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 …