I have recently observed with outrage the tragic story of Trayvon Martin, a teenager of 17 killed by a volunteer security guard in the US. The teenager happened to be black American or African-American (I don’t really see the importance to call people Africans only because they inherited some of their forefathers features, that is, being black.); and the killer, Zimmerman, happened to be mixed race latino and white or European American (same applies for this term). According to what I read – and I read a lot, believe me— the security guard found Martin to be suspicious because of his black skin colour, his wandering pace around the rich area and the, above all, because of his hood over his head. So, he called the police. They told him to stay on his feet and wait for them to come. But, no. He decided that it was his job to be a heroe policeman and followed the young man. After all, he had a lethal weapon. He carried a gun with him. They ended up fighting and Martin was shot dead. And of course, Zimmerman stated self-defense. We all know which was the verdict. Sad. And no black member in the jury, speechless.
However, aside this terrible story, I have drawn a few conclusions.
1) The Black struggle for total equality is not even near to end in the USA. The fight from slavery to nowadays legal equality is something I think I will never understand completely. We sometimes may think that we, as black people in the world, understand each other and can feel what our fellows have being through. I already feel sad when I remember that my African forefathers were colonised, killed and suffered genocide in their homeland by foreign intruders , while millions of their children were taken as slaves to the Americas. I can even imagined how I would feel if I knew my granddad was seen as a underhuman not even a century ego, in the country I live in. We are asked to forgive, to forget about the past and to be almost saints in our daily behaviour.
2) I have heard and seen documentaries about the huge amount of black Americans that live in US prisons. I once heard that almost half black population in this country spend some time of their existence in jail. This made me cry, I confess. The documentary, on Al Jazheera was about racial bias in Justice application. My flat-mate, who is a white American, told me that the reason was poverty. If you have no money, you cannot pay a proper lawyer to stand for you. This a anti-human neoliberal system. At the end of the day, people die because they have no money to pay a Health insurance, they do not get higher education for the same reason. They stay at home and go to jail for the same reason. In this sense, here in Europe, the Welfare state is more universal.
3) Referring to money. I live in a northern city in Spain where I meet a lot of American students who take summer courses of Spanish at local University. I rarely see black Americans. Actually, I can only remember 3 black girls this summer. And believe me, I work in a very visited shop, where I basically attend foreign customers because I can communicate with them.
4) Last but not least, the president Obama’ speech was really striking for me. As it refered to that daily subtle and long track discrimination that many black people endure. He said he had also felt observed while entering to a supermarket, while walking along the streets and so on and so forth. The permanent feeling of being regarded as a criminal on the only basis of your look. Yes, I also feel this at times.
5) I read the story of an African American comedian talking about the moment in which he shares an elevator with a white woman and feels in the need to make her feel safe. The need to prove that he is not a dangerous threat. Yes, It’s a long story that seems not have an end.
And dear readers, what saddens me more about this is that some people backed and endorsed Zimmerman right to see danger in a black teenager walking through his neighbour. Because, statistics show that…
But I’m happy that the Obama dared to raised that subtle and terrible discrimination toward black people in the US to public. Bu as I said, many people won’t never understand it if they don’t suffer it in their bones. Empathy has limits. The same, I am afraid, I won’t ever fully understand how my fellow black Americans feels about their situation in their country. But know that you have all my profound support from Spain. Life is done to be enjoyed. Let’s do it fully no matters what they feel about us.
I know it’s hard to believe you can be more than a prospective criminal when you are told, by many kinds of nuanced messages, that you are and you have no choice. For this we need to be stronger than the majority, at the beginning it seems that it is to prove something, but at the end, it’s a question of surviving a having our future in our hands (and our pockets).