Surprised? No. Disgusted? Yes.

I haven’t yet found my way to talk about Trayvon Martin, haven’t been able to articulate all the things my heart is saying, all the ways this story is so painful and so familiar. Nothing I say will be new or newsworthy. Nothing I say will hold back the next bullet that will take the next black child’s life. And knowing that is part of what holds my tongue, makes finding a post in all this frustration and pain that much harder.

So this isn’t my post about  Trayvon Martin. I don’t know if that one will get written.

This is my post about how not at all surprised I am that the Sanford police think it’s important for us to know that Trayvon was suspended from school because traces of marijuana were found in his book bag. Because, you know, that makes shooting him okay, makes that killing justifiable, makes us understand the threat he posed on that dark street.

This isn’t news, this victim-blaming. The guilty often point out the “criminality” of the innocent black men they shoot in order to help us understand why those men had it coming. And, too, marijuana is notorious for turning people into violent thugs, and traces of marijuana are the worst. Yes we all know that.

Not surprised but entirely disgusted.

Zimmerman says he was heading to his car when  Trayvon punched him in the face and began beating him. Let’s pretend for a moment that that’s true. Just  for a moment. You have a gun. Someone comes at you with his fists and you can only manage to save yourself by killing him? Really? You couldn’t shoot him in the foot, the leg, the shoulder … anywhere that wouldn’t have left him dead on the ground? Really? Okay, let’s stop pretending. It’s nauseating.

When I first heard about Trayvon’s death, I thought of Rage Against the Machine’s painful lyrics:

Three brothers gone
Come on
Doesn’t that make it three in a row?

Three million gone
Come on
Don’t you know they’re counting backwards to zero?

I have to stop. Twice in that same song (“Freedom,” in case you’re wondering), Zack de la Rocha whispers: “Anger is a gift.”  And I believe that.  But I still have to stop.  This anger, right now, is like a poison. I know how badly it affects me. Not that I don’t want or need to feel this, but I don’t necessarily need to keep spitting it at you.


14 thoughts on “Surprised? No. Disgusted? Yes.

  1. I wish all that is happening with this case would make them change the law that caused the problem in the first place – “stand your ground.” My foot! You might as well take my other foot too while you’re at it.


    1. That law terrifies me. The idea of it is so problematic, and it has already been used in so many awful cases. I hope you’re right and that the broader attention this case is getting will lead to a repeal of that terribly misguided law.


  2. Paul

    Anger…how to put it to constructive use? Quite a difficult challenge, but a necessary one, because it’s the only way to salvage some type of good out of an event that exposes all the fault lines in a society.

    I’m not an American, so this story has different resonances for me. Canadians tend to look at these things and externalize them — America has problems with racism, we don’t — and that is so, so dangerous and blind.

    If you felt like you had to stop because you were writing in a public forum, I hope you kept your writing going somewhere more personal and private, and that somehow writing helped.


    1. Thanks, Paul. I make myself stop writing here when I’m not sure what the benefit of my writing here might be. I continue to process offline. My frustration is the feeling of impotence that takes over. What can my words do? What can I do other than be this upset? I can go to rallies, I can wear a hoodie and post my photo online … but what does any of that accomplish in the end? People maybe (and only “maybe”) feel sorry about the death of this one child, but does it change the core-deep problems we have a country that led to his death? No. The writing helps me reel in the swirling cloud in my brain so I can better articulate my feelings. And that’s important and necessary, but I’m still looking for more.


  3. I’m angry about grown men who want to play hero with a gun and go looking for trouble. I’m tired of being quiet, especially about my anger, but it’s been drummed into me (us) that I “represent” my race (Really? WTF?) and no one will hear me if I shout.

    As a grown woman, I know it’s hard to understand someone through their anger, but boy do I want to scream. I really hear you. I’m angry too, and afraid to yell.


    1. I am so very tired to being quiet, of having to be concerned about the degree to which I can express my feelings because I have to worry that people will label me an “Angry Black Woman” … which is a perfectly fine thing to be but which makes me ignorable. As I wrote to Paul, I need to find something else, something I can do that gives outlet to my anger and enables me to create some kind of change. I don’t know what that is. Maybe you and I can start to figure this out.


  4. Pingback: slice #29: making « birds and trees of the mind.

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