This is a photo of a Black Man. The photo was taken and posted in response to yesterday’s decision in the Trayvon Martin murder case – the jury-based decision finding the man who killed the unarmed teen not-guilty.
Look at this man.
Depending on your life experience – your own ethnicity and gender, your experience with people who are similar to and different from you, the extent to which you are willing to notice and consider when you are attaching some story to a person without knowing anything about them – you will see this photograph and this man in some particular way.
Stop for a moment. Check your story of this photograph. No one is looking. Just pay attention for a minute to what you’re saying to yourself.
You will likely notice you are attributing some emotion. You will probably see you are constructing a narrative explaining the image, explaining the man. Knowing when the image was made, will modify what you tell yourself, at least somewhat.
Was part of your narrative that this man is deeply sad, deeply offended and perhaps even residually fearful for himself and others who look like him – for his community, his country, his world? Was part of your narrative that this man is a father, a husband and a profoundly accomplished academic?
Because, it matters what you think. It matters what the jurors in the trial thought. Every day it matters what journalists and political figures, police officers, teachers and religious leaders think.
Here are a few thoughts I’ve found on the internet this morning. Please think about all of this. Please listen carefully.
I’m a mom.
I have a son.
He’s 22, which means he was born after George Zimmerman and before Trayvon Martin.
He says stupid shit sometimes. So does his mom.
He has hit people before, in anger and in fear. So has his mom.
He has never stalked someone dead. Neither has his mom.
He is quick to ask questions and he gets along with everyone…
When I was 17, I was a freshman at GA Tech. The Allman Bros were coming to town and I wanted to see them BAD. So bad that I camped out for tickets. I walked down the street in the middle of the night all dressed in black armed with mace and tryin’ to look badassed . Back in the day, it was a dicey neighborhood and I didn’t want any trouble. It was NOT a gated community. Had it been, I’d have probably not been so cautious.
I got my tickets, the show was awesome, and I even got to go backstage.
My point is, however, that if I had felt that someone was following me with ill intent, I woulda been on alert. And if they had approached me with venom, I woulda used my mace.
And then they coulda shot me dead, according to FL law, because mace really hurts a lot.
It’s how I see it, thanks for listening.
Nancy Jones, Gainesville, FL
What did Zimmerman see that night? A brother who belongs to where he was. My beloved brother belongs to the community he was in that night. He didn’t have to die. Where is justice for my people in America? 400 years–still a nightmare. America continues to be a land of fear–of lack of freedom. These children, my brothers die in the hands of police often. They are deprived of employment often, shut out of school. No justice. Trayvon didn’t have to die that night. He was in the community where he belongs. Justice is not.
Dapo Sobomehin, OR
Melissa Harris-Perry shared a very personal response to the George Zimmerman verdict on Sunday, telling viewers that she felt “relief” at her ultrasound when she found out she was giving birth to a daughter instead of a son.
On Saturday, Zimmerman was cleared of all charges in the death of Trayvon Martin. The MSNBC host devoted her show on Sunday to the verdict. “I will never forget… the relief I felt at my 20 week ultrasound when they told me it was a girl,” Harris-Perry recalled on Sunday. “And last night, I thought, I live in a country that makes me wish my sons away, wish that they don’t exist, because it’s not safe.”
Panelists Jelani Cobb and Joy Reid nodded in agreement. Later, Harris-Perry quoted W.E.B. Du Bois in a monologue, asking, “How does it feel to be a problem? To have your very body and the bodies of your children to be assumed to be criminal, violent, malignant.”
The MSNBC host has spoken out about Travon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old who was shot and killed by Zimmerman, numerous times since last February. She reacted to the news of Zimmerman’s verdict when it broke on Saturday night. “In this moment, black families are holding their sons and daughters closer to them,” she said. “A verdict which… feels very much as though it is saying it is acceptable, it is ok, to kill an unarmed African-American child who has committed no crime.”