Close to a week after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the shooting death of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin, I’m still trying to process the heartache, the disappointment, the frustration and the rage that came with that verdict.
Thanks to President Barack Obama this fine Friday afternoon, I don’t have to.
The commander-in-chief of these United States spoke briefly Friday afternoon, without a script, without taking any questions from the press, explaining that Black people in this country have a right to exist peacefully and without fear just like anyone else. But the startling comment that stuck with me is when President Obama said that 35 years ago (which would’ve made him 17 years old) said he could’ve possibly been a Trayvon Martin case.
Hypothetical in example but poignant in execution, the President of the United States verbalized publicly the fear that every Black man has lived with long before last Saturday’s damning verdict. The fear of being profiled, hunted down and eventually killed for no other reason than the color of our skin. Right wing and racially biased trolls will tell you that it’s either a figment of our imagination or that Trayvon Martin was responsible for his own demise, but as infuriating as the trolling is, it’s no more hurtful than the fact that the people doing the trolling have no idea what it’s like to be profiled.
I’ve lived with it. Accused of shoplifting a bottle of shampoo while in a grocery store with my mother at the age of 16. Living in St. Mary’s County, Maryland and being pulled over for driving while black less than a month into my stay there. Working for a person who did everything in his power to make my life a living Hell. White women tensing up or even crossing the street as I walk by or get out of my car at a store. These are things that stick with you. And while we uphold President Obama as this statue of post-racial greatness, he proves to us everyday that post-racial times are a ridiculous myth that only absolves White America of their biases and tries to pacify people of color who know better.
This is a president who was asked repeatedly by Donald Trump (who clearly has gangrene from the dead fox sitting on his head seeping into his brain) to “show his papers” – produce a birth certificate that he was indeed a US citizen – AND PEOPLE BACKED TRUMP UP. This is a president who has been victimized by a legislature who simply refuses to do any work, at the risk of crippling this country beyond repair, just to spite him.
So who else better to speak on the racism that continues to plague this country than the man who’s the caretaker of said country, a man who has had his fair share of racial indignities thrown his way? And that offends people – good.
There will never be a productive conversation about race and racism in this country because it would force us all, but force White America especially, to confront our biases, our fears, our prejudices, our bigotry and our ready-made attitudes.
So if the President of the United States comes under fire for expressing the plight of people who share at least half of his heritage, then you know he was right about the problem of being Black in the United States of America.