All of us first learned his name when we heard the thud of Trayvon Martin’s body on the ground. He was in a black hoodie, carrying an AriZona and Skittles, when George Zimmerman took a gun and shot him. He called it protecting the neighborhood, and the grand jury that ultimately acquitted him believed that, but the rest of us knew better.
Though, he isn’t curious; instead, it’s a reminder of the favoritism demonstrated towards white Americans over minorities. Trayvon Martin would have been 23 this year. Zimmerman is alive, running into the police in domestic violence cases. Trayvon Martin is dead, and Zimmerman is alive to spout threats targeting Jay-Z and Beyonce.
It was Trayvon’s murder that started the rallies, or at least brought them into the national spotlight. His death was the first instance I can remember of hearing the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” It was that phrase that started the angry white opposition to it: “All Lives Matter,” they screamed in retaliation, because once the narrative wasn’t focused on white lives the narrative was meaningless. Angry conservatives tried to misinterpret the phrase, insinuating that in claiming we deserved a seat at the table that we were really saying we wanted the entire room. They wanted to demonize our fight for recognition, for our rights. Some days, I think it worked. But those days are usually bad ones.
Rather than thinking it worked, it became about realizing that Zimmerman was merely riding a train of privilege that was given to him upon birth. He was, and still is, wielding a power greater than himself. He will forever be known as the man that shot the unarmed Black teenager, a man who abused power that never existed for him. Zimmerman was on the neighborhood watch, there to protect the lives of the residents in the gated community, and instead the terror was internal. Trayvon had every right to be and exist and live there, but Zimmerman decided to play God.
I want to make clear that I’m not writing this because I’m especially ticked off that he threatened Jay-Z and Beyonce. While it was uncalled for, we all should know he could never do anything to them. Just remind yourselves of how quickly Beyonce’s backup dancers jumped the man who hopped up on stage during one of the concerts.
I’m frustrated because he’s earned himself a twisted sense of fame. Yes, he is the guy that murdered an unarmed Black teenager, but somehow his name still appears on social media. For some reason, we can’t stay away from the headlines, especially when he threatens the life of the Beyhive’s queen. His media presence–cult following sounds more accurate–allowed him to auction off the gun he used to kill Trayvon. He called it a “piece of American history.”
It is American history, but not the kind we should glorify. It is historical that Zimmerman can continue to act out, can continue to prove himself a dangerous individual and yet get to exercise his rights without much consequence. Sure, he’s been arrested multiple times, but no lasting punishment has hit him yet. I doubt he cares that the rest of society hates him. For him, it’s probably the attention of a select racist few that make each day one to look forward to.
Trayvon Martin would have been 23 this year. It is still unbelievably heartbreaking to write “would have” instead of is, because he no longer is. Yet, he exists in our memories and we will continue to fight for the justice he never received. We owe it to him to make this country a better place. We owe it to all of the victims of senseless police brutality.
George Zimmerman is a human stain. He is bacteria, he is a disease. I encourage everyone to stop giving him the time of day and the spotlight; stop enabling his hatred. Stop giving him any media attention. Starve him of what he wants the most. He can’t get attention if we don’t give it to him. We should all know that that’s what he’s doing when he makes empty threats towards Beyonce and Jay-Z: he’s poking the bear. He’s doing whatever he can to stay relevant. Stop falling for the trick. The man has nothing better to do with his life than to spout nonsense like that.
I know saying “just ignore him” is easier said than done. But all the anger geared towards Zimmerman could also be geared towards the systems in place that allowed for his acquittal, that allow him to run amuck. Be angry that this country is slow to fix the cracks and the potholes in our legal proceedings. Be angry that Trayvon Martin was an unarmed Black teenager minding his business when a sick man decided to take his life.
Be angry that Trayvon Martin would have been 23 this year.
Be angry for Trayvon Martin, because for his sake, and for countless others, we have to be.