Moods, Moments, Minutes and Movements

I consciously checked out of the George Zimmerman trial coverage partly because my energy had to be focused in other directions, and mainly, because I could see where all of this was headed. I’m not so out of touch with the reality of being Black in America that I believed a guilty verdict to be a foregone conclusion and I’m acquainted well-enough with history to have believed that an acquittal was more than a fair bet. I’m old enough to remember Simi Valley; the wounds are still fresh from Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, Oscar Grant, Danroy Henry and countless others whose lives and legacies passed through moods and moments of activism then anger.

I remember sitting next to Baruti Kafele as three detectives charged with manslaughter and other crimes were acquitted in the death of Sean Bell. We were surrounded by the precious cargo of a few hundred teenage boys and the weight of responsibility shifted to burden briefly in those minutes. I recall black shirts in honor of the Jena Six and hoodies for Trayvon, but no movement to rail against an educational system that spins our children through cycles of standardized tests and sub-standard expectations for success. There are multiple murders in Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark, Richmond, California and all points in between but the outrage lost its will and voice long before I introduced myself to the world. 

My generation has existed in a sort of “in-between”; bastardized by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, because as the fruit of their tireless labor, we disconnected from the mission and embraced the theme from “The Jeffersons” until a Black man landed in the White House. For many, that was our arrival; a post-racial America that finally embraced itself as a melting pot of cultures and ideas, a progressive nation whose ugly history was just that, a history too ugly to be accurately portrayed or continue to show itself in the face of such “progress”.

We live daily with the harsh reminders of divisions in race, class, gender and sexuality, whether we choose to ignore them or believe today is going to be the day that things change is based on the supposition that things have changed. My comfort level with being Black in America was reached long before my Physics class erupted in cheers when O.J. Simpson was acquitted and my relationship with that fact was not skewed by the events of November 4th, 2008 and November 6, 2012. In fact, my position on my standing in this country was only reinforced by the reaction of so-called Americans as President Obama made his ascension to the White House.

So what’s next? Al Sharpton and the like will crusade for a little while to keep the fires stoked, some of us will try to find showings of Fruitvale Station, but the anger will recede and Facebook profile pictures and statuses will return to business ad nauseam. Too few of the many will try to retain the spirit of this weekend until they tire in the face of apathy and the ubiquitous question of turn down for what? I woke up this morning and there were no major cities burning, an NAACP petition (and possible appeal to the Department of Justice to pick up the case), loose talk of a Florida boycott (like Negroes could ever boycott South Beach) and rumors of President Obama filing charges. It took less than a few minutes to realize that our moods pass through moments and the disconnection within our community doesn’t allow for the consistency for movements to last longer than mere minutes.

These are tenuous times around the globe; there are movements around the world built from the frustrations of the people who have banded together to be the change they want their governments to reflect. In these moments, we often lip profess, and wait. We wait for someone to lead; we wait for some one thing to change. We wait and wait and wait until…we’re back in this position again, feeling connected to something greater, something beyond our capacity for understanding. Yeah, that sounds about right. We’ll reconvene again in a few months or a few years, pointing fingers, stepping towards our platforms to put words together that mean nothing once they leave our mouths and fingertips if we haven’t backed them with the necessary action to define them.

I remember Emmitt Till. Murdered for being a young Black boy in a time when being a young Black boy was enough to get you killed and your murderers acquitted like it was part of everyday life. I will remember Trayvon Martin. Murdered for being a young Black boy in a time when being a young Black boy is enough to aspire to be president and your murderer is acquitted because fear is a part of everyday life.

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