Sunday, July 14, 2013

"My Soul Is Weary With Sorrow"

Trayvon Martin, 1995-2012

"My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word." Psalm 119:28

Shortly before we learned last night of the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, C said to me, he's going to be convicted, and I said he would be found not guilty of the February 26, 2012 killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Any number of clues during the trial's run pointed in this direction, but I also thought at that moment of the innumerable times over the span of my life on this earth, of the innumerable times over the nearly 400 years of colonial and US history, during which black and brown people have been killed, with impunity, which is to say, with the support of the state and its various systems, including the law.

I thought about how the killing of black and brown people is a feature of the creation and history of this state, and many others, including our and their laws.

I thought about how we live in a society and in a system in which the concept of justice is often a phantasm, a mere word, often made to function as its inverse, especially when it comes to black and brown people.

I thought about how for so many of us, Trayvon Martin was not and will not be just a name, not just an image, not just an analogy or a metonym, but a young person, a young black person, a young black murdered person whose name we add to a long list of names, too long, that we know we must not and cannot forget.

I thought about how many of us can say that we have been in Trayvon Martin's place and by the grace of God, of luck, of circumstance, we are still able to talk about God or gods, and grace, and circumstance, we are able to talk about the fact that we are still here, but very might not have been.

I thought about Trayvon Martin's parents' grief and sorrow, about how they will never get their son back, how they will never be able to live down the horror not only seeing his body after he was killed but now know that it has become an object of derision, of merriment, for people who had no concept of his humanity and perhaps never will.

I thought about how our friends did not have to testify in court and suffer the humiliation of becoming the subject, the target of attacks, a figure for caricature, a way for people not to deal with the terrific tragedy that unfolded that night in Florida.

I thought about how we have witnessed this story over and over again, about how angry and disappointed and enraged and disgusted and numbed I and others are by it, how it always gets transformed into another story, a story in which the deeper social, political and economic structures that make possible the killing of black children, brown children, black people, brown people, poor people, queer people, women, never get examined or discussed, and people move on to the next thing, and then it happens all over again.

I thought about how this entire fiasco will be turned into a money-making enterprise, how death, especially black and brown deaths, become a spectacle, to be exploited and disposed of when the next new thing comes along, and the fact of this child's death, the seriousness and sadness and solemnity that should attend it, are quickly disposed of.

I thought about how, once again, nothing will change unless we change that nothing into something, how we cannot depend upon "leaders" or laws to ensure the safety and sanctity of our laws, unless they are fully grasp how unsafe and little regarded, we are and are tired of being.

I thought about how low-grade mourning, and frustration, and rage, and indifference, become constants, and how so many of our lives entails not just recognition of but a continuous attempt to manage these feelings, to not be consumed by, destroyed by them.

We cannot be consumed and destroyed by these feelings. We should mourn Trayvon Martin's death, and change a legal system that allows his killer to walk free. But we also have to acknowledge that the society we live in needs to change, and not rest until that happens.

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