For a year and a half now, millions of Americans have closely watched, been riveted to, on-the-ground factors, socio-cultural and legalistic issues surrounding Trayvon Martin's death. Although the book is not yet closed on further legal proceedings, last Saturday's "not guilty" verdict ends this sorry chapter. George Zimmerman is now a free man.
Last week I shared some opinions about the larger historical and cultural context in which Martin's death occurred. I did so because I have not been engrossed in diversionary curiosities about who hit whom; whose screams were heard; did the police act properly after Martin was killed; the makeup of the six-person jury; the defense and the prosecution; the witnesses; the judge; or even the outcome of the case.
It is not because I am unaware of these things. Rather, I have been preoccupied with one thought: how does an American boy walking a few blocks to a store to buy orange juice and Skittles end up dead? What reasonable explanation could there be?
What crime did he commit, what was there in his background, what aggression did he show to transform a Neighborhood Watch volunteer into judge, jury, and executioner? Is it because Trayvon was black?
As I have watched subsequent news reports and reviewed social media comments on the "not guilty" verdict, I am unsurprised that people appear to be widely divided on the subject. In high-profile cases where race is an issue, e.g., O.J. Simpson, Rodney King, and so on, such perception gaps are not uncommon. It's part of the "double-consciousness," or double vision, I referred to last week.
Whether we admit to it or not, race-based double vision is so deeply embedded in our culture, and so callously set against the African-American male that he has a marginal chance of either going to college or going to jail. More to the point, however, on the question of who killed Trayvon, we did. All of us.