A tsunami of words has been unleashed this week in response to the violent death of Trayvon Martin. Grown men with tears in their eyes have choked up as they look into TV cameras to talk about this tragedy. A Florida congresswoman with anger in her voice has entered the declaration of her displeasure into the record of the House of Representatives. And countless columnists, radio show hosts, reverends and attorneys have added to the drumbeat for the wheels of justice to begin turning in this case. A theme that resurfaces frequently throughout all of this commentary is the idea that the metaphorical “weight” of America’s heinous racial history has descended upon its African American citizens once again.
One of my longtime blogroll buddies, Danielle Belton, whose blog is titled The Black Snob, unleashed her frustrations about this metaphorical “weight” in a lengthy post about the Trayvon Martin case that takes the time to carefully articulate why African Americans need to refuse to carry this load any longer. I am publishing these excerpts here today because I hope that they would inspire you, no matter what race, color or creed you are, to click one of the links to her original post.
Take this burden and just accept it as your burden. It’s just “how it is.” You’re all statistics. Take these statistics. And black people get shot everywhere everyday by everyone. Police. Non-police. Crazy people. Bigots. Their parents. Other kids. Just take it. It’s part of your Life In America, Black People. Accept this tragedy and go through the motions of appealing to people’s decency and demanding justice and having protests and press conferences and crying and asking why and demanding answers and then eventually getting that bad dead cold thing that just sits there and says, “Take this.”
Here’s your load. Pick it up.
If we all, as a people, were just “good” they’d have to stop accusing us of lying, assuming we were “bad” or criminals or ignorant. W.E.B. DuBois and the Talented Tenth and lead by example and all that rose colored lens malarky.
That if we’re just “good” we’ll be safe. If your son doesn’t listen to hip hop, goes to the church camp, gets A’s and Bs in school, is polite, says “sir” and “ma’am,” if he’s a good kid, he’ll be safe. That’s the bargain black parents make with their children.
If you are “good” the gangs and the violence and the racism won’t get you. You will be safe. You will live to see 25. You will have a great life. Opportunity will abound for you. We will be proud of you. The community will be proud of you. You will be Barack Obama and Michelle Obama and life will be beautiful if you just want it enough.
Just be “good.” Be good, Trayvon Martin. Stay in school. Listen to your parents. And you’ll be safe.
The impetus is not on the kid walking home from the 7-11. But on the self-proclaimed, gun-wielding, one-man-neighborhood watch, calling the Sanford Police more than 40 times in the last year. It is not Trayvon’s job, or your job or my job to make bigots feel more comfortable with us because there is no way to get their comfort. It is a lie.
No amount of goodness will fix it.
You could get rid of every thing that has ever made you feel embarrassed, every black person you ever felt fulfilled a stereotype. It doesn’t matter. Because racism is illogical. Bigotry does not need a reason to fear and act on that fear with violence. There is no different clothing you could wear. There is no different accent you could take on. There are no grades you could get that could change them. Because it doesn’t matter.
We can’t Jackie Robinson our way out of this. Some people just want to hate you. And they don’t want to change. But they really enjoy you going through the gymnastics trying — because it takes the weight off them.
And then, in our goodly and true lives, they give back to us the corpse of a 17-year-old boy and say —
Pick it up.
And there is no path that promises your child will be safe. And this is the world that we live in. But you don’t have to accept anything.
Not. One. Damn. Thing.
And you don’t have to take that load and just accept the racism and injustice and crime and rape and murder in our world. Nobody owns you. They can’t make you accept that tragedy as just “part of your life.”
When the murderer pulls out the gun and takes a life and puts it back on you. You say no, you murderer. That’s your load. Pick it up.
You did it. Deal with the consequences. Whatever those may be.
The collective blood pressure of Afro America has gone through the roof in the past two days as the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin hit the mainstream media. The resolve in the whites of their eyes, whether I see them in person, in print, or on video is reminiscent of the steadfastness in the eyes of African Americans back in the 40’s and 50’s whose massed faces provided context to the tragic stories that graced the pages of Ebony and Jet Magazine. Back then, blacks were routinely lynched and murdered by hate groups or white supremacists, hate groups whose members often had no fear of being prosecuted, white supremacists who were rarely concerned about being convicted by a jury of their peers.
I agree with Danielle wholeheartedly. I refuse to carry this load anymore.