Thursday, April 5, 2012



Noun:  Somebody believed to be evil: somebody or something regarded as hateful, evil, or frightening

I have spent my life trying (with varying degrees of commitment and success) to be a good person, and I've lived what could be considered a pretty decent life. I've gone to good schools, got married, raised kids, worked good jobs, been involved with respectable organizations, and in respectable activities, have strong ties to the church, etc.

Yet none of that matters when I walk out of my front door every morning. For when I leave the comfort and safety of my home and enter in society, I become, in the eyes of many, a "suspicious character". I know there are many of you out there, my brothers and sisters, that can identify with what that means: Police cars coming up behind you and running your plates to see if you have anything they can use as a reason to pull your over (or inventing a reason to pull you over even if they don't - otherwise known as "DWB": Driving While Black), store employees following you around or appearing out of nowhere mainly to keep an eye on you, and of course, the ubiquitous spectacle of women clutching their purses and/or snatching up their children, and getting the hell away from you as fast as possible. Most days I can either take this all in stride with a laugh or shake of the head; some days, however, it pisses me the hell off enough that I just want to snatch one of those skittish women's purses - not to steal it, mind you, but just to whack her upside her bigoted head a few times, Aunt Esther style (and if you're Black and over the age of 40 and you don't know who Aunt Esther is, get off my blog, you fish-eyed fool. H'ah, glory!).


"The term bogeyman is also used metaphorically to mean a person or thing of which someone has an irrational fear."

Now many folks would respond to me by staking the position that Blacks, and particularly Black males, commit violent crimes at a rate disproportionate to our overall population percentage. And while this is an undeniable, tragic problem that has many causes but few - to this point - solutions, the argument ignores one essential fact: just because most violent crimes are committed by Black males, it doesn't mean that most Black males are violent criminals. To me, this is a critical distinction, yet if you are inclined to see Black males as bogeymen, then it's a point that won't amount to a hill of beans to you. I guess that's the thing about us bogeymen: either we all look alike, or we're all just so frightening that even though we may each look different, all those good, innocent people we're scaring can't be expected to remember what distinguishes one of us from the other. Neither can those good folk be bothered with context when it comes to us bogeymen: being dressed in your work clothes, church-going suit, pushing a stroller, holding your child's hand, being on a date with your sweetie...none of these things matter when a bogeyman's elevated levels of melanin are perceived by someone else's photo receptors and the resulting signals trigger waves of distrust and fear throughout their bodies- because any other reaction would require rational thought, and really who has time to be rational, reasonable, or logical when bogeymen are roaming about?


 Noun  Someone or something that people believe is bad and causes problems

This brings me to the case (or non-case, if you're a member of the Sanford, FL Police Department) of the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. I won't rehash all the details of the shooting, or restate any of the follow up stories; you've no doubt read and/or heard them all by now, many times over. I guess the thing that sticks in my mind - throughout the coverage of Zimmerman's changing stories; the questions of who attacked whom and who was defending himself against whom; the conflicting accounts of whether he was or wasn't injured, whether he had or didn't have a broken nose; whose voice was heard screaming - throughout all of this, I ask myself over and over: what was Trayvon Martin doing on the night of the shooting that George Zimmerman found so suspicious? Such a simple and obvious question to ask, but one without a sufficient answer (or any answer). What was Trayvon doing that was suspicious? 
Was he trying to break into a car? Peeping into a window of some body's home? Following somebody? Or was George Zimmerman's "suspicion" of Trayvon Martin just due to the latter's "Walking While Black"?

Yes, I'm aware that NBC admitted to doctoring Zimmerman's 911 call, but let's say for the sake of argument that this proves he wasn't targeting Trayvon for his race. Then what was Trayvon doing that was suspicious?  Is Zimmerman some expert on drug abuse that he knows definitively what someone looks like (and from a distance, no less) what a person looks like on drugs? What was Trayvon doing that was suspicious? 

Until we hear from Zimmerman himself (and not his family members and various lawyers and mouthpieces) and hear just why he was found Trayvon Martin "suspicious", then the only thing I can conclude is that Zimmerman looked out his car window, saw himself a real live bogeyman that he couldn't possibly conceive of  "belonging" in his neighborhood, ambling along aimlessly (as 17 year olds are wont to do), and wearing a hoodie no less (which as we know, according to Geraldo Rivera, is justifiable grounds for murder ) called 911, then - in disregard of the dispatcher's recommendation - decided to follow after Trayvon, setting off a chain of events that turned Zimmerman into a modern-day St. George, slaying a Black dragon.

No matter what your stance on this tragedy is - whether you are outraged that Zimmerman is not in jail, or whether you are outraged that Zimmerman is being unfairly treated; whether you think Zimmerman is a racist thug, or whether you think Trayvon was; whether you think Zimmerman stalked and killed Trayvon or whether you think Zimmerman was defending himself from an attack from Trayvon; whether you are outraged by, weep for, or otherwise mourn the loss of a 17 year old, or whether you have so little regard for the lives of people of color that you are angry that fictional characters whose death you wept over when reading a book are played by Black actors in the movie adaptation of that book ; whether the circumstances of Trayvon's death stirs up echoes of history and/or identification with constantly being viewed with suspicion, or whether you can't quite understand why some Black folks' reactions  are as strong as they are - I would think you would want to know the answer to the question: What was Trayvon doing that was suspicious? Then again, maybe you don't need to know; maybe being a "bogeyman" was enough to create suspicion.

Until we find out the answers, I'll just thank God that the "Stand Your Ground" laws don't exist in Maryland. I might be dead already...

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