I woke up today still trying to wrap my brain around all the questions and concerns that have been developing over the past few days. It’s gotten so overwhelming that I’m tempted to just slip back into cruise control and get on with life, but I can’t do that anymore. I don’t think anyone can. I’m telling you, the world is just seconds away from reaching its boiling point. Something has been under the surface of society for a long time, but nothing stays hidden forever. There have been too many unjust deaths, too many disturbing studies, too many negative newscasts. We’ve been lounging in the shallow side of life for a long time and it’s gotten overcrowded.
I was listening to Alicia Keys’ song “Unthinkable” on the way home and although I know it’s a song about forbidden love, for some reason all I heard was the push to do something, to say something. Now you know when an Alicia Keys love song starts sparking social activism, something is waaay off. But really, listen to the lyrics and try to see where I’m coming from: Someone’s gotta take the lead tonight, who’s it gonna be? It’s become a feeling that’s impossible to ignore, and I can’t take it. Time is only wasting so why wait for eventual. If we gon’ do something bout it, we should do it right now… See what I mean!?
Anyway, my point is that something inside many of us is fed up and that’s a beautiful thing. I think the hunger for change, for something better, is magnificent; the part that scares me is what that feeling may look like in action. Well, this need for me has manifested itself into this piece of writing. Why? Honestly it’s because I don’t know what else to do. I have a feeling that many people feel the same way. It’s not that we don’t want change; we just don’t know what to do to make that change a reality. To lay out all my intentions right now, I’d like to say that my WHOLE purpose in writing this is faith that maybe it will find its way to the person who does know what to do. That person who was born with that innate ability to assemble and motivate the masses to work together. Let’s be honest, we haven’t had a person like that in awhile and I refuse to believe they are an extinct breed. I just know he or she is out there somewhere wondering if they could ever make a difference. Maybe they’re sitting in class or maybe they’re skipping it. Maybe they’re at their 9-5 doing something they’re good at but not meant to do. I just know we need you. I know ultimately we follow God, but I think one of his prophets has denied their role too long.
Now you know there was no way I was going to write anything about change without at least a mention of this whole travesty, so why not get it out of the way early. The disturbing story of Trayvon’s death was the last straw for many of us, including me. I’ve read, heard, and listened to the unfair deaths of many other young people in my lifetime (many!), but there is something about this story that made it all come crashing down. I almost feel like I lost a friend even though his very existence was unknown to me before his death. It’s baffling really. Am I the only one who wonders what’s so different about this case that makes so many people, of completely different walks of life, ban together to demand justice for his boy’s slaying?! Don’t get me wrong, I’m elated that we’re finally taking a stand, but what is it about you, Trayvon? An even more disturbing question is what if it wasn’t you? What if you were still in classes on Monday morning? Would we still be in our dazed state of contentedness? What is it about your face that’s burned into our brain?
Many of my most surreal thoughts have been sparked by this, like: our lives are in someone else’s hands 99.9% of the time, or we’re all just a few small “insignificant” factors or choices away from being a Trayvon, or how every one of my thoughts has an equal chance of being my last thought, or why I was “chosen” to live past 17 or 5, or any age for that matter, and is my life worth the living I was so freely given? Those questions are just a few and attempting to answer them has me feeling quite heavy. Allow me to blow your mind.
The whole idea of having a very small portion of control over your life seems a bit out of whack until you break it down. For most of us these next things will ring true and if they do, they prove my point. Every day I wake up and drive to and from places trusting that the other drivers will be safe and follow the laws of the road. I also trust that law enforcement will act swiftly, justly, and honestly to protect me. I trust that the person walking past isn’t going to rob me. I trust that my professors have my best interest in mind and know what they’re talking about. I trust that the people who packaged my goods followed all of the FDA laws. I trust my boss isn’t pocketing my commission. I trust a lot of things and when we look at each of these, that trust has been violated at least once yet we have no choice but to continue to trust in order to live our everyday lives. I’m mad that the driver decided to cut me off and almost cause an accident or that there’s a fly in my food, but I’m not gonna stop driving or eating. No choice. Kind of messed up until I realize that I’m also on the receiving end of that trust and guess what. I’ve also violated it. I haven’t been the best driver 100% of the time; I may not have caused an accident, but is that accident nonexistent because of my doing or something else? We give and take trust every single day to and from people we’ll never be properly introduced to. Bizarre right?
Next on the list, how closely related our fates are to Trayvon’s. Ready? Okay so you may not be male, or black, you may live in Milwaukee and you could be 47 years old, but no matter what, you’re closer than you know to receiving what Trayvon got. You’re a female? Ok, well what if you were born a male, or what if you just so happened to move next door to a rapist who was neighborhood watch and he shot you after you turned him down for a date? It’s not exactly that inconceivable. Ok so maybe you’re a guy and you’re white, well for every ethnicity and race, there is someone who hates it, you just didn’t happen to live next to that person. But who knows how close you were? Live in Hoboken? What decisions were made to get you there rather that in Florida in Trayvon’s neighborhood? I mean he was in a gated community, it’s not like he was in the hood where most people expect this type of thing to happen. 47 years old? How many decisions were made by you or others around that saved you from the end of your life? Maybe the fact that you were late to work, or your mom didn’t take that job, or that you missed that phone call… There are so many little things that add up to another day, another chance for us, yet we miss nearly all of them because we know no other way.
I would have to say it would be a shame if 80% of my thoughts and 50% of my actions were my last. I don’t have horrible mind or deplorable behavior, but I mean me drooling over Trey Songz or mentally cussing out my professor aren’t gonna be a good note to end on. It’s impossible to live every single second like it’s your last, but is it so farfetched to develop a legitimate understanding that we are not guaranteed a tomorrow? I don’t know what kind of person Trayvon was but unless he was an extremely enlightened young man, he probably didn’t walk out of his house thinking he would never step foot in it again. It would be sad if that was what went through his mind. In a neighborhood full of people just feet away, I know he was alone with his murderer those last few seconds of his life. Now hundreds of people rally for a person who isn’t there so the Trayvons of this world will never have to be alone again.
Lastly, and this is the most devastating part to me, is all that was lost in losing Trayvon. George Zimmerman didn’t just kill his 17 years; he also killed the gabajillion of possibilities that would have been Trayvon’s future. We don’t know what he would have turned to be, it would have been something, but he was never given that choice to make. Zimmerman made it his choice. From endless to zero within seconds. I wonder what Trayvon’s plans were: marriage, kids, career, prom, graduation, his math next test… Doesn’t even matter anymore because someone took it from him. Not only from him, but from his family. What will Trayvon’s little brother’s life be like now that he knows his brother was killed for being black with a hoodie. You think it’s going to turn out well? If it does, it won’t be for a long time. Trayvon will never get to be a dad, husband, businessman, educator, life changer, nothing and I know those are some pretty big odds but who’s to say they weren’t ever going to happen? Zimmerman said. Trayvon is the son I haven’t had, he’s many of my guy friends 5 years ago, he’s my cousins now, and he’s my future husband’s past, he’s what my dad might have been, he’s what my future brother-in-law could be. Or maybe he’s my future husband’s older brother that is no longer, or my friend I’ll never get to meet, or my son-in-law I’ll never have. I miss everything he was going to be.
Today I asked myself the question, “If MLK lived in the current day and fought for human rights, would he as easily gather a large, committed, and patient following as he did then?” I mean let’s be honest. Am I the only one who thinks he’d have a little trouble with retention? But then, again maybe he wouldn’t have. I’m not so sure my generation loves to rock the boat as much as we like to ride the waves. As individuals, we are quick and eager to be a part of a movement, but more reluctant to start one. Why is that though? It’s not that we’re shy or conservative. We’re more likely to seek revenge rather than justice, so it’s not that we’re afraid of confrontation. Maybe it’s the short attention span thing. There’s always something new to look forward to. Ergo, commitment issues. When tragedy strikes, we feel it. It’s not that we don’t have a heart; it’s just that two days later we find out Rihanna may be getting back together with Chris Brown. What a dilemma! Our lives aren’t changed anymore; they’re disturbed, disrupted if you will. We’ve been trained and trained well and no one is here to teach these puppies new tricks before we turn into old dogs.
We live in the era of deceptive isolation. These networks that are supposed to bring us all together actually act as a shield against transparency and intimacy which in turn, stifle true relationships before they even begin. An example, you ask? A little while ago I decided to delete my Facebook just because and even though I had hundreds on my friends list; I had little to no communication with 85% of them. All of this gives us a false sense of connectedness. Got a thousand followers but no one to talk to? You have just been diagnosed by the intuitive doctor by the name of Simone Smith with her degree in observation.
There’s no more running. I’ve always been scared. I told myself when I grew up and had a family that I’d move outside the city to protect them. Actually, for a long time I’ve been too terrified to even want to bring a child into this world. That feeling hasn’t necessarily subsided; my faith has just gotten a little stronger. Anyway, the city is where everything bad happens right? Not anymore. Can’t run to the suburbs like you used to. Nipping our problem in the bud is no longer an option. I’ve disowned my generation for a long time. Talking about how shallow and lost they are, ignoring the fact that I am them. I was the same person who glorified people who I’ll never know (entertainers) and cursed those who I interact with everyday. We’re growing up without heroes and by heroes I’m talking about people choose to be different. Not Lady Gaga different, MLK different. Mr. Trayvon Martin’s walk down the block and his unfortunate end has started something and there’s no running from it this time. I’m committed to my generation because we’re all that’s left. So it’s time for me to step down from my soapbox so the mentors, philanthropists, teachers, counselors, best friends, parents, everybody can step up. Mr. Zimmerman, you’ve ended a life but started a movement.