries about Trayvon’s death and particularly about the racial elements that lace through everything–the stalking, the fight, the shooting, trial, media frenzy, and also the hard thinking and desire to act that have emerged and so often do emerge after such an awful loss. I have gone to many of the MLK ceremonies and am always better for it, and I knew in my heart that white people had to show up at this, not just to “show up,” but to join in the grieving and look for insights into ways to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Here’s my one shot of the march–the people in front of me–mostly Black folks. I walked with a white colleague for awhile. I saw maybe 10 of “us” there. I couldn’t help but notice. “Race” was there. It’s not like I was judging anyone for not being there, but I was grateful that those who were there had felt motivated as I did.
I also felt a pull to Trayvon, the teen-ager in the hoodie, shot by a vigilante. Like my son, a wearer of hoodies, shot by a white vigilante/survivalist. I find the photo of him poignant–you can’t miss the look of sadness around the eyes, along with a certain determination and questioning tilt of the face.
I have a picture of Casey in one of his hoodies, but this one shows him wearing another of his typical headgear, a backwards cap. I keep looking at these two young men–17 and 20–and there’s something in their eyes that seems to be expressing the same sort of emotion. What is it they are saying? What would they say now? Would Casey be friends with Trayvon, in the same way he was best friends with another African American boy in our neighborhood. I remember Carlo calling to ask if it was true, what someone had told him, that Casey had been shot. When I answered yes, he said, “Ah, no, no,” holding the phone away from him, coming back, his voice broken and thick, “I have to hang up here.”
As I look at these two pictures, I recognize what Casey was trying to do with his. Look mean. Manly. I think he took this picture himself, perhaps for a Facebook or My Space profile picture. But I know that those eyes would tell us a lot more about meanness and what is to be a man, if they could.
On the back of the program is a picture of Trayvon with his arm around Emmett Till (I could only find the originator as revcom dot us). There’s no mistaking the similarities in the circumstances of their deaths–at least in the way their innocence–mere presence–was so criminally re-constituted as danger.
I know that my son’s death was not racially motivated, though race was almost certainly a part of the worldview held by the man who did it–in his survivalist thinking. But as the excellent pastor said at the service, “This could have been anyone’s son.” As long as we can shoot with impunity, any paranoid with an urge to act out can point, shoot, kill.
The purpose of the MLK Committee-sponsored march, according to the program we were given at the State Street Baptist Church, was to “show support for the Martin family for the shooting death of their unarmed teenage son Trayvon. We seek to gather together grieving members of our community in a peaceful protest against systemic racial injustice evident in the trial of George Zimmerman. In addition we would like to bring awareness of Stand Your Ground Laws in 33 states including Kentucky to challenge state and local unjust laws/policies and to amplify the voices for change in the voting booths in 2013 and 2014.”
Tomorrow we go back to the Court House where Leland Burns will have his sentence commuted to 7 years. We have requested a meeting with him, and that meeting will happen tomorrow as well, as I understand it. Can I face him? Every time I even think of it, tears fill my eyes and Casey enters the room with me. Will he apologize to us? Will Zimmerman ever atone, even share his deep regret with Trayvon’s family? Will it matter? I think it does.
This commentary is good on the trope of black male as fearful: http://lareviewofbooks.org/article.php?type&id=1874&fulltext=1&media#article-text-cutpoint
And this one is good as the thoughts so many of us share, of utter sadness:
This is Rita Dove’s poem: