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George Zimmerman was recently found not guilty of the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin. Even as someone who has dedicated her life to the pursuit of compassion and peace, I am not ashamed to admit that I am angry. When the verdict was announced and I saw George Zimmerman’s smiling face, I was angry. My eyes filled with tears and my hands began to shake because as a black woman in America this felt all too personal. I am still angry and I refused to shy away from it because it is a necessary and valid emotion. It is an emotion that should and will bring effective social change with the right amount of mobilization and direction.
Within the politics of respectability, there is this idea that in the face of injustice, black people should should show extreme restraint. Turn the other cheek, humble themselves, prove that they are the bigger person. The politics of respectability, which is in itself a tool of oppression, discourages anger and encourages passivity. Anger brings action and action brings change.
I was angry when I found out about the murder of Trayvon Martin. I was angry when I attended rallies demanding justice for his death. I was angry when people donated money to George Zimmerman’s defense fund. I was angry during the trial when Trayvon Martin was painted as a young thug instead of a young boy who was racially profiled and killed while walking around his own neighborhood. And I am angry that now George Zimmerman will walk as the Martin family continues to grieve.
This is an anger that comes with being a black person in the United States and living with the understanding that my life and the lives of the people in my community are continually devalued. The judicial system is not an institution that was designed for me and it continues to disproportionately incarcerate people of color. The Stand Your Ground Law was not designed for me or people who look like me. Much like the Second Amendment, it was designed and is still upheld for white men to protect and defend themselves, no matter the cost.
I grew up in a neighborhood where black family and friends were often profiled because of their otherness. I come from a line of black fathers, uncles, grandfathers, brothers, and friends. One day, I will have a son of my own as well. This anger is personal, it does not come from a detached place. It comes from a place where it is so uncomfortably familiar. It comes from a place of fear for the men in my community and anxiety about bringing a black child into a world that is not designed for his survival.
I am so angry because I know that better is possible. I have seen communities working hard for real change and I am grateful to have been included in some of that work as well. My anger forces me not to be complacent and not settle for minuscule progress. I will continue to be angry at privilege and white supremacy and institutions that keep these catastrophic entities in check. My anger is directly connected to my love and passion for a society that can, should, and will be better. There is a time for love and there is a time for anger and it is the understanding of duality that reminds me that there is a space for both.