“A young black man can be murdered on perception. A young black man becomes the criminal so that the real criminal can go free. Americans should not fear riots. They should fear a society that ranks the death of children. They should fear a society that shrugs, carries on, and lets them go. Americans should not fear riots. They should fear a society that ranks the death of children. They should fear a society that shrugs, carries on, and lets them go.” This is what Sarah Kendzior writes in her piece, ‘In the trial of Trayvon, the US is quilty’
If Americans ought fear their society’s view of the value of life, I realise that I am beyond terror. My body doesn’t even know how to react to the latest news on the Trayvon Martin case. I don’t want to think or feel anything about Trayvon Martin, the US, the violence which young black men live with. I don’t.
But can I?
How can I be indifferent?
Is unfeeling not worse than facing this fact of everyday life, that the value of a black child’s life remains less than that of white life?
If, then, the US is the real quilty party in this case, what can we say about a place like South Africa in which each day hundreds of young black males die violently?
It may be true that Zimmerman was defending himself. I don’t know. One can never know enough of the dynamics that take place when two individuals confront each other. Yet, however you cut it, it is a fact that white lives, all over the world, are effectively deemed more valuable than black lives. This is something even Obama knows, I suspect.
What of Zuma though? How does he accept the fact that so many black children and young people from preventable causes? That nearly two decades into a free South Africa, hope of freedom from want and fear is running low? That so many young black men die violently each year but, from where I am sitting, it seems so hard to state that we are failing to protect our young and to make liberation real?
So, like many others, I must pretend the case that happened over there has little to do with the value of black and white life here, that justice has be done there, that masculine racism is dead.
But it is a consoling lie. Everytime one thinks how this society, governed by black people, ranks the lives of whites and blacks, one can only fear for black children.
Most of the time, it is stashed away, yet I do fear for my son. Because he is so – well, it doesn’t matter what he is. It shouldn’t matter whether you are bright or plain, tall or lazy, quick or born with Downe’s syndrome, life is invaluable. Yet, fact is that some humans are seen as less invaluable than others.
But I can’t teach my son to live with insecurity, guardedness, suspicion. You can’t go through life fearing you will be shot or arrested because you walk at night alone while black. Indeed, the only viable option in the circumstance is to live with self-knowledge, confidence, openness, and purpose. Live in the world and face those who oppose you or would be indifferent to your conditions as though all is of your own making, that you know more than they do. You may still get shot and arrested, but you will have lived a rich inner life.
It is a strange and confusing mix of feeling this, for our son boy is far more protected than many black children. What of them? Is it possible to be them – young, poor, poorly educated, at the mercy of English, black – and be really heared when they say they are afraid?
So, then, is the danger that black kids and youngsters face from racism, or does it arise from something far more insidious?
Even then, I believe that ordinary black men, alongside black women, must work to remake the world in their image so that their children can grow to think they can. Not only young black males, but all of us should reorganise ourselves with the simple aim of creating the world we would like to live in. I believe we have to arm ourselves with creative resolve, knowledge and connection to each other.