This Is What’s Shameful

My initial post about the George Zimmerman trial verdict on Saturday evening was brief and to the point. I was criticized by some for calling the jury’s decision “shameful.” Let me be clear: I understand the prosecution did a poor job of proving their case and ultimately a lack of evidence is why George Zimmerman walks free. I understand, as President Obama said in a statement, that we are a nation of laws and the jury has spoken. What I should have written in that post is that stand your grounds laws on which Zimmerman based his defense — and ultimately won his case – are shameful. That Zimmerman’s racial profiling of Martin was shameful. That an innocent boy is dead is shameful. That the defense’s attempts to brand Trayvon a “thug” are shameful. That the precedent this case sets — that you can get away with murder if you argue self-defense and have killed the only other witness — is shameful.

Last night, I was walking Lucca, my dog, around our neighborhood and stopped in a deli to grab something to drink. There was a young Black boy inside, probably around 10 or 11 years old, and as I was getting ready to pay for my juice, he approached the counter and asked where the Arizona iced tea was. He couldn’t find the flavor he wanted in the case.

“I’ll be there in a second, little man,” said the deli cashier as he took my money.

“It’s okay,” I said, and turned to the boy. “I’ll help you find it.” We headed to the back of the store where the drinks are stored and I located the tall can of lemon-flavored tea that he wanted — those Arizona cans are overly designed, if you ask me, difficult to read the actual label.

Back at the counter, the little boy threw down his money, thanked me for my help, and took off out the door, likely running home to his family.

“That was nice of you,” the cashier said, and we made eye contact and I knew we were thinking the same thing. Iced tea. The same drink Trayvon Martin bought the night he was killed.

I would have helped this boy find his tea on any other day, of course — I’m a nice person, it was easier for me to go to the back than it was for the cashier, etc. — but last night, I found myself really wanting to help him find it, so he could see, if he was even thinking about it, which I’m sure he wasn’t, that I wasn’t scared of him. This boy was younger, but in just a few years, as puberty hit, I knew he would grow and fill out and would suddenly be a young man automatically viewed by many with suspicion. That he will be seen as a threat. That is shameful. It made me feel sick. I still feel sick. I walked home with tears running down my face. We have to do better, America. So. Much. Better.