In the past week people have gathered together to hold vigils, protests, and to speak out for the one who can no longer speak: Trayvon Martin. Understandably we find ourselves caught in a whirlwind of fury and anger over the lack of justice within the Sanford Police department. Yet I can hardly wonder if we will soon forget Trayvon.
After all, do you remember Troy Davis?
When Troy Davis died I asked, “Whom Shall We Kill?” and I find myself asking the same question now. As a society we conceive of justice only after the fact. We have not developed the keen sense of awareness that views the proactive demands of justice, only the reactive. We react to the pitfalls of society only when they are so grotesque that they shake us into action.
There are differences between Troy Davis and Trayvon Martin—Davis was older and killed by the government. I cannot help but wonder, though, if Martin’s death was a crime of omission rather than commission by the larger state. I cannot help but wonder if the racist structures that landed Davis on Death Row eventually landed Martin in the morgue. I cannot help but wonder if the death of Troy Davis and Trayvon Martin are mirror images of each other—only that we have forgotten one and not yet the other.
Forgetting Troy Davis and Trayvon Martin is the greatest crime our society can commit. To forget is to say that people didn’t matter, that their histories have no power, and their lives were lived in vain. If justice, however, is to flow down like mighty waters our imaginations must be creative enough and in our memories there must be made room to hold Troy Davis and Trayvon Martin.
I cannot imagine the pain of Trayvon’s family. I cannot imagine the nightmares and torments Trayvon’s mother feels. I want to give her a hug. I want to dry her tears and tell her that justice will be reckoned. I want to listen to the stories about Trayvon, and he would have lived a life that he would be proud of.
Our humanity bends deep under our collective suffering. I want to hold all the mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters that have lost loved ones to systemic failures of our society. I want to dry the tears of those children that cry in their sleep because they find nightmares of death facing them even when they slumber. I want to listen to their stories and carry them with me.
I want to remember that Trayvon had a bag of Skittles; Zimmerman had a 9-mm handgun; Troy Davis had innocence on his side; the state had lethal injection.
Do we dare remember these things? Do we dare allow ourselves to be uprooted and turned over by the hideous face of injustice? My hope is that we will.
We still have breath in our lungs and blood pulsing through our veins—Davis and Trayvon do not. While we still do, may we allow the breath that bellows forth from our lungs form words calling for justice everyday and in every place. May we allow our blood to boil hot with the anger over repeated injustices felt systematically and displayed daily.
May we remember.