Khary Lazarre-White on the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin

July 15th, 2013

All of us at The Brotherhood/Sister Sol are deeply disturbed with the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin. The anger and pain that so many around this country feel right now echoes throughout our building and is felt by so many of our members. Our young people see their own faces in Trayvon’s face and so this is extremely personal to all of them – the profiling that Trayvon faced that fateful night. the judgment that he was a threat, is the profiling that our members experience all too often.

We will be holding sessions with our members today and throughout the coming days to help them process what has occurred and the trauma and rage and pain they feel. We do not seek to suppress the rage – for it is healthy – but instead to direct it: sustained, controlled, activist, change seeking, rage. This is the work of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol – to help our members understand the conditions they face, the realities of the world around them and then to overcome these realities. A Black boy was walking down the street on his way home. He should have been free to do that. He had no weapon and had committed no crime. The United States Declaration of Independence states that all of America’s citizens should have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Trayvon had a right to his own “ground,” to his liberty, to his happiness and assuredly to his life.

I, along with our members will be speaking out about the verdict this week – today I will be on CNN at 11:30 to discuss the case and its place within the historical and legal landscape of America: I will be on MSNBC at 2:30, along with Nicholas Peart, a BHSS alumni and one of the leading voices to reform the NYPD’s policy of Stop and Frisk, to discuss the case as well. One of our alumna members, Njeri Parker, will be on an Apsire Google Hangout at 1pm to participate in a panel conversation regarding the verdict. Next Sunday at 12pm, I will appear on WABC’s Here and Now, along with Njeri and another BHSS alumna, Zora Howard, to discuss our work and our response to the case.

Whatever occurred once George Zimmerman confronted Trayvon is irrelevant to the fact that had Trayvon been a white teen he would not have been deemed suspicious, would not have been confronted and would be alive. The killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer can be analyzed among the long line of the killing of young Black men and boys in America. In the case of the killing of Trayvon, as in so many others, it is so important that the language is accurate – a boy was killed. Not a man. Since the founding of this nation Black males have been seen as threats – threats to order, to the structured caste systems of slavery and segregation, as physically intimidating, sexual predators, and in need of control. This control was enforced through the Constitution and laws, via courts, jails, and organized terror groups like the KKK and lynch mobs. This fear was legally codified over nearly 200 years.

In addition to the law, media has had a long and sordid role in the objectifying of the Black male as a threat – from Vaudeville images to Hollywood, film and television, to music. A central aspect of this image has been to turn Black boys into men, and thus threats – longbefore they are men. And yes, Black people have internalized these images and now contribute to this presentation of the Black male as hyper-masculine, hyper-sexual, beings to be feared.

The killing of Trayvon Martin occurs within a historical context of the devaluing of Black life, of the acceptance of the enslaving of Black bodies, of the creation of a system of segregation based at its foundation on not recognizing Black men as fully human, and, now of the over incarceration of Black men that is the prison industrial complex. In order for this devaluing to occur Black boys and men must be dehumanized, our humanity lessened, and then we become threats, “gangbangers,” “convicts,” “criminals,” those outside protected norms, to be brutalized and killed with impunity. The defense in the Zimmerman trial used many subtle and not too subtle references to connect Trayvon to the sordid image of the Black male.

Those of us in America who want to work for a more just and ethical world, those of us of good faith who want to work for a country where Black boys are not stigmatized as threats and dangerous, those of us who want to continue to work to force America to deal with vestiges of racism and the long historical realities and current conditions reflected in this case, must do just that – work to change these realities. And so I am reminded of the powerful words of the Civil Rights leader and organizer Ella Baker: “Until the killing of Black mothers’ sons becomes as important as the killing of white mothers’ sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest.”

Khary Lazarre-White, Esq.
Executive Director & Co-Founder
Twitter: @KLWspeaks

*Watch Khary Lazarre-White and BHSS Alumni Nicholas Peart on MSNBC’s NewsNation with Tamron Hall.

*Watch Khary Lazarre-White and BHSS alumni member Nicholas Peart on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes

*Khary Lazarre-White discusses President Obama’s speech on race and the killing of Trayvon Martin on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes

*Khary Lazarre-White discussed America’s problem with violence on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes

*Khary Lazarre-White appears on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell