Slumber. Sleeping. Bliss. Ignorance.
The rude alarm clock that propelled me back into my uncomfortable state of constant rage as a black woman in this country went shrieking when the judge read George Zimmerman’s “not guilty” verdict.
And this time, there were no snooze buttons, no temporary celebratory black wins to even the score with the insatiable race monster, no easy way to swallow the pill.
It seemed the victory I thought we would gain, standing on the precipice of this undoubtedly historic trial, had crumbled in my hands. Harsh. Hard. And then gone. Like someone had splashed cold water on my slumbering mind…
I woke the fuck up.
And like anyone roused from their sleep, the world appeared blurry. Surreal. Out of focus. And then all at once, too real.
Like a baby, the tears started immediately. And I knew in my heart that it had little to do with the time, the fight, the effort our team at GlobalGrind had invested into making sure Trayvon Martin’s life mattered. That, I would do one hundred times over.
It was the realization that it wasn’t just Trayvon’s life that held little value. It was the souls of all black folk weighing no more than three fifths of an individual.
George Zimmerman and his defense had banished my brothers, my fathers and my future sons back to 1787.
The light, glaring at me from my laptop as I covered the part of the trial I didn’t allow myself to imagine before, made things clearer. The Zimmerman trial was just a compromise. Same for his delayed arrest, 45 days after murdering the unarmed black child who had every right to roam the neighborhood where his father lived. Angela Corey, the State Attorney who set into motion Zimmerman’s judicial journey, rocked us to sleep and put out the fires our initial anger and sadness had caused. They were all pacifiers, used to keep us docile. But we were never meant to win. Blind. Sleeping. Slumber.
I’m still waking up.
It was my America who put a dead black boy on trial for his own murder. Slack jaw, ashen lips, clothes wet from his tussle with the man who would take his life and never apologize for it. A bullet through his heart and a bloody hooded sweatshirt. Trayvon sat on the stand, testifying at his murderer’s trial, his body saying everything. But the justice system heard nothing.
George Zimmerman was able to walk free. And we, black Americans, as conflicted as we are, were sentenced to a hundred more years of systematic oppression, of dealing with a justice system that was not built to protect us, of constant fear and agitation that comes from men in blue suits and black, shiny boots holding 9mm of loaded death in their hands.
Or, any non-black person with a concealed weapons permit and a furiosity to ask a black man where his papers are, then shoot him on sight for fitting the profile.
Fitting the profile. Of being a black person. That’s what Trayvon Martin was charged with. That was his death sentence.
How does it feel to BE a problem?
And so I sat, thinking of Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant. I sat thinking of the vigilante racism that my grandparents had to stomach, and the eerie juxtaposition of their racial world to our supposed post-racial world.
I sat thinking of me, a black woman who, although aware of injustices of my own people, could be jolted into another realm of consciousness at the raw fear that I have of this country and what it’s capable and allowed to do to me.
I woke the fuck up.
I got a call on Saturday that told me that I would inherit the hardest job of all – being a mother, a sister, a wife to black men I could never truly protect. Because the color of their skin puts them in the cross hairs of people like George Zimmerman.
And it’s legal.
I got that call, my first real negro wake up call, that this world is farther away from post-racial than I initially thought. I’m a black person in America. And the social constructs of this great nation, after hundreds of years, are still not mature enough to protect the rights we believe we have.
Like walking down the street after 7 p.m. However common you think that privilege is, we’ve never had it.
That’s the nightmare. But I refuse to accept it. I don’t have an answer, I just know the root. And I’m dedicated to changing it.
I’m not going back to sleep. I don’t have that luxury. So…I stay woke.
I hope you will too.
Christina Coleman is the News and Politics Editor at GlobalGrind and a Howard University Alumna. Prior to this she was a science writer. That explains her NASA obsession. She crushes on Anthony Bourdain. Nothing explains that. Follow her on Twitter @ChrissyCole for all things news & politics.