- by Sheila Martin -
Following the reading of the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder trial, I found myself (like many of my peers) outraged and upset. However, this rage was unlike something I’ve ever experienced before. It was deep, hateful and in fact, frightening. As my other half walked around our apartment tending to her normal Saturday evening routine, I became more enraged as each moment passed. Finally I’d had enough.
I shut down my Twitter app. I exited out of Facebook. I stopped replaying news clips and I called Bobbie into the living room.
The conversation that followed was probably the most poignant of our four-year relationship.
“I need to talk to you,” I said. “…but before I begin, I need you to know that I love you – that I have always loved you and always will.”
She looked perplexed and scared, but responded with a shaky “i love you too.”
As I continued, the expression on her face became more puzzled.
“I love you, but I want you to know that right now….right now, I hate you,” I said.
She stared blankly.
“I hate you, because you’re white and I’m black. And I’m mad. And I’m mad at you, because you don’t and won’t understand why I’m so mad.” – I told her with tears rushing down my face.
She replied, “I understand. You’re mad because the guy killed the black boy and walked free.”
“NO!” I yelled. And then I thought about it.
“Well, yes, I am mad because of that, but I’m pissed even more so, because if the colors were reversed and the races were opposite, George Zimmerman would be going to jail. People always say ‘they don’t see colors.’ In fact I always say that, but the truth is – colors, stereotypes, prejudice – all of that shit, it exists, it’s real and now it’s right in our faces and I’m pissed. Part of me wants to go out and shoot all the white people I see, burn stuff down and the other part of me says that’s never the answer. All of me is upset that it’s possible for me to even feel this way. But I’m pissed. I’m angry. I’m sad. People always talk about change happening. We are 150 years past the Civil War, 50 years since the Civil Rights movement and prejudice is still an issue. Where is the change? Why haven’t people changed? What do we do when our legal system and justice fails us? What do we do when the system we put into place to protect us doesn’t?!”
I ranted and ranted and Bobbie sat and listened. She tried to interject, but after a few failed attempts to calm me, she just listened
When I finally paused to catch my breath, I was mad at myself for being so hateful, but also being so naive. Until tonight, it had never crossed my mind that George Zimmerman would not be found guilty. In my mind, it seemed so…..black and white.
Boy walks home unarmed.
Guy gets out of car with gun, follows/chases boy and shoots boy.
Boy dies. Guy lives.
No matter how I replay that scenario in my mind, it always ends up with the same verdict.
And I still don’t understand.
Growing up, I always had more white friends than black friends. I hated being black, not because of the color of my skin, but because of the kids who made fun of my idiosyncrasies they deemed not “black enough.” As I’ve matured as an adult, I’ve learned to not only love and fully embrace my heritage and history, but also the good (and bad) that comes along with that embrace. More importantly, I’ve learned to give a silent (sometimes audible) “f**k you” to anyone who questions my “blackness” or anything of the sort.
And yet, despite my maturity and growth, I wasn’t prepared for the rage that ensued within me tonight.
When my rant was done, I asked Bobbie to leave me alone, but she sat and after what seemed like hours of her silence, spoke.
“I’m not going to sit here and say I know what it’s like to be a black kid, because I don’t. I won’t sit here and say I know how it feels to be judged by the color of my skin. I don’t. I don’t know the answer to your question. I don’t know how to change our country’s justice system. However, what I do know is that, right now, you may hate me for being white, but always – you love me for being me. And when you look at me, you don’t see the color of my skin; you see me, your other half. Your skin color does not define you and mine does not me. When people see us together, they see our love for each other. And that love shows the change and progress for which you’re seeking. And hopefully, that change has a ripple effect, so others, like the guy in Florida and wherever there is hate, change. So right now, all we can do is love.”
I’m still mad.
I’m still confused.
I’m still upset.
And that’s okay.
But right now - right now, I’m so grateful to be able to look in the face of prejudice and hate and just see love.
. . .