My heart, filled with sorrow, is heavy right now. Something about the Trayvon Martin case touched me from the beginning. I was in Nicaragua, sitting in a tree, looking at a volcano, when my sister told me about his murder. After we got off the phone, all I could do was cry. I didn’t know him, but he could’ve been anyone I knew or was related to. That recognition drew me to him and made me so sad and angry that he was killed and that the case was being ignored in the media.
Fast forward a year and some months later, Zimmerman is on trial and as much as I want to watch it, something in me draws back, scared for my sensitivity.
At the same time, Nelson Mandela is in a hospital on life support. He may not make it to see his 95th birthday, but he’s lived a very full and meaningful life. He dropped out of college to join the African Nationalist and anti-apartheid movement and eventually spent 27 years in prison for fighting for what he believed in. For being true to himself and standing with himself. Twenty-seven years.
Race is such a muddled conversation in this world, but especially in this culture where it’s implicitly acceptable in every faction of the culture, thus omnipresent, but explicitly discouraged, thus rampantly covert. A video of celebrity chef Paula Deen revealing her racism was made public and she lost her job and several corporate associations. There is no honest conversation about race happening, how it originates, permeates, recreates and flourishes; just a very public and expensive slap on the wrist.
George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin because he was suspicious of Martin, not because of any suspicious activities the boy was engaging in necessarily, but because the mere presence of black men, specifically, was a cause for suspicion, prompting the automatic belief that they were up to no good and that the situation was unsafe. This situation essentially repeated itself only months later in the same state of Florida with the 17 year-old Jordan Davis and 45 year-old Michael Dunn, who also refers to the Stand Your Ground law in support of his professed innocence. Where did these men get that idea from and how can/will we work to change that thought association?
Black people are not safe in a world with white supremacist ideology and systems. Children, born with no say over their life circumstances, are not safe. There is an assault on their bodies, minds, and spirits, so even if they aren’t physically eliminated, they are psychologically and psychically damaged.
As Mandela lays in a bed, in critical condition, I review his life and the meaning he attached to it. This man made a sacrifice and he sacrificed himself for his ethics. There are so many people who wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice 27 hours, days, or weeks to stand up for what they believe in, even when that essentially means standing up for themselves and this man sacrificed 27 years.
What are we giving? To whom? And for what?
We are worth the investment of our own time and our own lives for our own benefit. You are worth the investment of your own time and your own life for your own benefit.
Let it not be in vain. Let it not be for mere comfort and its illusion. Fill your time and your life with meaning to make a positive difference. Some are never fully given that option. Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were completely robbed of that opportunity and if we care, then we have to do something more than sit in the comfort of our homes being outraged. We need to act and take advantage of our gift of life.