But a part of me fears I’d be crippled by fear — mine, or his.
In my personal life, my response to being profiled and stereotyped might vary from pure rage, to dismissal, to being the explainer-in-chief on behalf of my people. And then, I place myself in the dark, walking home, being accosted by a stranger with no badge as if I were a common criminal.
Maybe I’d throw something at him. Maybe I’d stay calm.
But would it matter? What if I thought I was calm, but he thought he was in danger? And what if he shot me?
I woke up Sunday morning and had no desire for a national conversation on race because the situation still felt a little too real. I felt justified in my fear. And yet I felt wrong for even verbalizing them, fearing I might sound like a paranoid wacko.
I went for a walk to get my mind off everything, but my mind kept on walking through the details of the case.
I centered on the moment I knew that the defense had truly invoked a reasonable doubt.
During his closing arguments, defense attorney Mark O’Mara asked jurors to take a moment to reflect on everything that he said. Then, he remained silent for four minutes. Four minutes.
He pointed out that four minutes was the same amount of time between Trayvon’s call with Jeantel and the firing of the shot that would kill him. No one can know for sure what happened.
It reminded me of when Michelle Obama noted that her husband, as a black man, could be shot and killed indiscriminately at any time — so she needn’t worry greatly about attempts to assassinate the man who would be the first black president.
That is the lingering fear of being a black man in America: that there can be four minutes, in the dark, scared for your life, that can change it all. That death could happen suddenly, powered by the indiscriminate eye of prejudice. And when it happens to a 17-year-old boy carrying home some snacks, you find yourself with an inexplicable instinct of having to prepare.
There is the physical shock, the confusion, the rage that comes out in the parade of indignity on a news feed. And there is the mental craziness that comes with the realization that Mom and Dad might be right when they sat you down and told you about America. Pain on the leaves and pain at the root. And yet, we live. And we continue to walk on.
As I walked around my neighborhood, I hunched the way I typically do when my thoughts weigh heavily. Then, a man confronted me.
“Brotha,” he said, on his way to church. “Keep ya head up.”
I tried to walk again with my head held high, defying the fear that I find myself living in because of the color of my skin and reminding myself to be proud, for this was the pigment bestowed upon me by God.