"My tongue will tell the anger of my heart, or else my heart concealing it will break."
--The Taming of the Shrew
I just read the BBC article about the sale of the gun that killed Trayvon Martin, sold for $250,000. And my heart sank. My heart sank for Trayvon Martin's family and I was overcome with the desire that I could suddenly have some sort of superhero power where I could set out lighting rods to deaden every single telecommunications device around the world indefinitely. If only they do not have read what I just read. My heart sank for the memory of Trayvon shared by those who knew and loved him, those his community, his friends, his classmates--that they might not hear of this vile act of depravation.
What kind of world are we living in where a gun that killed a child--or more to the point, where the man who killed this child and narrowly escaped a murder charge (although we all know he is guilty)--is allowed to be put on auction as the trophy of that murder? As the remnant of a life snuffed out because of a hoodie and headphones. And racism.
I have remained quiet on this matter, perhaps because the pain of losing a child creates a bond amongst parents who have lost children. And we tend to share our losses silently, not through words. Yet, the highly mediatised death of Trayvon Martin adds a layer to this loss for Trayvon's family, a strata of metafiction that media spins and twists and highlights only to be forgotten as an "unfortunate incident." A layer that I simply cannot comprehend. This loss is repeated each and every single time Trayvon's killer performs his racism gratuitously for the spectating public who either shake their heads in disgust or revel in yet another Second Amendment high. I cannot imagine the emotions this must provoke among those who knew and loved this young man who was gunned down. All because of a hoodie and headphones. And racism.
Black Lives Matter was created in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, and later became more nationally prominent for its public demonstrations following the 2014 deaths Michael Brown and Eric Garner. The hashtag of #BlackLivesMatter has become more familiar to people on Twitter because, as the name goes, black lives matter. Or rather, they should. But you would hardly know this viewing the way black men and women are treated in the United States still in 2016. Specifically, black and brown men's lives are still devalued, still treated with contempt, still barred access from quality education, and the presence of black males is extricated from the media eye when the story does not uniquely concern prisons, drugs, criminality, and poverty. Still far too many young black men today are naturalised as criminal and poor, their lives ontologically positioned within the perpetual disappearance of their bodies from public sight. Is it any wonder that Trayvon Martin's life was treated as disposable and negligible from the moment George Zimmerman had Trayvon Martin in his sights?
George Zimmerman claims that the auction had "raised funds for worthy causes" and he will donate some of the proceeds of the sale of this weapon to "fight [Black Lives Matter] violence against law enforcement officers." The irony of such a statement explains in one breath why black men in the United States are deemed worthless, why their numbers in prisons dwarf any other demographic, why they are under and unemployed, why they will read what I have just read and understand all the more that in the heart of our country the deprived heart of racism persists. Not even a black president will change this because everything is structurally against black youth who grow up in poverty.
Wether it is "stop and frisk" or "stand your ground," black lives in the USA are demonstrably not recognised as white lives are, especially when the person standing and frisking will likely be of one colour and the individual at the other end of these actions will statistically be a black male. In response to Zimmerman's acquittal in 2013, Cornel West called out President Obama for protecting the status quo, what West terms "the new Jim Crow" whereby he indicated those members of the political community stuck on "Obama's plantation." In response to President Obama's identification with Trayvon Martin, that he too could have been young Trayvon, West asks this: "Will that identification hide and conceal the fact there's a criminal justice system in place that has nearly destroyed two generations of very precious, poor black and brown brothers...five years in office and [Obama] can't say a word about the "New Jim Crow"?" While this might be an uncomfortable question, it is a necessary one since the right to bear arms in the USA extends far beyond the person of light skin colour holding a gun on a black man. This paradigm of racism extends well into the prison industrial complex where the cellblock is even today a symptom of white exceptionalism, where for every Trayvon Martin whose vestiture signaled danger to George Zimmerman, there are towns like Ocala, Florida which passed a law specifically targeting young black men who wear "saggy pants."
When the fear of young men in hoodies with headphones results in death at the hand of someone with lighter skin than the black male lying dead on the grass, it is high time to subvert the entire political structure from the top down and focus on the larger picture of inequality in the United States.
After his acquittal, Zimmerman criticised the US government, specifically targeting President Obama whom he would later call an "'ignorant baboon." Zimmerman claimed Obama inflamed racial tensions committing a complete reversal of events, "He by far overstretched, overreached, even broke the law in certain aspects to where you have an innocent American being prosecuted by the federal government." The greater problem for Zimmerman aside from the moral dilemma whereby not only does might not make right, but white doesn't either, is how he and his cronies can function in a world where injustice is still recognised, observed, and articulated against. Especially if those persons naming the injustice might at any time engage in their rightful exercise of the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms.
Desperate after his acquittal in 2013 to get his gun back for fear of his life as threats against him mounted, Zimmerman has now sold the gun that he used to kill a young black man. The amount won from the sale speaks volumes to the depravity of Zimmerman and anyone who has bid on this gun. I am as horrified that Zimmerman would be able to behave so callously against the memory of the person he shot and killed, as I am with the legal system that allowed him to walk free. Zimmerman's courtroom explanation claim innocence, but his actions defy just that as we can see on all levels that the system failed Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman demonstrates indifference to his actions, exhibiting no remorse for having shot and killed another human. An all-female jury with one lone person of colour, Juror B29, speaks to the depravity of the US justice system which failed Trayvon Martin. And if these acts of shooting an unarmed man in cold blood, Zimmerman's indifference to his actions, and his acquittal were not bad enough, the fact of this gun sale had reflects quite pitifully the ways in which black lives simply do not matter.
But the paradoxes deepen in this matter as Zimmerman had great difficulty finding a broker who would sell the gun for him. Apparently the new low for Second Amendment advocates is being refused as a client based on ethical grounds. That is until United Gun Group took up Zimmerman's cause and sold his gun for a quarter of a million dollars. According to the BBC, the gun was bought by "a woman who had wanted the gun as a birthday present for her son." And this is the greatest and saddest irony of all, dear reader, for we all know precisely that this child is not only white, but that he, unlike Trayvon Martin, will not have his life cut short because of a hoodie and headphones. And racism.