On Not Resting

Image picked up here.

It’s a sweltering summer Sunday. I had a different kind of post in mind for today, a breezy back-to-blogging sort of post filled with travel pictures and light reflections on the monumental legal and social changes that have occurred during the extended radio silence that has prevailed in this particular corner of the blogosphere for the past several weeks. That half-finished post may or may not ever make it out of the draft folder. It certainly can’t go up today, not because I feel I have anything especially wise or useful to say in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin but because it would feel wrong to publish on any other subject right now. It would also feel wrong to publish nothing, even if I don’t really know what to say. Fortunately, others are less tongue-tied than I am.

Tenured Radical has compiled a list of things to do and read in the wake of the verdict. Bardiac offers a handy guide for white folks on how to end white violence against people of color. Here’s a helpful snippet:

1. If you see a person of color, don’t shoot them.

2. If you see a person of color, even if you think they shouldn’t be in your neighborhood, don’t shoot them.

3. If you see a person of color, even if you think they shouldn’t walk around with a hoodie, don’t shoot them. (In fact, even if you don’t like the fit of their pants, the color of their shoes, or whatever, don’t shoot them.)

4. If you’re a police officer, and you see a person of color driving a car, don’t pull them over for “driving while Black.” And don’t shoot them.

See? It’s simple! We can do this, people! Don’t. Shoot.

The always awesome Melissa Harris-Perry has an eloquent Du Bois-inflected commentary on how it feels to be a problem (which is different from merely having a problem), a feeling familiar not only to African Americans but to members of any stigmatized or disenfranchised group. Our dear and faraway friend Keguro Macharia meditates on the meaning of the words Stay safe to those who are deemed killable, disposable.

That is what it boils down to, isn’t it? We can fret about the weirdness of Florida’s laws or the weaknesses of the prosecution’s case (as commenters over at the Chronicle are already doing on TR’s post), but in the end Trayvon Martin is dead because George Zimmerman saw him as criminal and killable and ignored orders from police to end his pursuit of the young man in the gray hoodie armed only, as it turned out, with Skittles and iced tea. Martin is being compared to Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American boy murdered in Mississippi in 1955, supposedly for flirting with a white woman. The comparison is apt, except that Trayvon Martin didn’t offer his killer even a whistle as provocation. Trayvon’s crime was walking slowly in the rain, at night, in a gated community. Gosh, it’s almost enough to make you think we haven’t made much racial progress at all, isn’t it?

Did Emmett Till whistle? Did Trayvon Martin reach for his killer’s gun? We will likely never know, and we don’t need to know in order to mourn their deaths and commit ourselves to making the world safer for boys like them. Don’t shoot is good advice for white folks, and Stay safe is the hope and exhortation we have for everyone we love. Riffing off Judith Butler and Sweet Honey in the Rock, I add simply this: Every. Body. Matters.

Picked up on Facebook. Provenance unknown.

Image picked up on Facebook. Provenance unknown. Listen to Sweet Honey perform “Ella’s Song” here.

With thanks to the Woman Formerly Known as Goose, for pointing me toward “Ella’s Song.” Go listen to it. You’ll be glad you did, believer in freedom that you are. Peace out.


  1. Ethan Gruber says:

    I think you’re a lost cause if you believe that there was no physical altercation, and Zimmerman flat-out executed Martin. There might be a reasonable debate that Zimmerman exacerbated Martin’s recent personal troubles by following him, but second degree murder it’s not. The evidence was interpreted by expert witnesses that the shot was at close range and that Martin was on top of Zimmerman.


  2. If there was a physical altercation, Zimmerman instigated it by getting out of his car after police had told him not to follow Martin. The point of this post is not to debate the facts of the case, however. It is to mourn Martin’s death and reflect on the social/historical context that makes a young black man vulnerable to the kinds of assumptions Zimmerman brought to their encounter (along with his weapon). I call those assumptions racist. You may call them something else, but I won’t declare you a lost cause for doing so. I don’t find such language in any way helpful. Or interesting.


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