On April 29,1992 the police officers who were on trial for the beating of Rodney King were acquitted and the message that was sent with that verdict stabbed at my heart like a poison-dipped arrow striking my left ventricle.
Easily I can picture the shadowy video of the officers striking Mr. King over and over and over. My mind’s projector that is powered by my memory moves frame by frame in slow motion as it shows an outnumbered figure being beat, struck, and kicked. It was this video that I thought would send several officers to their hell on earth; prison.
Instead, in early spring of 1992, the officer were allowed to walk out of the court room and go home and with this acquittal I heard a deafening message. A message that was marked special delivery and sent to all young black men; YOUR AND YOUR RIGHTS ARE NOT PROTECTED.
16 years later, on November 4, 2008, America elected her first African American President. To be honest, I never thought I would live to see the day America voted in a President of color. On the heels of such an incredible event, I secretly and quietly hoped this was the early morning of a new day. I hoped this would help us cleanse our souls that had become stained by America’s bloody racial history. My hope was soon busted open when then the murmurings of one group rose like the sun on what I thought would be a new day.
Over and over and over again, President Obama’s legitimacy was questioned. Don Trump would soon start to shout from one of his many towers that are framed in narcissism. Trump demanded President Obama prove he was a citizen. The Donald wanted the sitting President to produce his birth certificate to prove his legitimacy. Immediately, the requirement of a white man towards a black man to produce his papers rang with an eerie familiarity. The parallels between this and the right of a white person to demand a person of color produce their papers to prove they were a freed slave brought back those same cruel messages the Rodney King incident brought forth. Being 16 years removed, my heart was saddened by the reality that the hope on November 4, 2008 was only a mirage.
February 28, 2012, the young life of Travon Martin was rushed to a close as he was walking back to his father’s home after a short walk to the grocery store. During this walk his timeline would intersect with George Zimmerman’s timeline. As the timelines created an “X” one timeline would end while the other would continue to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. As one was taken to the morgue the other would be questioned and released to go home to his family that same night.
Over the next two weeks a child would be buried and the freedom of a man who stole that life would not be questioned. The silence that tried to drown out justice was finally split. Slowly, the news of the tragedy began like a small wave and then moved like a Tsunami as social media pushed it out into the open. Once it was in the open it refused to go away but still Zimmerman’s freedom remains protected.
Once again the messages return.
The value that is put on the life of a black male holds little currency.
The life of one is superseded by the rights of another and as each day passes without an arrest, the familiar rage that is married to these messages returns. The rage that makes me want to run into the streets screaming until my life, and my son’s lives get a more accurate appraisal.
Until then, I try to bottle the rage pouring it out in to little shot-glass-sized portions that I can dilute with power and share with my two black sons. This way the rage fuels power in the next generation and not inferiority or more rage.