I'm sure by the time this is published there will be a plethora of articles on the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case, a trial that some may argue is the paradigm of our generation. And I'm sure all these articles, filled with the eclectic voices of our nation defending and prosecuting the trial's non-guilty conviction of George Zimmerman, will both hold strong and conveying platforms as to why the jury of six women came to their decision and whether they were simply, right or wrong.
For the past two weeks, I've been grappling with doing just that. I've been following the case avidly. Tuning in at nine to watch the live stream, taking note of the opening statements, the witnesses who took the stand, and the evidence that was revealed, which at times contained recordings and pictures that catapulted me outside the bubble of my innocent realm.
As a teenager with social media at the tip of my fingers, and the opinions of hundreds at my disposal with the click of a button, it's easy to fall victim to the opinions of others, and it's easy for others to assume that I would. But as I watched the case unfold, and learned the story through my own eyes, I was able to make my own stand, one that I hope to share from my perspective as a black teenage girl.
For those who say that the Zimmerman trial was not one that involved race, I can only shrug a smile and shake my head. Perhaps those who are quick to dismiss the connection are those who have never felt profiled. In a post civil rights generation, it would be great to naïvely believe that there is no black nor white, that racism is simply a plague that we have, after great perseverance from our forefathering pioneers, found the cure to. After all, according to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, "Nobody racially profiles."
But as much as I would love to concur, the reality of the matter is not so blissful. Trayvon Martin became an archetypal for racial profiling the day he was born.
Not that I don't believe that racial profiling occurs from all different parameters, but its existence is malleable. Many don't really know how it feels sometimes to be the only black girl in a room, to be the butt of harmless racist jokes that although I know mean no harm, still hurt anyway. That knot in my stomach that I get, when I visit places in Virginia where Confederate flags hang freely, for I know they represent a "culture" more-so than what it instituted, and yet my palms still sweat.
And I know that feeling of being judged more than anyone. A Muslim-American, and black teenager, I make those same assumptions to those who make the same at me. What is she doing? What is she up to? Why does she look so suspicious?
And as vividly as I can see that parallel utopia where I am simply just a human, a teenager, I see the bleak edges of reality, a reality that I have come to see make strides in its acceptance of different ethnicities and races, but strides that still have a journey to complete. A report conducted by the Department of Justice found "that blacks and Hispanics were roughly three times as likely to be searched during a traffic stop, blacks were twice as likely to be arrested and blacks were nearly four times as likely to experience the threat or use of force during interactions with the police."
Ironically, as the world grappled around the issue of perspective and profiling of the young Trayvon Martin, he taught us a lesson himself. Rachael Jeantel, the prosecution's key witness, who after taking the stand drew ire from the nation as her infamous "yes sirs" seemed to symbolize years of oppressive contempt, pulled criticism from social media communities as many struggled to understand the teenage girl. Jeantel herself told her lawyer though that, "[Martin] was one of the few guys that never made fun of me, about the way I dressed, about the way I talked, about my hair, about my complexion... about my weight."
So understand that when it seems that the Trayvon Martin case has become a "bandwagoned racial debate," understand why people relate, why I did. When I looked at Trayvon Martin, I saw a kid roughly my age looking back at me. With the media's spotlight on the bag of Skittles and Arizona drink in his pocket, the innocence that so happily wraps around me, was evident in his hands. And as the defense painted him as thug, a seditious teen, I couldn't help but see a black teenage boy -- my counterpart.
In reality, as I kept watching the trial and the clear lack of evidence salient as the proceedings furthered, I realized that no one will possibly ever know what happened to Trayvon Martin. There are only two people: George Zimmerman who feverishly will defend his honor and Trayvon Martin himself, who will never be able to voice his side.
I think that's what hurts the most. We won't ever know, and so we can't really draw on who to point fingers to. A 17-year-old boy lost his life, and his voice rendered speechless will never explain why. And as much as I related to this innocent teen, the jury without a doubt held a reasonable doubt.
A doubt that will haunt me for quite sometime. It could've been me, couldn't it? I mean, Skittles after all are one of my favorite candies, and I have a sweet tooth for Arizona Iced Tea. And I'm a teenager. And I'm black. And I wear hoodies.
And to some I might look suspicious.
I heard someone say once that, Trayvon was guilty of existing. Perhaps we all are. Our minds, after all, tarnish from preconceived perceptions of others before they ever speak a word.
Perhaps one of my favorite tweets in the aftermath of a decision I struggle to fully comprehend said, "How cool would it be to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night?"
It's the what-if's that haunt me, that probably forever will.
"We have got to go all out to deal with the question of segregation justice. We still have a deal long, long, way to go." -- Martin Luther King Jr.