Trayvon Martin: Race, Skittles, and Iced Tea – The Rancid Nectar of “Strange Fruit”

Posted by on Apr 5, 2012 in Articles | 0 comments

To my readers:

This site was, and is, a place of encouragement, empowerment, and enlightenment of one’s self through perseverance and elevation towards God. As such, I strive to have my writings and videos remain consistent with my manifesto. However, the recent event in Sanford, Florida resulting in the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teen, has affected me so profoundly that I am compelled to share my hurt, sorrow, and pain.

While you may be initially of the mind that this post regarding Trayvon is inconsistent with my manifesto, I would ask you to consider what John Donne believed. He reasoned that because everyone is a part of mankind, the death of one man is a loss to all mankind: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Consequently, the death of Trayvon affects us all since we all must die. So as the bell has tolled for Trayvon, it too, shall toll for us.

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Mutilated and tortured bodies were hung from trees and set ablaze. The stench of burning flesh loomed like poison in the air, combusting with the oppressive and sweltering heat that unmistakably belonged to the South. Any black “seed” would do – man, woman, boy or girl – as all were found lifeless at the end of a noose.

Whether this macabre scene shocked onlookers or emptied their stomachs was a matter of sensibilities. For whites that pledged allegiance to the Confederacy, the prospect of such visions only mirrored their heart’s desire of life as it should be – not only in the south, but throughout the entire United States. Northerners, however; unaccustomed to trees bearing such “strange fruit” were often haunted by the savagery and cruelty depicted in images of black men and women hanging from a tree.

To understand why the vast majority of the 4700 lynchings[1] that occurred in America from 1882 – 1968, occurred in the south and were of African Americans (or were like Jim Brown and were otherwise tried in a court of law, convicted of treason, and hanged), one must first understand that lynchings and slavery, particularly in the southern states, was a political tool wielded by two hands. The first was a permissive government that sanctioned its horror, and the other was racists under the mistaken belief that their atrocities against blacks – which were rooted in fear, ignorance and the rise and fall of cotton prices – would stem the tide of change for emancipation, equality and civil rights.

Despite the repeal of Jim Crow laws, and the creation of new legislation designed to protect blacks from overt and covert prejudices, these measures in and of themselves were ineffective against ridding America of its racist subconscious and prejudices against blacks. Consequently, the “psyche of the deep south,” and its symbiotic relationship with race, hatred, and segregation, has regenerated itself in the form of societal and institutional discrimination now known as stereotyping and racial profiling. These subtle, and not so subtle, acts of discrimination are committed by private citizens, quasi-government and government officials, simply because the attitude towards (or should I say against) people of color, specifically blacks remains one of the most prolific vestiges of slavery. Hence the tragedy in the death of Trayvon Martin.

The shooting and death of unarmed Trayvon Martin is under close public scrutiny and consternation from thousands across the United States. This is largely because local police in Sanford, Florida, have failed, at least as of the writing of this post, to arrest and charge George Zimmerman, the armed self-appointed neighborhood watchman who claims he shot and killed young Trayvon in self-defense. Complicating matters more is that George Zimmerman, and apparently the Sanford Chief of Police, Bill Lee, and State Attorney Norm Wolfinger (having now stepped aside amist the Martin controversy) were of the belief that Zimmerman is lawfully afforded a place of asylum and protection from prosecution for the killing of Trayvon Martin under Florida’s “stand your ground law”. Lee and Wolfinger, contrary to the opinion of lead investigator, Chris Serino, were of the opinion that Zimmerman’s questionable accounts of events on the night in question were credible, and therefore determined that no charges were to be levied against Zimmerman.

The question at the heart of the Trayvon Martin murder is whether or not race impacted the decision of the Sanford Police Department and the Seminole County State’s Attorney to not arrest nor prosecute George Zimmerman, a white male, in the killing of Trayvon Martin, a black teen. To understand why, as a nation, we the people of the United States of America are on decidedly opposite ends of this question is again a matter of sensibilities.

Americans generally, and African Americans, in particular, are outraged by the killing of Trayvon Martin and non-arrest and prosecution of George Zimmerman because it summons – at will – memories of institutional sins against blacks in America. Accounts of blacks being severely beaten, abused, or murdered by police with subsequent cover-ups, are recent events and past memories that never fall asleep because the sting of racism in this country has never been anesthetized.

It’s quite simple.

Those who are of the persuasion that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense and say that race is not a factor – they don’t get it. They don’t get the fact that, in this instance, race does matter. They don’t get the fact that African-Americans are still discriminated against, are still victims of police brutality, and are often guilty of driving and living while black. They don’t get the fact that Trayvon is dead because certain biased assumptions were strung together like ill-fitted pearls on a strand – young, black, hoodie, night-time, nice neighborhood – must equal a criminal. They don’t get the fact that race, consciously or not, influenced the decision of Bill Lee and Norm Wolfinger to not prosecute George Zimmerman.

Let us dare reverse the race of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, and leave all facts as they are. Would a black George Zimmerman, packing and wielding a 9mm pistol, who disregarded the 911 police dispatcher’s admonition to not follow Trayvon be free today, even after having shot and killed a young, unarmed, white Trayvon Martin who was lawfully where he was authorized to be, wearing a hoodie and carrying only a pack of skittles and an iced tea?

I think not. In short, stereo-typing and racial profiling are replicas of the same old game. Nothing has changed – just the player. Trayvon Martin.

So tell me race doesn’t matter in this case. Tell me racism no longer exists in this country. It does and it stinks! Racism is the rancid nectar of “strange fruit.”

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[1] Of the 4700 lynchings, 1200 were of abolionists/whites who were sympathetic to the cause against slavery.

Photo by user samplediz

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