It just keeps coming up. And with it comes the bile. The Trayvon Martin case has the potential to cause much hurt in this country. And why not? It may need it.
Two people who met for a few seconds. Locked eternally in a struggle through the heavens, spinning with the stars, gritting teeth, finally pulling everyone around them into a a maelstrom. What happenned out there? In some sunny manicured suburb? With no-one watching? My answer is that I don’t care what happenned, cos it all came from the same place.
I came to the US from Scotland in 89, and one of the first things that happenned was an attack on our huge all-white ommune house in San Fransisco, by a team of crackheads from the housing project next door. I had already peered into the housing project with the eyes of a newbie who wants to know it all, appalled by the totality of the squalor, heart breaking open with empathy, and a desire to change the world. But what it was that really got me was that it was 100% black. When the crackheads attacked, they were out of their minds, smashing their ways through windows in a drug daze, unsure what they were doing, srong-as-hell, but completely uncoordinated. We repelled them as a group, and literally tossed them back over the fence into the project and I remmber it as a demeaning introduction to America, land of MLK and the Panthers.
“Aw shit!” I thought. ‘It really IS that bad here”
Now it was a pretty extreme case and I went on to be a liberal white kid living in many black hoods all over America, and extremity of the didvide wasn’t on my mind. But it did show it’s face just about everywhere at different times. America was the divided paradise, and everyone was trying to deal with the aftermath of what happens after civil rights liberates folks and folks struggle to live in the land of post-Jubilee, with a whole lotta still-racists glowering at em, with the whole world waiting for em, with a complicated new book-on-living to read and act on immediattely, struggling to cope. In New Orleans the public bathrooms of the French Market still had Mandingo carved graffitti on the walls from when it was used as a slaveholding cell before auction. In Mississippi, a land I loved, white folks still bought moonshine from ‘Niggerwoman McCloud’ who bore the name of the owner who raped her great granma. How do you get past that? In Scotland, we had our own shit. But America’s was sensational.
But though I travelled in many places that are the great subjects of extreme stories and adventure tales, the majority of my American education was on landscapes that are anything but cinematic. Coming from the old world, I could not understand the physical places I ended up in all the time, that were the average square milage of the suburbs. Suuure, Im talking about white-picket fence land, but more than that I’m talking about grassy knoll subdivisions and their trash compacting areas, electrical sub-stations 3 iles wide, suburban railroad yards that separated black hood from affluent white – THESE were the real non-photogenic places that the American dramas of white-on-black occurred. And this was the average, whimpering setting for the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Gated community. Everyone’s white. Even if they’re black, they are NOT living the black life over there one mile away by the railroad yards and the trash compactor .site. you gotta be good here – respectable. Hoodies not welcome.
Either George Zimmerman realized that he’d just shot a white kid and HAD to suddenly turn his fists on himself to make it look like more than it was, or else this awkwardly quiet kid had a good streak of anger in him that came out in that way that streaks of awkward anger do often come out in adolescents, when he felt he was pushed too far by being followed or cornered. Either or. The courts will decide. It’s just another case. Hundreds happen every year. I do not know which it will be. But step back with me. See them tumbling through the imaginasphere, locked in struggle, teeth gritted. They are black and white in madern deadlock, and THAT is the issue. Whether they ever actually struggled, until American society addresses the simple fact that it is unspeakably shocking to imagine that in only the span of two long lifetimes, we have come to see black skin as more than a commodity completely owned by white people. Africa itself had abolished slavery in most states before the US did. A whole swthe of the population has to live with this fact, and their slavery in the US was worse than the enslavement of the majority of slave societies even as far back as the Egyptians – I know for I have studied this. Southern slavery was total and all-consuming. It allowed no leeway and obliterated all identity. Nothing was left excpet in vulnerable pockets that can only be described as a mistake or as a kindness so fragile that the removal of it was more painful than if it would never have existed. And the removal of kindnesses in Southern slave societies was basically inevitable. The American Indians destruction and the setting up of a destroyed African population in this land is one of the more extreme histircal overloads recorded. It has left us all fragmented and bitter, waiting for cases like this to happen.
Everyone knows it was not a cut-and-dry incident and it is not a cut-and-dry case. Maybe Trayvon DID attack. They say ‘He was quiet! He was timid, and when I hear the story of what happenned, I know it is made up completely because he wouldn’t do any of that! So this guy would HAVE to make this story up with no witnesses”. And personally, that’s what I suspect, but who cares what i think. Because when I look back to my childhood, Catholic in a Protestant village where te war between them both is fierce and cruel, angry with my inability to cope with young life, disturbed and sensitive to injustices, lacking is self-respect and subject to inner turmoil, I see someone who could harbour inside a landscape of turbulance, who would do things unknown to others that could be described as erratic at best, insane at worst. Violence? Certainly! Especially on the odd occasions when I could manage to be alone. Like a jailed resistor who knows his only power is sabotage and refusal to comply, I played dangerous games in a shadows of what was noticeable to adults, many inside my mind, and waited for someone to push me beyond ‘who I was’ and into the land of delicious automatic raction, wher eyou are super-human, and do not fear the consequences. I can see this yound having a hidden side, waiting to snap. I can see him, like me, even walking towards the drawn gun. I did that. Was I justified? Who cares. When the turmoil hits you, you can’t resist. And when you are 17, suddenly you see how not only are you crazy, but now you are strong…… nad people are starting to fear you.
Does this not justify the use of Zimmermans’ gun? This image of a tortured kid snapping and just deciding to head straight for him? After all, it was the state, not Zimmerman, who put in place the ‘stand your ground’ law. A person can’t be held accountable for acting on the fact that it DOES exist….. I tend to not know nor care. Perhaps so. But if ever there was a moment to reflect, it’s at that imaginary moment when Trayvon Martin turns and heads at George Zimmerman. Think into a mind…….
“It’s always like this. I’ve been followed every time now for a year. Isn’ this what they said wasn’t allowed to happen? Things are bad enough, but I get trailed like a convict every time I come through here. No-one’s around to see so he’s pushing it, cornering me. This is crazy – this guy with a gun is coming around in his car to cut me off. Things happen. People get shot in situations like this. To say they don’t usually means you’re white. This is crazy. This bastard is coming for me with a gun like a drive-by! What does he think this is? Does he think we are just gonna cower every time they pull a gun on us? I bet you he yells at me to stop! I’ll bet you he puts his hand on his gun and tells me to stop. Well fuck him! Fuck him and his gun. If he does, Im walking anyway, glaring at him. Cos he’s not even a cop. He’s some vigilante and he’s not got a right to tell me not to walk past his car. Go ahead. Shoot me. Who fucking cares! Im done with this! I’m done with it!”
Is this really so unreasonable? Is it truly an option to say ‘In this situation, you should just stop, cos if you’ve done nothing wrong, the fiendly peace officer will thank you, apologize and let you go”? Is it? Cos that will prove true in many situations depending on who you are. Is the person saying that really going to stick to such a laughable WHITE way of looking at the world?
However, maybe Zimmerman DID have previous experience that are justify his self-defense posture. Certainly, there’s a lot he would NOT be able to say publically. He couldn’t say ‘Look! What happenned was awful and tortures me, but the facts are that in this state, black on white violence is so statistically overwhelming that I didn’t know he was cool! How could I? X, Y and Z got mugged in the same way last year and I’m sorry but that DOES make a difference! If they don’t peace officers reacting like this, then why don’t they curb their society’s violent behaviour?!”
Would it be cool to say that? Not in the present cultural ettiquette of modern politics. But from real-life, boots on the ground perspectives where political correctness cannot help you stay alive when you are threatened, yes. It’s fair. This bog IS called Flambeaux ‘real life’ after all. Real life is really all that counts. Yes. Zimmerman doesn’t really appear all that racist. He has his own ethnicity. He’s tried to show he has a heart. I DO believe he had an authoritarian hero-complex and I do believe he racially profiled the hell out of an innocent situation. BUT…… the black population of the US is seriously struggling. Civil rights got violent and separatist in the 70’s, proving critics correct. Positive affirmation turned ugly and embarrassing and was it’s own form of sublimation. Society has done things to address the problem and lots is getting better, but………but it’s hard. TWO lifetimes. Slaves in the harshest sense. Owned and traded. Worked, raped and lynched. It’s too much. I was held up by a 12 year old boy in New Orleans who couldnt hold his gun up at me for too long because it was too heavy for him, so he did it in stages as I curiously got out my food stamps for him. And at night, we’d sleep on the floor by Desire housing projects to avoid stray bullets hitting us from the Uzi fights going on around our house. American slavery was all-consuming. It broke something and we are not admitting it. Forces a lot of people to embrace their more negative cultural stereotypes because the standard set has enabled them to gain more personally from doing so than to gain from collectively rejecting the notion. It’s not George Zimerman’s fault or even mine, what our ancestors did, and certainly the political culture of the 90s, wherin awareness of our tortured past was hip, is no longer in vogue. But members of the black population who manage to negotiate and rise above their pigeonhole in this modern society should be our modern-day peers. And support for Trayvon Martin’s family in their condemnation of Zimmerman has become the indirect, politically correct way of saying that.
I’m 45. My crazy travelling days when rules were there to be smashed or bent are mostly behind me as I try to take care of my new life as a first generation immigrant who must make a family for the future. But it is a shame that after so much refusal to comply with the ‘order’ of Amerikah, I find that most of my friends are white, and that I live in a white hood. The more I entered into a phase of life where setting the world on fire could not be the priority I once made it, the more the rules bent me to their will. Black-white social patterns are getting better. We even have a black president. But still, a man like me is funneled away from ‘the other side’ and into the collectively approved vein of life to be the white guy he is, not the dreamer he was. And the whirling deadlock of black and white and the bitterness involved in that, continues overhead in the cosmos of American culture until we learn to calm it, talk it out, address it, halt it and turn it into a dance.