On Saturday night at 8:45pm my daughter and her friend were calling to me to take them to a party when the news broke that a verdict was in for the George Zimmerman trial. Immediately the girls aborted their plan and joined my son and his friend around the TV with bated breath awaiting the Zimmerman verdict. We all watched in stunned silence as the words NOT GUILTY were read. But none of us cried out with shock; instead, we buried our faces in our hands with resigned despair. Why? Because as black people in America we knew in our bones what was coming even before it arrived. We hoped that we were wrong, but the pits in our stomachs told us we weren’t.
The first phone call I received was from my youngest daughter. She was in Milwaukee with my parents. She said she hadn’t known the verdict was coming in but when she walked in the living room and saw Gammy with her mouth agape looking at the TV, she figured out what was happening. I asked her how she felt. Her response: “This is mind-blowing.” As mind-blowing as it was for my 10 year old it was even more so for my 72-year-old mother. Hers was the next phone call that I received. She was still processing what had just happened, the seismic shift that occurred in her perception of the world, but she had words for me that she needed to get out right away. I wrote about that phone call on Facebook and finally I was stunned. I was stunned by the response to it. To date, it has been shared over 40 times and liked over 140. Why? Well, read it first and then I’ll tell you what I have figured out.
My mother called me tonight to apologize. She apologized for all of the times that she thought I was being too strict with my son. Preventing him from riding the subway after dark. Forcing him to keep the hood of his pullover on his shoulders and not on his head. Riding him about what side of town he hangs out on. She apologized because after hearing the verdict tonight she finally understood why my rules are necessary. That I am in a fight to keep my child safe, not in the typical way parents have always had to do, but a fight to keep him alive in a culture of death. My white mother marched with Dr King. She suffered through racist attitudes and taunts when she married my black father. She protested segregation and demanded integration. She led by example pushing against the tide. But even with all of that she didn’t believe that the society her grandson is growing up in is as racist and oppressive as it actually is towards black males in particular. She didn’t understand, but she does now.
~Lori K. Holton-Nash
Saturday 7/14/2013, 10:39pm
After reading the comments that people posted and then a number of private messages that people sent me, it finally became clear: almost every black person I know was not at all surprised by the NOT GUILTY verdict, but the white people in my life— loving, trusting liberal thinking individuals that see people as people— they were taken aback. They had believed in the promise of justice. They truly believed that there was no way such an egregious act— stalking and murdering an unarmed teenager— would go unpunished. “How could it be?” They mused. “We’ve come so far. We have a black president.” But what they learned through those two words is what those of us of color already knew, that we aren’t really there yet. The curtains were drawn back, the Wiz was exposed, and Emerald City looked more like a burned-out Detroit than a glistening movie set. They, like my mother, finally understood how deep the divide really is, and my post about my mother’s realization put into words their feelings.
There were public expressions, but even more private messages that I received. Beautiful words of sorrow and solidarity.
I just wanted you to know how moved I was by your comments after the Zimmerman verdict. As a Jewish woman, I have experienced covert anti-semitism in many walks of life, and while there may be similarities, I could never completely compare this with what you and your family are feeling and going through right now. I am proud of my heritage, but have never really had to hide it, or act differently because of it. I am deeply saddened by the entire Trayvon Martin course of events, on a variety of levels. I am saddened that in this day and age you must raise your teens differently than I raise my 17 year old daughter, simply because of the color of their skin.
Lori – the status you just posted about your mom calling you broke my heart. I am also sitting here broken hearted as I see my friends posting ignorant statements. I am ashamed to have my children hearing anything (my 6 year old hears everything) so they are outside playing instead of listening to the news. I am sorry that you have to parent your children differently than I will ever understand, but I just want you to know that I am seeing a different and heartbreaking sight tonight. Society hasn’t changed. I have no words, but I am sorry that you have to live in a not as free manner as you should be able to.
At first I was confused that so many felt they had to say things quietly, undercover. Then it dawned on me. Perhaps my beautiful, caring friends were hesitant to speak aloud their feelings of outrage because they weren’t sure they had a right to, because they are white. But on that point they couldn’t be more wrong. We are all entitled to feel the pain, the frustration, the sheer fury of this injustice, because this verdict did not just affect black people, it affected all people. Yet that is the crux of the problem isn’t it? We aren’t a united people. We are segregated at heart. Polarized. But that’s exactly what we need to undo. We all have skin in this game no matter our color.
White people can be outraged, too! So please, express your outrage publicly. Stand together with your American brothers and sisters and let your voices be heard. Drown out the hate with your love and support. Demand action. Demand inclusion. Demand justice. Demand a United States of America.
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