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The Death of Trayvon Martin and the Shame of American Justice……(Commentary by Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams, Owner, NYTrend)

TTW-headshot-colorThink of the shame we have brought down upon us by airing our dirty laundry for the entire world to see. Land of the free, home of the brave, freedom and justice for all. Do these words still apply after the verdict by a jury of six-women:  five white, one Hispanic- who concluded that on a rainy evening a youth was walking home with candy and tea and was really a threat to George Zimmerman? Oh, the shame. Shame on you Florida, ‘Stand Your Ground.’  Shame on you Congress and the Senate for thinking that we don’t need laws on the books that address racism in its most blatant forms.  And shame on us for treating the state of Florida as if it were Mecca. We convene there, pour our hard earned savings into their amusement parks, but we do not have the political influence to right a wrong.

With a few weeks having passed since the unconscionable verdict that found a vigilante not guilty of the innocent shooting of an unarmed teenager, the question that is ringing in my ears is “what now?” We live in a tempered state of calm living in a world where we are criticized to a point of feeling, “am I crazy?” for labeling the subtleties of racism and discrimination we experience as examples of our extreme sensitivity and inability to let go of the past. But we know we are not crazy. Institutional racism still plagues us from the boardroom, to the banks, to politics and education. We elect officials that join in the cries that any attempts to give us an advantage for the hundreds of years we remain behind our Caucasian peers, is unjust and perpetuates an existence based on government handouts and unfair considerations.

I listened to the words of Attorney General, Eric Holder, who spoke before the NAACP convention in Orlando, Florida astrayvon-teresa-post he told of an emotional conversation between him and his son. His words were reminiscent of the same speech my son heard almost two decades ago. At the time, my son was entering his teen years and unfortunately it was time to rip away his sense of “being like all of his classmates,” and point out to him that the color of his skin would now change his life forever. And it did. He was schooled in a predominantly white environment too say the least. He was the only person of color in his grade from the day he entered the building until the last day on the premises. Oh, there were multiple ethnicities in the school, even black Americans, but in his grade he stood alone. It meant that when parties came up, he arrived like all of his classmates but they watched whom he danced with. It meant that when he got into a shoving match or voiced his displeasure with boys in his class, the attempts were made to identify him as the aggressor. And I don’t need to go any further on this point because I can hear you saying, “been there, done that,” in having experienced some similarity of what I am describing.

So the conversation of two decades ago was repeated when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. This time, I was looking into the eyes of a grown young man and not the little boy who looked at me with perplexing eyes to try and understand why being black in America made him a target. Well, this time it was a short conversation. I basically said this, “ If I see you with a hood on your head, it could be raining, sleet, snow, blizzard, colder than you’ve ever felt in your life, I will take a scissor and cut off every piece of clothing you own with a hood!!” In fact right after the Trayvon killing, I was picking my son up from the train and he had a hood on. I ran out of the car yelling and screaming at him to take that hood off.

After we both calmed down in the safety of my car I said, “always let them see your face, maybe that will take some of their fears and stereotypical reactions away and maybe save your life.!”

If only it were that simple to change the tide of how America looks at black men by eliminating a piece of clothing in their closets. The inequities in the legal system and the methods by which juries are selected, the archaic laws that are remnants of when America did not treat us as equals, has convicted many innocent black men and freed those who opened fire under the guise of self defense.

So again I ask, “what next?”  This is not the first time we have been lynched, treated like two-thirds of an individual, murdered without reason or suffered at the hands of ignorance, racism and injustice. This verdict brings me back to the reason at the age of around 14-years-old; I decided I would no longer say, “and justice for all.” That is how old I am that we still said the Pledge of Allegiance in school. At first my teacher who observed me not saying the “Pledge” at all, made every attempt to get me in trouble. So rather than upset my parents and cause distress, I chose to not say the part of the pledge that I felt was absolutely untrue.

And many decades later, I continued to hold on to my belief. I have not, since the age of 14 said the phrase, “and justice for all.” I don’t see evidence of this changing in my lifetime. So “what’s next?” We owe it to Trayvon to do all that is humanly possible to prevent his death having been in vain.

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