Monday, July 15, 2013

Trying to Breathe

I'm trying to breathe, which ain't easy as it's hot as Hades here in New York, and will be for days, and there's no way to escape the oppression and the heaviness of this heat, nor the feelings of injustice that make the air seem toxic.

I'm trying to breathe. Trying to understand how, in this country, we have lawmakers who enact laws that pretend that we are all equal, when in fact being white and having a gun makes you more equal than anyone else; trying to understand how it is that Trayvon Martin was the one who was sentenced, while his killer was set free.

I'm trying to breathe. Trying to know why George Zimmerman was permitted to silence the boy forever, preventing him from telling his side of the story, so it doesn't matter if he felt scared, or if he felt threatened, or if he wanted to stand his own ground when approached by a guy who was obviously out to get him. The boy is dead, so he doesn't have a say. His killer chose not to take the stand, and yet the kid didn't have a choice--he couldn't say a word, so it was he, the victim, who was convicted of the crime--of scaring an older man, who was in the safety of his own car, until he chose to get out of it. The circumstances are so confounding, one can hardly understand how it occurred, nor how it took six weeks for the murderer to be arrested. Though I may try to find them, there are no words.

I'm trying to breathe. Trying to refrain from blaming the jury, as they did not write the laws that protect gun owners and shooters, and that governed the admissible evidence and limited parameters of the trial. But like those jury members, I am a white woman, and so, like them, I can't possibly understand what it is to be the mother of a boy who is born vulnerable. Had I any sons, I would not be obliged to have "the talk", in which black parents teach their sons to be obsequious to law enforcement in all encounters, as a matter of protection.

I'm trying to breathe. Trying to take all this restless, pessimistic energy and not lose sight of hope. If you have to have "the talk" with your sons, I wish you and your boys strength and courage. If you don't, here's what I wish for you: I wish you also would have "the talk" with your kids. Talk to them about the fiction of a post-racial society. Make them consider what it would be like to be Trayvon Martin. The only thing that will ever fix the seemingly intractable problem of prejudice is love, empathy and understanding. Call me a hippie if you like, but this I do believe.

I'm just trying to breathe.

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