♠ It Could’ve Been You… ♠
“These Assholes Always Get Away!” — George Zimmerman, Feb. 27, 2012, before he hunted down and murdered Trayvon Martin.
DETROIT (JSC) — In my capacity as a working journalist and radio talent, I often have to dress a certain way. When I’m covering major events, I’m usually in some combination of a sweater, slacks, shirt, tie, and nice shoes. Please believe that your man cleans up very well. The other 97 percent of the time I’m out and about, I’m usually rocking some combination of jeans, gym shoes, my signature Detroit Tigers or Michigan State Spartans 7 3/8 fitted cap with either a t-shirt or hooded sweatshirt. Hell, when I was covering basketball and football games for Wayne State last year, I was often known as the cat who sat in the press box or on press row in the Wayne State hoodie and the baseball cap. I live in Michigan, where in a normal year — and we’re coming off the strangest and warmest winter in decades as well as a week where we saw four consecutive 80°+ days in mid-March — the temperature is under 65° about 55 percent of the time. My closet is full of hoodies: Wayne State Hoodies, Michigan State Hoodies, Detroit Hoodies, Fraternity Hoodies (as I write this, I’m wearing a black ΦΒΣ hoodie), and other miscellaneous hoodies. I’m ready for those mild afternoons and cold evenings. The old adage is that clothes make the man. It also seems that in 2012, clothes can also get you killed. Thanks to a vigilante named George Zimmerman, the focus has been thrown onto one of the touchiest of touchy subjects in America. While I think I’m minding my own business, to someone with a grudge, I’m suspicious and must be dealt with. We ride for Trayvon today. Let’s Go.
For years, I’ve bristled at our over usage of the “race card” as Blacks Americans. It’s not because I’m under some misguided notion that Racism and Prejudices don’t exist. That’s clearly not the case. I’ve railed against it because we’ve gotten too loose with it. It’s an example of the law of diminishing returns, which states in essence, that continually using the same thing toward a particular goal or objective will lead to a decline in its effectiveness after a certain level of success has been achieved. Example: You can only add so much sugar to a pitcher of Lemonade before it becomes too sweet. In terms of the “race card”, what was once the proverbial “big Joker” in the spades game has been turned into the Four of Diamonds 4♦. It went from being used to point out very obvious and blatant instances of racism and prejudice to the point where now we scream racism when our drive thru order takes too long or when a black baseball player gets called out on a questionable third strike. It has become the proverbial “boy who cried wolf” scenario, thus giving white people an opportunity to dismiss any legit cries of prejudice.
Thus, when we’re hit in the throat with situations such as a 17-year-old boy being pursued, harassed, and eventually killed by an unstable white — or “Hispanic” — man for looking “suspicious” in a black hoodie on a rainy night and the subsequent slipshod “investigation” by the police, people are quick to discredit the cries of racism as just another batch of Negro woof tickets. But then you look deeper. The police clear the shooter of wrongdoing on grounds of the lamest “self-defense” claim in history of the country, run toxicology tests on the unarmed dead victim, but NOT on the shooter, and immediately discredit obvious evidence on the gut-wrenching 911 tapes of the shooter disobeying orders not to follow the kid. Listening to the tapes, you very clearly hear Zimmerman creating the justification as he goes along. Note how he insisted that the kid was coming for him with a “hand on his waistband” as a means to justify his use of deadly force (we must also note that he is NOT a police officer and that he initiated the encounter). Then there’s the clear evidence on the tapes of the shooter referring to the young man as a “fucking coon” and the boy’s desperate final screams for help being abruptly muted by the fatal gunshot. The worst may be Zimmerman insisting that he was the one screaming for help. This, pardon my language, is fucking bullshit on the grandest scale. This is not a case of blacks crying wolf. This is one of the greatest American tragedies of the last 75 years. Trayvon Martin is this generation’s Emmitt Till. How could anyone listen to the 911 recordings and not get physically ill?
We all as black men in this country have experienced that unbearably uncomfortable feeling of being profiled and followed. For me, there was a particular Saturday night 12 years ago in East Lansing. I was pulling out of a Burger King just after leaving a party at around 2:30am. In the adjacent parking lot was an East Lansing Police car. I calmly pull out of the BK (which is now a Starbucks near Hagadorn in E. Lansing for my MSU people), hit Grand River and head back to the crib, which was Butterfield Hall. Seconds after I turn onto Grand River, that cop car pops out of the lot and gets right behind me. After driving a mile, the cop doesn’t flash the lights on me, so I get over to get out of his way. As soon as I move right, he moves right, staying right on my tail. Every lane change I make, the cop makes, following me all the way up and around Grand River, over to Michigan Ave., making the Michigan Left with me, following me into the Brody Complex parking lot. As I stop and hop out of the car, the cop cruises slowly by me, staring at me before driving off. He didn’t say a word. It was one of the most ridiculous things that I’d ever seen. But wait, there’s more!
There was the Tuesday afternoon six years later as I was driving back to Lansing from Muskegon. After making great time and cruising along, I approached a construction zone in Ionia County, which is between Lansing and Grand Rapids. I slowed down, per usual, and cruised by this Michigan State Trooper who was chillin’ in the median. Mind you, I’m doing about 50, and sure enough, I have company within seconds of passing the trooper. I pull over, and this cop walks up to the passenger side of my truck and immediately sticks his head in the window. I can audibly hear him sniffing — you know, as if to see if I had been partaking in the marijuana — and looking around, all without saying a word. I had to ask him “Why did you stop me, sir?” After another 10 seconds of silence, he finally points to the graduation tassel hanging from my rear view mirror, insisting that he “could write me a ticket” for having that on the mirror. He didn’t. After asking me a bunch of questions such as “Where are you coming from?”, “Why were you there?”, “Where are you going?” and “Do you live there?” he finally lets me go after 15 minutes pulled over in a construction zone. No ticket. No warning. Just 15 minutes of my life that I won’t get back. I couldn’t help but ask the obvious question: If I were not a 26-year-old black man driving through a rural county in mid-Michigan, would I have even been pulled over? What happens if one of my answers was not “satisfactory” enough for this officer? What if my father, a Detroit cop for 35 years, hadn’t drilled how to deal with cops when you’re pulled over into my head for years? This is what we all encounter as black men, young and old.
It’s a story so big that even professional athletes, who are often too scared they may lose an endorsement deal that they keep their traps shut, are speaking out. During last night’s game between the Pistons and Miami Heat, the Heat openly showed their anger at this situation, with players noting RIP messages on their shoes and game tape as well as Dwyane Wade and LeBron James speaking at length about it. The Portland Trail Blazers have also joined in the protests as well. This is bigger than just a 17-year-old boy. It’s about all of us. When President Obama spoke on Trayvon Martin yesterday, and with the FBI and Justice Dept. investigating this case, he had to be measured in what he said, this one quote spoke volumes:
“When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this.”
Barack Obama, the most powerful man on the planet, is still a black man. As President, he’s ridiculously had his citizenship and credentials challenged. The narrative from the Right Wing makes it seem as if this man is an evil demon who scurrilously usurped control of this country in some form of coup, and did not actually win the election. They mock his childhood, equal parts mock, dismiss, and vilify his educational background, and go out of their way to make him seem like he’s not “one of us.” His achievements are dismissed and his failures are magnified. He’s been called a “liar” by a sitting Congressman during a nationally televised address, had a sitting governor wag a finger in his face and say she felt “threatened” by him, and had various covert and overt racist messages and forms of propaganda brought against him going back to before he was even the Democratic nominee in 2008.
Of course, it didn’t take long for stooges such as Newt Gingrich to try to attack the President for actually looking at this situation from a legit personal perspective. To people like Newt and many others who actually support Zimmerman, Trayvon brought this upon himself. If he hadn’t worn that damn hoodie, and had just answered Zimmerman’s questions, he’s still be alive. How dare President Obama insinuate that a white person wouldn’t have been accosted, chased, and shot! We all know how often white kids in hoodies, or trench coats, are profiled and followed through the streets. This is a case where there are no “two sides” to the argument. George Zimmerman is a killer who is walking the streets because the Sanford, FL Police thought that somehow his life was threatened by an unarmed 17-year-old who was half his size, whose only crime was looking “suspicious” in a hooded sweatshirt.
In closing, I’ll repeat what I said during Tuesday morning’s show on WCHB: Trayvon Martin could’ve been me, you, your brother, your cousin, your father, or your friend. Trayvon Martin was cut down by a man who felt that he was judge, jury, and executioner. Trayvon Martin lost his life over nothing. He joins the long line of black men cut down by hate crimes. I will continue to wear my hoodies and jeans, and sneakers. Maybe Trayvon’s death will force people to address their inner prejudices and racial insecurities. We should all demand that killer Zimmerman be brought to justice quick, fast, and in a hurry. Not just for Trayvon Martin, but for Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, James Byrd, Oscar Grant, Emmitt Till, and every black man who was lynched or killed for the crime for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being black. I’m Out, but the Struggle Continues.
Until Next Time, That’s The Way It Is. Saturday, March 24, 2012.
The 28th day since George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin
Take Care, God Bless, Always Dare to Be Different, and G.O.M.A.B. Σ