My heart has been heavy since Friday night. My head has been swirling, filled to the brim with blog posts, tweets, facebook status updates, and tv news commentary on the Trayvon Martin case. Viewpoints seemed polarized on one side or the other–either sad, disappointed and/or outraged at the verdict, or…satisfied with the verdict. The heatwave we’re experiencing here in New England hasn’t helped my mood either.
Still, I’ve been listening to as much as I can from as many sources as I can to try and get a well-rounded sense of peoples’ feelings about the outcome of the trial. Of course, responses are varied. I talked with family members and friends about my sadness over the verdict, and told myself I would speak up if it came up in conversation within my earshot.
It did. A young white man in his twenties mentioned the verdict at work on Saturday. I said that I was disappointed. He said, ….”well, they say he wasn’t such an innocent kid…” I shot back, “so, he smoked pot. It doesn’t give anyone the right to murder him.” Knowing the recent acts of character assassination on Trayvon, as if killing him once wasn’t enough, my mind conjured up the photos being posted on social media of the teenager smoking, and giving the middle finger.
Honing my new tweeting skills, I later replied to GrooveSDC, a conscious black man on Twitter who made a crack about himself being a gangster for walking on sidewalks, eating skittles, and throwing up the middle finger sometimes. My response: I smoked and gave the middle finger in h.s. too–dangerous, but then again, I’m a white girl, so there you go. He then cleverly replied: Basically, and the only reason I didn’t have dumb pics on my phone is because I didn’t have one. Pager jokes ensued, but you get the point. Trayvon was a teenager exploring his identity like every healthy teenager does.
I haven’t had the energy to engage with people on Facebook who agree with the verdict. When I hear right-wing banter, I figure it’s like trying to argue with someone from the KKK so I don’t bother.
Instead, yesterday, I took my heavy heart and my lethargic body, which in the sweltering heat desperately needed a summery dress, to Goodwill for some good old American shopping therapy.
Before I went to try on my clothes, I had to ask the cashier to open the restroom and then the dressing room door. The tall, young black man in the indie t-shirt and brown jeans quietly and politely guided the way. I couldn’t help my train of thought, and wondered what this young man thought about the Trayvon verdict. I have heard many black individuals express the sentiment that the verdict sends the message that black lives, in particular, the lives of young, black men are not worth fighting for. That young, black men can’t expect to be protected, that they, too might get shot at simply for walking home from the convenience store.
At the register, my purchase comes to less than I expected. I tell this to the young man, all the while thinking about the character assassination of Trayvon. I think about how if this friendly young man was walking through that gated community in Sanford, he would have been profiled as suspicious too. This handsome, soft-spoken man would have been profiled. I know it’s corny, but because of this, I work extra hard to connect. I smile. I make eye contact even though I suck at eye contact.
He tells me that the t-shirts I purchased are really $2 dollars instead of the $4.99 like the sign says. “The sign is for the blouses, and I like it better when people come up and we get to tell them it’s only $2 for the t-shirts. It’s like a surprise,” he says sweetly. I smile, and say, “that is a happy surprise. Good thinking. I like that, thank you.” I make eye contact again. I wonder if he thinks I’m weird for all the smiling and eye contact, that I’m trying too hard, like maybe I’m a cougar that’s trying to hit on him. I’m sure he doesn’t think I’m a “creepy ass cracker” though. Maybe he knows that Trayvon is on both of our minds.
As I gather up my bag, I think of how when a person passes they no longer have the chance to do, well, anything. This makes me hyper aware of the most mundane tasks. Trayvon can’t go clothes shopping anymore. He can’t wipe the sweat off his brow under the heat of the sun. He can’t work a summer job, chat with customers, and wish for the day to be done so he can go goof off with his friends.
I found the receipt for Goodwill in my purse today. I learned the name of the cashier is Isaac H.
NOTE: I credit Adrienne A. Wallace, corporate, consumer and personal brand marketing executive, life coach, and light-worker for guiding me to tell a story that focused on the life of Trayvon and not the person responsible for his death. Thank you, Adrienne, for helping me to find hope within myself, and the desire to shine the light on and alongside others.