I’m not a black mother or a white mother. I’m just a mother. I’m not a black person or a white person. I’m just a person. With a beating heart that can break. With blood that runs through my veins. With a sense of right and wrong etched deep in my psyche. The very same psyche that screamed injustice! when George Zimmerman was pronounced not guilty.
I live in Florida, just an hour way from the place where Trayvon Martin was shot dead by an overzealous neighborhood watch citizen. It seemed like a clear cut case to me. Boy was unarmed, not trespassing or causing any trouble. Gets into a fight with Zimmerman, who decides to follow and then shoot the teen – when in the first place he should have simply waited for the police to get there. Clearly guilty, right? Atleast to me it seemed that way. So I didn’t really watch the trial in its entirety. On the night that the jury delivered its verdict I was up. I stared at the television screen and at the word ‘aquitted’ which my brain processed as ‘guilty’. That’s how sure I was that Zimmerman would pay for snuffing out the life of a child! Then it slowly sunk in. I was shocked!
Let’s go back in time. To about a decade ago. 1992 to be precise. The Rodney King case involving police brutality. Yes, the guy was a criminal on parole. Yes, he did not co-operate with the officers. Did he deserve to have most of his bones broken? No! 33 blows to get this man arrested ? No! All the officers were aquitted and then when the case went to the civil court two were pronounced guilty and two were aquitted. Maybe you felt Rodney King deserved it because he was a criminal. Maybe you sympathized with him. Maybe you were enraged by the whole thing. If you were Afro- American you told your sons to be cautious when approached by a police officer. To simply put your hands up and co-operate or get beaten to death!
Let’s go back to 1955. That is the year that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man. Did you know that there was another woman by the name of Claudette Colvin who also refused to give up her seat on the bus and was dragged out and arrested? Do you know why they withdrew her case from the federal courts? She was pregnant and unmarried. Quoting from the book Rosa Parks : My story – If the white press got hold of that information, they would have a field day. They’d call her a bad girl and her case wouldn’t have a chance. So Rosa Parks was the chosen one – the one who would rid America of segregation on the bus.
Go back to the 1800s when the Ku Klux Klan was terrorizing the Southern States. You don’t even have to go back that far to arrive at a place in history where a black man could be shot by a white man for simply being sassy. The law did not protect the lives of black men, women or children.
I could keep going back in history to prove how much injustice has been meted out to the black people. But that would not help any of us. I just wanted to show you how far we have come and how much more work needs to be done. Going back to Trayvon Martin, and I think his name is no coincidence (just like Rodney King), I was amazed by the strength and dignity shown by his parents. They are aware as I am now that their son was part of a bigger plan. A plan to take a good look at the law books and change things that are not working. We also need to take a good long look at ourselves and see where we fall short as human beings. Where we let inequality, labels and sterotypes to govern our judgement. Where we let the vestiges of the past take control of our actions.
Why am I writing about this? I owe it to fellow blogger Eva who said – I’m plagued today for the same reason so many black parents are: we just watched a jury in the lawless state of Florida acquit George Zimmerman in the senseless and blatantly racial murder of Trayvon Martin…and we have children that by now we’ve had to explain it to.
I may not be Afro-American but I have read enough of American history to know what race is. In India it’s the caste system and other countries have other systems in place that reek of segregation. When President Obama was elected in 2009 it felt like America had taken a huge stride toward liberty and equality. But we still have some cob-webs to clean and some fine-tuning to be done. Many people are disheartened by the verdict and feel like things will not change in their lifetime. Imagine if Lincoln gave up on the 13th amendment! Imagine if only whites could vote today would Obama be our president? We cannot look back, we have to keep looking forward and we have to stop segregating the fight for justice. It’s everyone’s fight. Not just the black people! It’s not just America’s fight. It’s every nation’s fight for justice and an end of discrimination based on your skin color, nationality, caste, immigration status, gender, disability…the list goes on.
I’m not black and I’m not white. I’m a mother and I feel the pain of a mother who has lost her son. I ask each one of you to reach inside yourselves and really try to relate to this case. Put aside the facts, the media hype and the 10,000 analyses. Just ask yourself and you will know right from wrong. Knowing isn’t good enough, you need to start a conversation and get people to talk and take action. I just did. Now it’s your turn…