I have taken some time to think about the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. And I am sure plenty of people are going to disagree with me with what I am about to say.
Remember when the O.J. Simpson verdict was handed down? I do. I was living in New York City. There were so many people who were upset and others who were cheering. That was an extremely important moment in race relations between Black and White America. I got a phone call from an ex (who happened to be Latino) who wanted to express his excitement over the verdict. "Finally black people got justice for all the shit that this country has put them through!" I, personally, was upset that O.J. was acquitted. I felt that a crime was committed and he walked. The bottom line was that two people lost their lives and we knew who did it. But after looking at the justice system and the trial as a whole, I discovered that he walked on a technicality. The L.A. Police Department had tampered with evidence and because they did the case went completely different than they hoped.
Unfortunately, this is history repeating itself. That 911 tape of George Zimmerman describing Trayon Martin tells us everything we needed to know. Racial profiling was definitely in full play. Was there a confrontation between Trayvon and George? I believe there was….but I bet if we could actually see what happened we would find that Zimmerman followed Martin and confronted him. I bet the gun was concealed. I would bet my last dollar that Zimmerman provoked the entire situation. Martin probably saw a slightly overweight non-black man and thought “I can take him” They fought. When Zimmerman thought he had been injured enough, he pulled out the gun and ended the confrontation.
The second 911 call from a female neighbor tells us there was someone yelling for help. Someone got shot. Civil Rights took a major blow at that moment. All the ghosts of the past racial incidents began to rise again into our consciousness all over again. The first name that came to mind was Emmett Till. The murder of this 14 year old African-American boy believed to be flirting with a married white woman in Mississippi in 1955 was so horrific that I protested Lil' Wayne's callus reference to it earlier this year on a rap song called "Karate Chop".
So, when I got the news of the acquittal of Zimmerman after my show last night in Huntsville I could barely sleep. I had just had a wonderful time entertaining a crowd at Nuit Blanche North. A mother brought her 14 year old son to the show and they waited to meet me afterwards. The joy on the boy's face when I signed one of my CD's and gave it to him was priceless! It was so lovely to see a mother embrace her son and his lifestyle. It was amazing to be a part of that. I was on cloud nine! So, between the news of Zimmerman and the overdose of Cory Monteith my mind went into overtime. I mean….Michael Vick was sentenced to two years for dog fighting, but this guy is acquitted? In the Rodney King beating where all the officers walked, it is hard to comprehend that the justice system is working in the United States.
I was trying to explain to my husband about what life is like for minorities in the state of Florida. When I left Tampa, Florida in 1992 I had no real concept of politics. I had no idea that New York City would teach me so much Black History in my first couple of years there. As a DJ, there was all this music that I had never experienced. As a young gay man, there were so many things I did not know about living in a large city with a huge gay population. And as a young black man, there was so much I never knew about the contributions of the African-American. So, imagine my surprise when a whole new world had been opened to me. I never wanted to be political, but as you get older and live more you can't help but become political.
The Trayvon Martin murder trail was political….make no mistake about that. There is a rise in the Republican control of what will and can happen in the U.S. They are gearing up for 2016. They fought really hard to bring Obama down and he still won two elections. Republicans have been very clear in their message to the public that it has been their mission to make sure he is a "lame duck" President. So far….they have kept their promise. He's still accomplished a lot, but these next couple of years are gonna be long and hard.
Florida is the state where an ex of mine has adoptedthree kids and is scared to have a boyfriend because he could lose them because it is against the law for gay couples to adopt. Florida is the state that used to have laws on the books that if you are pulled over by the police and you are in drag, you better have on men's underwear or you will be arrested. Florida is where Casey Anthony was acquitted of the murder of her 2 year old daughter. And Florida is where the "Stand Your Ground" law allows anyone with a gun to use it to protect themselves if they feel like their life is being threatened. And Florida is also a Republican State that does edit and censor news stories that do not comply with the Republican way of life. News stories about events like the Rodney King Beating looked really light compared to what it looked like in New York City in 1992. It's a little harder to keep stories under wraps these days with the internet, but there are still attempts to hinder minority voters. It's actually happening all over the U.S. right now.
But what I am witnessing on social media is a widening divide. This verdict has polarized Americans. People who live in large cities cannot comprehend this verdict. A hoodie and loose fitting jeans should not make you a thug. Walking slow and talking on a cell phone while being black should not be a problem. But Right Wing America is upset. They don't like that the numbers of African-Americans and Latino-Americans are on the rise. They feel like they need to take back their country, an America that is spinning out of control because it doesn't look like the America that they grew up with. I am watching online friends identifying themselves as supporters for both sides
The message that this verdict has sent is that I as a black man can be a target while walking down the street to get to work or home or anywhere. The message that this verdict has sent is that racial profiling is okay. And it also sends the message…."This is for the O.J. verdict! Don't forget that we run this country and we control you."
When I said that history has repeated itself, Zimmerman basically got acquitted through a technicality just like O.J. The prosecution failed to submit all the information and photos involved in the case. The prosecution over-charged Zimmerman when they sought a second-degree murder charge. Perhaps if they had only sought a manslaughter charge the verdict might have been different. I don't know what to think. I'm trying to make sense of a world where someone is stalked and killed and allowed to walk free and have his gun returned to him. I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that George Zimmerman's father is a judge. I am trying to understand why there were only six jurors. And most of all I cannot see how deflecting blame is going to make what Zimmerman did not be perceived as a win for vigilantism.
I presently spend most of my time in Toronto because I married a Canadian. It is definitely different here. It's nice to walk into a store and not have security follow me because they believe I am there to shoplift, but I do witness other racial issues here. It's just different and the targets of profiling are different. Some would like to believe that racism is a problem only in the U.S. They are oblivious to the racism that is blatant and in your face that pop up from time to time. For the Black Communities of Canada I hope that they see this verdict as something that affects all people of the world. I know that there will be some who won't say a word and won't take a stand on the issue of racial harmony. For them....I feel sorry because this is really a Human Race problem instead of a black, white, red, yellow or brown problem.
I worry for my family that still lives in Florida. I worry for all the young people out there who might be walking home from the store while wearing some casual fashions of today. It probably won't be a problem for our white and Latino youth, but the reality for the U.S. black male....you might as well wear a target on his chest. Hate crimes are on the rise and as a black man I have been moved to the front of the line.