Saturday, July 13, 2013

When The Verdict Stings

I can't say that I was surprised by the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. There is a long and dark history of injustice embedded in the molecules of our democracy. My lack of surprise in no way diminishes the sting of disappointment that I felt when it was announced. A man can literally hunt down a black teenage boy, kill him, and face no consequences for his foolish actions.

I wasn't there that night, so I am in no position to posit on the details and nuances of who confronted who. But something in my gut tells me that activities leading up to the shooting of Trayvon Martin were not initiated by the teen. George Zimmerman deserves no sympathy, compassion, nor any feelings of shared humanity tonight.

As I write this there are people marching in downtown San Francisco. I hope and pray that cooler heads prevail and that no one gets hurt. I understand their anger and there frustration about the verdict. They have every right to protest in the streets.

Being singled out simply because of the way you look has happened to me. It happened years ago on BART when I was about 9 or 10. My older brother, his best friend, and I were on our way to the A's game in Oakland. We got on at the Richmond Station and as soon as the doors of the train opened up at the next stop two BART police got on, looked at us, and beckoned us off the train.

Apparently, someone had been using forged BART tickets that week and I guess we fit the "profile" of who might be using them. Ironically, we'd received the BART tickets from church as  part of a summer program for "youth enrichment". In one brief instant, three nerdy young black boys, who had been recognized by their church, had been reduced to suspects. We had every right to be on that train. But that right had been taken away and we were forced to prove our innocence. It was terrifying.

They had us sit on a bench for about 15 minutes for no reason. One of them left, came back, and then told us we could go on our way. We had been stopped just because of what they thought we represented.  I can still feel the emotional embarrassment of being stared at by the other BART patrons.

Tonight's verdict will sting for a long time.