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License to Kill: The Illusion of a Free and Democratic Society

I have a difficult time describing to people from other countries why I don’t love my country. Why I don’t uphold it to that same beacon of hope and social inclusion that it’s portrayed to be. Why I’d almost recommend that immigrants, especially of African descent, go to any other developed nation but ours, even acknowledging the rampant racism throughout Europe.

The next time I struggle for words to describe our problems, I will just point to the travesty that was George Zimmerman’s acquittal. How a civilian could arm himself with a gun, follow a kid after deciding he fit some profile, ignore the police dispatcher’s instructions to stay in his car and not follow the kid, get out of the car, allegedly get in a physical fight, shoot and kill the kid armed only with a bag of skittles and can of iced tea, and then claim self-defense and get away with it, is beyond mind-blowing. A 200 pound grown man with a gun who instigated the entire situation claimed he feared for his life from a 150 pound 17 year old boy. If there was the potential to fear for your life, why would you seek him out in the first place?

The whole trial was a sham. It was anything but justice. What it was, was just another (unneeded) reminder that the right to life, the right to justice, the right of equality, and the right to pursue happiness are only selectively applied, and that we’re (black Americans) not part of the chosen ones.

It’s sickening to watch legislators and news reporters talk about this case as if there wasn’t a human life lost. They’ve totally detached the conversation from the fact that a child senselessly lost his life and made it about any and everything but that. They’ve discussed tactics, they’ve discussed how murder 2 should never have been sought, they’ve decided (many of them) that it couldn’t be anything but self-defense given Trayvon’s profile, they’ve dragged Trayvon’s character through the mud, and they’ve even discussed, in the wake of the verdict, how they want people to respect their right to privacy. But in all this smugness and self-congratulations, I think all of these people on TV have forgotten that a child is dead. No one disputes that Zimmerman killed him, they’ve just decided it was ok–they’ve disconnected and diverted the conversation. They’ve conflated the non-guilty verdict with being the truth, stating that they’re glad the truth was discovered. We don’t know what the truth was, and we will never know, because only one person got to walk away from this situation. No one was somber, they talked about the case like they were in mock trial, as if it were purely an exercise and there wasn’t a victim. Only one person, ONE, mentioned anything about the family after all was said and done.

No wonder indifference prevails. Feeling is too hard sometimes.

I watched the announcement with many family members I hadn’t seen in years, all gathered to celebrate the union of two people; the proliferation of love. And as I looked around the room at all the little black boys, children of my cousins, I realized how much more precarious their future has become. I realized how much more paranoid every parent of a black boy will be about them just living their daily lives–playing outside, going to the mall, walking home. I realized that those 6 jurors set a legal precedent for what all of us in the room already knew has been accepted in this country: that there are no consequences for killing a black person (man) in this country. We’ve known this to be true from as far back as historical memory goes, but for this to happen now, in the age of Obama, where people deny the existence of racism as vociferously as they used to deny the existence of our humanity during the slave trade, just makes the fact indisputable. Any of us who dared believed that this was the beginning of a new era of post-racism were sorely mistaken. Of course, there are those who will continue to wear their rose colored glasses and disassociate this from race, but they’ll never be convinced.

Michael Vick got a year for killing a damn dog. Another (black) woman in the same state of FL got 20 years for firing her gun at an abusive husband, without so much as harming him. Where’s the justice for Trayvon Martin? Does his life mean less? Oscar Grant? We’re walking backwards in time towards the days of Emmit Till, and what’s depressing is that most of us aren’t surprised. I’ll honestly say that I was sure that they would at least convict on manslaughter charges. I guess I was naive. Although after realizing the jury was 6 white women, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised either.

Our country may not be a dictatorship, but oppression is still very real. Our country operates with most, if not all, basic amenities and many commodities, but they’re still disparately distributed. Our country may pride itself on the ideals of freedom and democracy for all, but those ideals have not been realized for all of us yet, they mostly remain an unattainable illusion. You will never hear news reports of genocide occurring on US soil, but that’s exactly what’s happening. The daily deaths of brown and black bodies will never make the news like the Newtown Massacre, or the Colorado movie theater shooting. In fact, if it’s reported at all, it’ll be discussed as if it were something as regular and non-eventful as a bowel movement. Our genocide is legalized, it’s quiet, it’s sinister, it’s white on black, it’s brown on black, it’s black on black, but it all stems from an unjust institution.

Mississippi, Goddamn? Well I’d add Florida, Goddamn.

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