December 2006. I had just turned twenty-one, was a senior at Morehouse College, in the middle of a studio session with my friends O and CJ. While they were writing, I stepped outside to use the phone and talk to my new girlfriend who was home for December Break. Five minutes into out conversation, two white police officers park their car in front of my townhouse, get out of the car with guns drawn and tell me to put my hands up. I say to Timile “Stay on the phone,” as I put it on the ground. They’re telling me I’m under arrest (without giving me my Miranda rights). I interrupt and ask what for. They say that there was a robbery not too far away and said that they were told it was by a light-skinned black male in a black hoodie, with dreads, a black hoodie and “I fit the description.” I tell them, “Look, I’ve been in my house all day and I’m not light-skinned.” They stop their illegal arrest on my property without warrant or rights read to me, apologize, and go on their way. After talking to Timile for another two minutes or so, I went inside and told O and CJ. CJ laughed and said “They could have taken you away and we would have been sitting here wondering what happened to you.” Yes, something serious had just happened, but as black males it isn’t anything new.
I was only nervous because as a black man, one of my only fears in the world are of white police; especially in the south. The fact of the matter is is that just of all of my black friends have experienced this same situation at least once in their life. That is the part of the unfortunate Trayvon Martin situation that those who are not black do not understand. Growing up, our parents let us know that the justice system doesn’t care and they will come after you too for not reason. I was six when Rodney King was beaten on tape, twelve when Abner Louima was attacked, fourteen when Amadou Diallo was gunned down by NYPD for pulling out his wallet, and when this happened to me Sean Bell had just been killed a few weeks prior. We have been trained that these things happen and all of our parents have been scared at one time or another that this could happen to us. One thing my mother used to tell me every time I stepped out of the house was that I represent my race. I didn’t understand that when she would be beating me for acting up and telling me this until I was much older. That is the other part that people do not understand. Trayvon Martin was a teenage boy walking down the street coming back from the store not knowing his life would end shortly: to George Zimmerman he was the embodiment of every black person he’d ever come across that he had detested and racially profiled.
I am the father to a little girl, and while I am nervous about such happenings I can’t say I fear too much for this happening to her. I am more concerned about some guy thinking that while she is in a relationship with her putting his hands on her, her being sexually abused or raped more than anything else (Starting at five, she will be taking karate classes, so she’ll have something for that). However, my nephew is like my son. He thinks that there are robbers and bad guys, but that’s from an innocent worldview based on what he’s seen on TV. He doesn’t have that fear just yet. He thinks the karate he’s learned watching Ninja Turtles are enough to propel him out of harm’s way. Eventually, that will change and he will be just like the rest of us. In the meantime, we will let him have that innocence. He could easily be an educated, well mannered kid wearing a hooded sweatshirt and “Ft the description.” I pray that he becomes the exception and this never happens to him and he one day laughs with his friends about it happening to him.
Unfortunately, George Zimmerman being found not guilty in the court of his peers is the American Justice System. He was found not guilty because of reasonable doubt. Morally, its an open and shut case, but there is reasonable doubt behind motive and what actually happened. George Zimmerman will not walk away Scott free though. He will have this stigma attached to him for life. People will remind him. He knows what happened and will have that on his heart forever, even if he did go into witness protection for the rest of his life. We are all upset, and feel for Trayvon’s Family. It sucks that this has happened. But, like I said, I’ve seen this happen multiple times in New York and LA where it gained national attention; so I know somewhere like Florida all bets are off. We can change laws, bring back the Black Panthers, and Guardian Angels on every corner. It will happen again. We don’t know when or who to. That is the part that makes us all fearful as parents. Because there is a 100% chance that it will be someone’s child.