Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Wade in the Water, Trayvon

It hurts.

So many people are suffering as a result of verdict of the George Zimmerman murder trial. Not guilty. He gets to walk free, and Trayvon Martin's young life is cut short at the age of 17.

We all know the story. He was walking home, wearing a hoodie, eating some Skittles, drinking some ice tea, and Zimmerman perceived him to be a threat. He pursued him. He fought with him. He murdered him. The rest is up for interpretation, and will be speculated and discussed for weeks or months...or until another huge national news story breaks.

The jury seemed to believe that there was not enough evidence to charge Zimmerman...they did what they thought was the best thing, and let him go home to his wife and continue his life. They trusted his version of the story.

I feel absolutely terrible for Travyon's family. And I feel terrible for the effect this will have on the psyche of people everywhere. Not just the blacks, but those who feel the pain and injustice of this situation to their core.

It hurts.

It's hard to explain HOW it hurts, and WHY it hurts. I know many people are able to brush it off as "just another media event" or there are people that strongly believe that justice was served. And I'm sure intellectually they have what they think are valid reasons as to why there is nothing here to get riled up about. I'm sure many people think that there's been an over-reaction to this story, and that we should move on with life.

But there's a FEELING you get when you know something ain't right. When you live in black skin, and are made aware of your race even on the rarest of occasions, you still can't help but FEEL incidents like this to your core. You know the feeling. You've been there before. You can't explain it, and no jury would believe it, but the FEELING is tangible.

"Who feels it, knows it..." ...that quote stuck in my mind. Because unless you know what it feels like first hand...you may not know. Unless you have ever FELT your race, or FELT discrimination or prejudice, or FELT the pain of stereotyping and profiling and underestimation and how easy it is to feel condescended DESPITE your inner-strength, righteousness, or intelligence...then you may not know.

I'm not one to go on about "racism" because sometimes it seems to do more harm than good to even openly acknowledge that it exists. It feels like the "race card" even when it isn't. It feels like trying to convince someone of something that they are certain is a fantasy. So often racism is something that we internalize, and we acknowledge, and we know...but it's something that is difficult to seek sympathy on. So many of us don't bother.

They keep saying the Travyon Martin murder wasn't about race. But we know very well that had the races been reversed, that this would have been an entirely different situation. We KNOW that...but how do you explain or justify that? How do you tell a jury of all-white (and one black/hispanic) what that feels like, and the gravity of that truth?

I haven't tuned into the news much since staying glued to the television all day to hear that verdict. I couldn't bear to watch George Zimmerman's asshole brother spew ridiculousness to Piers Morgan on CNN. I just didn't want to see the smug looks on Don West and Mark O'Mara's faces as they patted themselves on the back to the media.

It was a race, a game...and the blacks lost. Again. Yeah, it sounds illogical, but that's how it FEELS. 

And you'd have to KNOW what that look on their faces did to the psyche of million of blacks around the world. It felt like a silent reminder that we will NEVER win. Yes, there's a "black President" in America right now...but I can almost guarantee that no one is comforted by this, and everyone knows that in another few years, that won't be a reality again for a good while. It's not an overt game, but it's definitely a mental one.

I'm not trying to be negative, or jump to conclusions, but I definitely felt a sense of stagnation this weekend. Hopelessness. Like years of fighting, and marching, and protesting, and praying, and speaking, and empowerment...it's still not enough. It may never be.

And then you've gotta take the argument back to the Civil Rights Movement, and back even further to slavery, and then eyes start rolling, and people start losing interest in the "old" black argument about how unfair the world is.

This morning I was thinking about the old negro spiritual "Wade in the Water," and how upon fleeing their conditions, the African-Americans would sing to keep their spirits high, and hope alive. They would send messages through lyrics, and empowerment through song. And then I thought about how we encourage one another in today's reality.

I thought about the powerful blacks in politics, music, entertainment, sports, those with lots of money, lots of influence, and lots of eyes on them. I wondered if the time had passed where it was acceptable for say a Diddy, a Jay-Z, or a Kobe Bryan to get controversial and defend their race. Was it necessary anymore? Would it happen?

The sad thing is that the leaders who are openly defiant and vocal like the NAACP, the Jesse Jackson's and the like...are often criticised for jumping on bandwagons, and often creating them. And then the Will Smith's and other powerhouses are playing their cards safely to the side, below the radar, and politely.

There's also the power of the church, and prayer, but there's a sinking feeling that makes me wonder if anything will be enough. Aside from the fools looting in the name of Trayvon in Los Angeles last night...will the protests, the speeches, the emails, the social media trends...will any of it be enough? Or will this all fade away in vain in the next month or so?

I write this because I'm frustrated. I feel hurt, but have no idea how hundreds of years of oppression and discrimination can ever be resolved. Despite the black President, despite the increase in black millionnaires and business people, educators, and decision-makers. Despite all of those great progressive changes...has anything REALLY changed?

 I don't have any conclusions or theories. But I do have this song running through my mind. It saved the slaves and brought them to freedom before...but did it really help at all? What will?

I wonder how Travyon's parents are justifying this in their minds. How are they dealing with the murder of their son NOW that they know, that the law of a country that they live in and work for, didn't think it was a crime. It hurts, because aside from the "facts" presented in the courtroom, there is a world of pain and the heavy weight of racism that won't go away. What can you do about it? Where do you start? And what makes you think that "this time" it will make a difference.

Who's that young girl dressed in red
Wade in the Water
Must be the Children that Moses led
God's gonna trouble the Water

Who's that young girl dressed in white
Wade in the Water
Must be the Children of Israeli
God's gonna trouble the Water

Who's that young girl dressed in blue
Wade in the Water
Must be Children that's coming true
God's gonna trouble the Water

You don't believe I did begin to wade in the Water
Just see the holy ghost looking for me
God's gonna trouble the Water

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

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