Monday, July 15, 2013

The Biggest Tribute to Trayvon is Not Forgetting

So George Zimmerman was found not guilty, despite, you know, shooting and killing an unarmed teenager who was doing nothing illegal. Predictably, as such things tend to go in a nation and criminal justice system that both have serious problems with young, Black men, it really seemed as if Trayvon was on trial much more than Zimmerman. After all, if you're going to do a toxicology report after a  murder, it makes a lot more sense to test the victim than the perpetrator, right?

But I'm not going to get into all of that, mainly because a million other people much smarter than I have written much better responses than I can come up with. Like a lot of people, I spent the better part of Sunday in shock, alternating between reading about the trial outcome and just staring off into the distance in a mixture of rage and sadness.

So I don't need to go on about how stand your ground laws are incredibly racialized in outcome (and yes, I'm well aware Zimmerman's defense team did not appeal to syg for their defense, but it's basically the same argument). I'll give you three guesses on who you can murder and claim a stand your ground defense and get away with it, but you'll only need one. Because this is the kind of thing we frankly didn't really even need the research to tell us -- we've known for years that if you want to get away with murder, you should murder a young Black man. This trial was just another sad chapter in a long, long history of Black Americans not receiving justice.

But I think the saddest thing of all is just that -- that Trayvon's death is just another young Black man being murdered. Although it's all the talk right now, this piece by Tim Wise got me thinking about how long it is until everyone else moves on. In the article (well worth your time, by the way), Wise talks about the Bernhard Goetz case from 30 years ago. Goetz famously murdered or wounded 6 young Black men in the subway just because they were young, Black men. And much like in Trayvon's case, the jury accepted that those boys having the audacity to be young and Black in public makes them justifiable targets of paranoid murder.

And yet, how many Americans alive today even remember the Goetz case? Outside of historians, lefty agitators, and people with pretty sharp memories, I'd guess very few. And once the next few national tragedies happen and everyone's attention turns elsewhere, who will remember Trayvon?

This lack of collective memory is important for so many reasons. For one, our schools certainly don't teach us these things -- I had never even heard of Emmit Till until I was a sophomore in college. Forgetting these events is what allows people to continue ridiculous narratives of race no longer being a problem in America, and to paint each of these events as an isolated incident. It's important to remember that Trayvon's murder wouldn't have even been investigated if there hadn't been such a huge public outcry. But there are many, many more like Trayvon who don't end up becoming public causes, and instead are just left dead and their families without any justice or even closure.

So like many across the nation, I'm headed out to a rally tonight to demand justice for Trayvon, and here in Minneapolis, to demand justice for Terrance Franklin, who was murdered by an actual cop instead of a wanna-be cop. And these rallies are important and necessary.

But I can't help shake the best tribute to Trayvon is to not let his memory, or the memory of the many young, Black men slaughtered because of the color of their skin, to die along with them. Maybe if we remember enough of them, we might finally all decide to do something about it...

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