I warn you, there is almost no organization in the writing that follows. I am trying to quiet the thoughts in my head by getting them all out and this is how they fell.
I haven't been able to find a way to write about the emotions I have been feeling since the Trayvon Martin verdict was reached. It has consumed me. I am starting to come out of it now, but the first few days after the verdict, I just couldn't stop crying. I was surprised by the verdict and surprised by my reaction to it. For days, all I wanted to do was talk about it, read about, comment on Facebook about it, watch interviews about it, etc. It is hard to say exactly why or to even explain what exactly I was feeling.
Part of the reaction that I had was the shock that I felt upon being pulled out of my bubble of ignorance to be shown how unjust our legal system is and how unjust the hearts and minds of so many people really are. I guess I live in this comfortable space where I do not witness many of the world's injustices on a day to day basis. And I don't seek out instances of injustice in order to help me better understand the world. I have been happy to look around me and see how much better things seem to be getting and this new story forced me to take a closer look. I had never thought about the conversations that occur between black children and their parents in terms of how to stay safe around white people. I never once thought about what it would be like to have to tell your child that he or she needs to be careful simply because of the color of his or her skin. And, again, this young man's life and death forced me to think about that. To really think about that. And I am so incredibly thankful.
Part of the reaction that I had was because I worry that, in some form, I will have to have a conversation with Millie about the fact that some people might not like her family and she might have to be careful what she says and who she says it to. I guess I always thought that we would be safe. We are safe. And yes, we are in a really good place, but to think about the fact that I might have to warn Millie of the hatred that she could encounter breaks my heart at its very core. Again, this case brought that up in me when it had never really surfaced before.
Part of the reaction that I had was because of the laws that exist that I did not understand. I knew that conceal and carry laws existed in each state. I knew that self defense existed in each state. I did not realize what these laws, when combined, could really mean for the country we live in. I didn't realize that when people carry guns around, their way of thinking changes. I was listening to a report on NPR that talked about the studies that show that when people are carrying a gun, they are more willing to put themselves in risky situations. If George Zimmerman wasn't carrying a gun that night, would he have ever stopped and gotten out of his car and followed Trayvon Martin? If he hadn't had a gun that night, would Trayvon Martin be just another kid, at home, causing the same sort of trouble that all teenage kids cause across the country, no more, no less? I don't know the answer, but I can't stop thinking about how differently this story would have gone if George Zimmerman wasn't allowed to carry a gun around with him.
And the stand your ground laws. I don't understand them. They seem so unfair. I don't have the knowledge that I need to be able to argue against them. All I know is that it seems like Trayvon Martin was scared of George Zimmerman after he got out of his car and started following him. He was scared and whatever actions he took towards George Zimmerman seem to be able to show him standing his ground as much as George Zimmerman was. So when does it stop? When two men fight, are they both allowed to shoot each other because they were afraid of the other person hurting them? It just doesn't seem to make sense to me.
Part of the reaction that I had was because of the stark contrast between how I felt about our country after the Supreme Court decisions a few weeks ago and how I felt about our country after the Trayvon Martin verdict. The right to marry seems so so small in comparison to the right to walk down the street and not automatically be suspected of doing something wrong because of the color of your skin. I know it is different. I know you can't compare rights like that, but that is what happened in my head. I would gladly give up my right to get married if it meant that all people in this country had the right to feel safe walking down the street no matter what color their skin happened to be. When I started to think back on the fight for marriage equality, I started to realize how whitewashed the fight had become. It was rare to see faces of color on television when the right to marry was being discussed. I can't help but wonder if the Supreme Court decisions would have been different if it wasn't a primarily white face that was being shown in the front of this fight for equal rights. I like to think it wouldn't have made a difference, but I can't assume that anymore.
And I guess part of the reaction that I had was because it all just seems so wrong. It seems so wrong that a child was seen walking down the street and I believe that because of the color of his skin, he was suspected of wrong doing. That suspicion then led a grown man to get out of his car and pursue this teenager, who was doing nothing wrong. What happened after that will never be known. I understand that. I understand that there is only man who survived the next moments and that he is the one whose story got to be told. That version of the story became truth and because he said that he feared for his life, though he was the one who began that whole thing, he got away with murder or manslaughter or something. He did something so very wrong and there was no law, no crime, that could be found to hold him accountable for that.
So that is it. My wife and my sister have conspired to make sure that I stop watching the news, stop reading more stories, stop watching more interviews because my heart just can't take it anymore. The last interview that I was allowed to watch was with Trayvon Martin's parents and I was so so so inspired by them. They were full of grace and strength and faith and they are examples for all of us on how to deal with tragedy. Watching them helped to calm my spirits and while their hearts will never again be whole, they have taught our country so many lessons.
So for those of you who were able to make it through this whole tangled mess of thoughts, thank you. I needed to get it out.