Monday, March 26, 2012

Trayvon Martin, Mountains, and Rain

It's a rainy Sunday morning.  I zip up Simone's sweater and pull the hoodie over her freshly styled hair.  She scurries towards an opened car door.  Her curls droop like Easter tulips past their prime.

Rain can be so destructive.

It gnaws away mountain sides.  To a greater extent, it carves meandering grooves into cliffs and sends sediment running like many trails of salt-stained tears.  Note the irony: the drumbeat of raindrops carved out even the Grand Canyon.

Just as rain greatly erodes canyons, so also the slow and steady drip of racial prejudice, evident in the Trayvon Martin case, further erodes my trust in our country's justice system.

In the US, relations between black people and white police officers is wrought with fear, suspicion, and racial prejudice.

I've had unsettling encounters with white police officers myself.  In most cases, I was stopped in Orange County and drove away feeling like a second-class citizen.  I guess I should consider myself lucky I even drove away at all.

In any case, I received neither a warning nor a ticket.   The encounters left me with a troubling sense of exclusion from the part of society that law enforcement agencies claim to protect and serve.

When I was stopped, each officer told me-- as though reading from a script-- that I "fit the description of a suspect" in the area.    That profile-- as covert as it is pernicious-- meant that I was pulled over because of my skin color.

To be clear, I was not stopped because I had broken the law.  I had no outstanding tickets.  I just happened to be the wrong color.  And even though I left those encounters empty-handed, I did leave with something:  a gradual wearing away of my dignity.

Over time, I've learned that our criminal justice system targets people who look like me.  This perspective is not unique, as many black families will attest.  Most that I know have had similar brushes with the law-- usually involving male family members.

I realize that not all, but many law enforcement officers harbor prejudice deep within their subconscious. While Zimmerman pulled the trigger, criminal justice experts ignored the smoking gun.

Subjectivity prevented police from making an arrest because the shooter had probable cause-- a notion maintained despite evidence to the contrary.

The Trayvon Martin case is deeply unsettling on so many levels.  It brings to the surface raw emotions, reminding me that black life has little value in America.

It's disheartening to think that the shooter in the case goes unpunished thus far.  It's even more appalling to watch the Sanford Florida police department's handling of the case.  Why hasn't the gunman been arrested?  The answer to that is unclear.

What is clear is that police officers enforce laws with a large amount of latitude.  They do not treat black citizens with the same deference that they undoubtedly--and perhaps unknowingly-- give whites.

I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that some hope has sprung from this senseless loss.  Thousands of people have amassed around the country and aimed their protest toward the police department that handled the initial investigation.  Armed with skittles and hoodies, their calls for justice have significant implications.  The federal government will put pressure on Florida to change their laws.  Zimmerman will probably be prosecuted.  Like tiny pieces of sediment, they have cemented together and built up a mountainous outcry.  However, the day-to-day injustices blacks experience will continue to go unnoticed.

Unfortunately, in our country it seems that racial prejudice runs deeper than mountains are high.

If history is any indication, actively growing mountains are not exempt from adversity.  During the 60s and 70s, strength thrusted great movements skyward.  But for all the encouraging-- astonishing, really--progress over the last 50 years, racism still runs rampant.

Just as anyone who looks at the Grand Canyon recognizes that water broke rock, so also anyone can point out the racial prejudice unraveling the fabric of the Trayvon Martin case.  Over time, even the Grand Canyon's majestic peaks humbly bowed.   All it took was a constant dripping over days of steady rain.


Hevel Cohen said...

In a predominantly white-ish country (with European and Middle-Eastern features) I'm raising two biracial children. My eldest son is dating a boy from a Beta Israel (Ethiopian) family. He also happens to be an officer in the IDF. He gets treated differently a lot because of the colour of his skin. I know our Ethiopean community gets discriminated a lot and it makes me wonder what my kids' lives will be when they grow up.

Dionne Sincire said...

Hi Hevel. Discrimination is so ugly and even more scary when our kids are invovled.

Brazenlilly said...

It's always great to hear your thoughts, so beautifully written out on the page. It hurts my heart that the truths you are writing about today are so ugly.

Dionne Sincire said...

Thanks Jen. I appreciate your reaching out. It means a lot.

Jewels said...

Dionne - I am so glad you are back to blogging. I truly feel like your writing makes me a better person. I have nothing inspiring to say but that I am so sorry that you and so many others are experiencing such awful discrimination. It makes me so angry and sad! Please keep writing...

Dionne Sincire said...

Thank you Julie, that is very reassuring to know. I appreciate your support.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin