Trayvon Martin Case: Holding My Breath

Today, the special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case said that she will not send the case to the grand jury.

That means, at the least, that George Zimmerman will not be charged with first degree murder.

It does not mean that he will not go to trial. He can still be charged with manslaughter or second degree murder.

My prayer is that he is charged with something. In spite of  Florida’s “stand your ground” law, this case has given off a putrid odor of injustice, an odor which is not foreign to African-Americans in this country. I shudder to think of how the nation might react if Zimmerman is allowed to go free.

What Zimmerman going free would mean to African-Americans, and to those who have been similarly treated by the justice system, is that America still does not value the lives of African-Americans, especially African-American men. Even in the 21st century, there are far too many white Americans who resent the presence of African-Americans in “their” country, and who think that the lives of African-Americans are expendable.  Historically, people in official capacities have used the power of the police state to deny African-Americans equal protection under the law, and should Zimmerman walk free, it will seem like business as usual.

It will not go over well.

What the Trayvon Martin case is doing is peeling away fear from African-Americans who are tired of injustice. It seems our fatigue comes in spells; we can fight only so many battles, or so many fights within a large battle, at a time, but this case has energized a people who for too long have been silent, trying to believe that racism is going away and that justice for African-Americans is in fact possible.  We have held onto this hope in spite of evidence that justice for us is still far too elusive…but there’s something about this case which is as energizing for us as was Rosa Parks‘ refusal to go to the back of the bus.

I read that a group of people, protestors, walked 40 miles to Sanford to protest. This wasn’t a symbolic march, like those done on the birthday of Martin Luther King every January, This was a march inspired by fatigue and determination – fatigue at the way things have been for far too long for black, brown and poor people, and determination that this case has crossed the line and pushed the envelope.

One of my members came to church yesterday, on Easter Sunday. “Pastor Sue,” she said, “I was sitting out in my car, listening to Rev. Al Sharpton. I don’t usually listen to him, but today, I couldn’t tear myself away. He was saying that what we are protesting is that these people in Florida have so little regard for a human life! Trayvon was a human being, Pastor Sue!” she said. The tears were rolling down her face. “I am so angry, so angry!”

And she is not alone.

My prayer is that Mr. Zimmerman is arrested. That is the least the justice system can do. Arrest him. Let him go on trial. Let the justice system work, as so many people are advising us. If he is acquitted, African-Americans will not be happy, but they (we) will at least feel like justice was served. The man who shot an unarmed teen will have been made to answer for his crime.

It is not a lot to ask. It is a basic American right for a crime to be prosecuted. Even though, in cases involving African-Americans verdicts have come back – way too many of them – which have been reflective of racial bias, at least there was a semblance of trying to do justice.

That’s what Trayvon’s parents and the hosts of people up in arms are seeking.

I hope America understands. I am holding my breath, and America should be, too.

A candid observation …

20 thoughts on “Trayvon Martin Case: Holding My Breath

  1. I wait along with you, Pastor Smith; but this country’s poor track record in the area of justice for Blackd doesn’t make me as hopeful as you.

  2. I have a visceral response to what is happening around this case. I just cannot believe *anyone* thinks this is okay.Yet with things happening like the hate graffiti sprawled on and around Ohio State’s campus in the past couple of days, related to this case, letting Zimmerman slide emboldens so many more.

  3. I know, Diana. This case, tragic as it is, might be the impetus to address racism in a whole new way. That is my hope …even as I hold my breath.
    Thanks for taking the time to read the piece.

  4. You are on it again! I’m not holding my breath, but rather holding my temper praying that some traditionally privileged “conservative” doesn’t say something to make me go off! Zimmerman has gotten off for killing an African American.

    Vernon Johns allegedly told his congregation that a white man was fined for killing a rabbit out of season. He continued tthat a rabbit was safer than a Negro, because killing a Negro was always in season. It’s a shame that I know this mood so well. It is 2012, but it feels like 1950 again.
    Reading about Santorum’s parting shots today only pours salt in the wound. Thanks for your insights.
    Ozzie Smith

  5. It is the worst feeling ever, feeling like “chattel” even now, in 2012..Thank you for your comments!

  6. At this time we know that Zimmerman has been arrested and charged with second degree murder. Now the question is what will be done? What will the message to the world be about how America feels about other Americans today. Hopefully the great divide will be made a little smaller by the “ministers of justice”.

  7. Your post is as racial and full of bigotry as you accuse “crackers” of being. Every time some conflict between a Black/African-American/Negro/Colored Person/Person of Color (all names by which the Black population refers to itself) comes to public knowledge, the Blacks rise up and accuse the white folks of being full of hatred for the Blacks. I am 64 years old, and in my life I have experienced more hatred for whites in the hearts of blacks than the other way around. How come you don’t scream about the 93% of murders by black people against black people? More of you blacks kill each other (93%) than whites kill blacks. In the BIble, Jesus said, “Physician, heal thyself.” In other words, before scream about any bigotry in white folks, you black folks need to eradicate it from your own hearts; otherwise you are just all hypocrites. Don’t tell someone they need to take a bath if you also stink. Take your own bath, first. You might find this blog quite interesting to read on the Trayvon/Zimmerman case:

    Remove the hatred and bigotry from your own heart–then go out and try to fix that problem in others. Is that clear enough for you?

    1. Dear Thom:
      Your point about black on black crime is valid; there is a fair amount of self-hatred that blacks have for themselves (ourselves). The self-hatred is not unlike the dislike of oneself a kid gets if a parent always puts that kid down and treats him or her poorly. After a while, the kid (child) internalizes the hatred being imposed on him or her and begins to believe he or she is worth that hatred.
      White on black crime is different; this kind of crime comes from the hatred whites have been taught to have for blacks. And the issue is not so much the white on black crime as it is the history of this nation to execute justice for whites who have killed blacks. History is full of such instances; a black life to white people has been historically of little to no importance…and that hurts. Blacks have been objects, not persons, to white people, or more accurately, to white culture. Have you read the story of Emmett Till and how the all-white jury acquitted the men who clearly killed him? That has been our history.
      In my house, we were taught not to hate white people; in many black homes, that was the lesson. We were taught that hate only produces more hate, but the fact that I do not hate white people does not obscure the fact that I resent the lack of justice meted out to white people who have done wrong to blacks. It was law, on federal, state and local levels that white people could not be prosecuted for doing crimes against blacks, and it was also law that a black person could not testify against a white person.
      That is the angst, the cause of the restlessness amongst blacks as concerns this case. It is historical. It is OUR history.
      Thank you for your post!

      1. Forgive me for not responding to your comments until today. I appreciate your comment. It is well written, well thought out, and a valid comment/point of view.

        I, too, was taught not to hate. To me, it isn’t what a person LOOKS, like–it’s what is in their heart that counts. I don’t care what race a person is, what their nationality is, or their religion. What I care about is what kind of person are they?

        Again, I appreciate your comment, and am at peace with it.

  8. Your post is as racially biased as the accusations you make about “crackers” being bigots. I am 64 years old, and in my life I have had encounters with more blacks that are bigots and hate whites than the other way around. Jesus said in the Bible, “Physician, heal thyself.” In other words, before you tell someone to take a bath because they stink, make sure you don’t stink, as well. Before you point your finger at the Caucasian population and call them racists, look into your heart and see if maybe you are just as racist. I read a wordpress blog that reported 93% of murdered blacks are murdered by blacks. So, what do you have to say about that? Perhaps Zimmerman WAS defending himself, but both the media and the Black population rushed to judgment JUST because Zimmerman was white, and the black population wants to sensationalize this along with overly ambitious journalists.

    Refer to this blog:

    1. I am in the process of doing some research on race and religion…and just this morning read and was reminded that we were called Negroes as early as 1644; in 1682, the state of Virginia also referred to us as Negroes…I lift it up because you mention all the “names by which we call ourselves.” We have adopted the names given to us…

    2. Excuse me, Thom…it might not be my place to say this because it isn’t my blog but how dare you? How dare you accuse the author of this blog of racism? The racism seems to come from you and people with your mentality.

      No one here said that all white people are racist or anything of the sort. No one called anyone “crackers”. And look at you, quoting the Bible as a way to justify your ignorance. Sounds a lot like the folks who used Christianity as a tool to justify the enslavement of other human beings.

      I won’t deny that some Black people are extremely prejudiced…I, too, have encountered quite a few with biased attitudes toward anyone who isn’t dark-skinned. I have been mistreated by Black people for being light-skinned. But you seem to be woefully ignorant when it comes to the history of Black people in America, as well as other parts of the world. Black people do not have a long history of oppressing white people or trying to harm them.

      You choose to ignore the hatred from white people and focus only on the negative experiences you’ve had with Black people. Why? I could easily hate most Black people because of the way I’ve been treated, but I prefer the path of understanding and forgiveness. I am also of mixed race so it would be like hating a part of my heritage.

      As a rule, I don’t like to insult anyone but I find your post inflammatory and offensive. Maybe you should educate yourself before spewing more nonsense.

  9. The other thing that is striking about your post is the names by which “we” refer to ourselves. For the longest time, we were called “niggers” by white people, and so that’s what we called ourselves. It was and is a despicable term, but my ancestors, from Africa, knew no other term by which to call themselves. Later, we became “colored,” and then “Negroes,” and I think those names were put into play by African-Americans who hated the term “nigger.” During the CIvil Rights movement, we became “black,” (black is beautiful), an attempt to identify withourselves on a positive level, and then came “African-American,” to acknowledge that we were not and are not a people without a home and a heritage. It has been an arduous journey. I personally prefer African-American; I hate “colored” and “Negro” (terms my grandparents used.) In his writings, Dr. Martin Luther King used “Negroes.” Like I said, it has been an ardous journey. Our predecessors realized that unless we loved ourselves (which we do not as a whole do, not yet) it would be foolhardy to expect others to love us.
    Again, I thank you for your comments.

  10. It is sad to hear you accuse me of being racist, because I certainly am not. I understand that how something is said or written will be perceived differently by the reader/listener depending on their position/viewpoint. I expect fairness from all people. This includes the media, a profession I once happily followed. I will not deny white people have been terribly cruel to the African-American ever since the slave ships brought the first Africans to the U.S. However, not all white people are racists, nor are all Black people racists. We can live in harmony together if people stop judging by color and, instead, judge people by what is in their hearts. We could also live in harmony if the media stopped sensationalizing things that happen between white and black and if blacks, i.e. Sharpton, Jackson, and others, stopped trying to sensationalize those same events. Instead of trying to inspire rioting and hatred, if Sharpton said, “Let’s not use this unfortunate event as another reason to fuel hatred for one another. Let’s come together to live and work in peace.” However, these words never cross his lips.

    I appreciate your comments and have respect for them and you.

  11. Um… I didn’t accuse you of being racist.One of my readers did. Did you mean to respond to that person?

  12. I’m glad that Zimmerman was finally arrested but sad that it took so long. Still I think many of us are holding our breaths to see what the outcome of his trial will be, but, at the very least, the first steps (that should’ve been taken immediately) have been set in place.

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