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My feelings about the Zimmerman verdict

How am I supposed to feel? I didn't know Trayvon or his family, but his life was no less important than if I would have.  For over a year, I have followed this trial in hopes that justice would come from a system being watched by the nation and the world.  But, in another disappointing decision by the court system, true justice has escaped us in lieu of twisted words and one-sided testimonies.

My heart and soul cracked when I heard the words, "Not guilty" uttered by the clerk in that courtroom.  It shocked and sickened me all at the same time.  In my mind, I couldn't understand how anyone could not see what I and almost every other Black person was seeing.  I felt let down.  But, I also understood in that instant what it meant to be a Black man or a Brown boy in America.

I can't say that my life today is really much better than the lives that my grandparents led when it comes to how race plays a part in how we are seen by the nation we called home.  No, I've never been denied entry into a business or public accommodation because of my race.  But, I do know what it is like to be stereotyped, insulted, and simply treated differently because I am Black.

What angers me the most about this current situation is the outcry from the White people who would support the defense of George Zimmerman.  I cannot understand how and why they chose to ignore the issue of race in this case, and to a larger extent, in this country.

It makes me feel like my own country has lied to me for my entire life.  I think about how I would recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day in school and came to believe the words of that and our other great societal documents and rituals.  I believed I was an American and that bad place that my parents and grandparents taught me about was truly in the past.  I brought into the idea that people would see me for the intelligent, sophisticated, and well-spoken man that I wanted so badly to become.

Now I see that what I believed as a child isn't completely the way things work in this great nation.  We have never been an inclusive nation from the beginning.  Every document that was drafted and signed by our "Founding Fathers" was meant to apply to them and no one else.  To claim that  all men are created equal and given inalienable rights but deny those very same rights to Black people held in slavery is the type of hypocrisy that makes up the foundation of America.

Everyone but White men have been required to fight for the same rights that White men have always enjoyed.  From the abolition of slavery and the citizenship afforded by the 13th Amendment, to the Women's Suffrage movement and The Civil Rights era, all kinds of "other people" have had to overcome injustice in order to gain justice and equality for themselves.

These things are not figments of my imagination.  Neither are they simple rumors or generational myths.  These are undisputed facts!  Race is an everyday part of our lives whether we choose to acknowledge and accept it or not.  The thoughts and feelings that allowed and motivated people to enslave, segregate, disenfranchise, discriminate against, profile and even murder have not completely disappeared from American culture.  I truly believe that they have only taken on different forms, tactics and strategies.

I'm not speaking from the perspective of the disadvantaged youth who experienced poverty, violence and a broken home.  Rather, I come from the viewpoint of a college-educated man who grew up in a two-parent home and a working-class community.  I speak from the perspective of someone who has experienced both corporate and academic America as well as being a convicted felon.  I know the wonderful opportunities that America can provide, but I've also seen and experienced the many and various traps and snares that are obstacles on the way to obtaining the American dream.  For people of color, one mistake can sometimes be enough to derail even the brightest future because the often lack the money, family connections, community resources, or even simply the knowledge to help keep an isolated incident from ruining other parts of his or her life.  A vast majority of people of color don't have parents or grandparents who could give them jobs at the companies or businesses they own after having an encounter with the law.

People have been doing so much talking about the system having run it's proper course in this incident and others in the past.  I agree that the system has done what it has been designed to do.  But again, people of color were not the ones in power when our courts were established, so how and why would we ever expect someone else's system to bring about justice for one of our own?

I probably sounds bias towards law enforcement and the judicial system.  And to anyone making that assumption about me, you are absolutely correct.  I have made bad decisions that have had very little or not relation to my or someone else's race, and as a man I understand that being punished is part of civilization.  I can accept that.  But, what I do not accept is the way that so many Black men are unfairly accused, arrested, jailed, prosecuted, sentenced or killed over situations that they were truly innocent of and found themselves powerless in a system that they are largely ignorant of.  That, to me, is cruel and very unusual punishment.

One might disagree with me, pointing out the fact that many of those incarcerated men (and women) were involved in criminal drug activity, or committed felonies with firearms.  Although these statements could be true in many cases, not many people would look at the larger question:  THERE ARE NO DRUGS GROWN IN BLACK COMMUNITIES AND THERE ARE NO GUN FACTORIES EITHER. HOW DID THESE THINGS GET THERE?

I am not a conspiracy theorist.  I'm a historian.  I believe in what I can prove through research and investigation, not conjecture and hearsay.  I must agree that there are many things that people of color could and should do better, and I am a proponent of trying to create the programs and opportunities that will enable them to make certain cultural improvements that would help lessen the disparities that continue to be highlighted in pointing out either the failure of the system or those of a group of people.

I would love nothing more than for America to grow into a nation that is truly as great as it likes to proclaim.  But, I would be lying if I were to say that we do not have a lot further to go before we reach that collective goal.  And the first part to fixing that dilemma is to start a real discussion about race in America, and allow it to be honest and open enough that we can identify our most pressing problems and offer realistic and measured solutions to address them.

What we cannot continue to do is to ignore race and our other national issues in hopes that they will work themselves out in time.  We have done that a number of times and it leads us back to the very debate that we find ourselves in today.  No longer can, "I don't see color" be an excuse to avoid a conversation about the reality of the state of racial equality in our union.


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