My Turn by Dee Dee Wright: A young life that didn’t matter

  • Posted: Monday, July 22, 2013 12:28 a.m.
Dee Dee Wright
Dee Dee Wright

I have sat for the last several days trying to make sense of what happened in Florida with the Trayvon Martin case.

I looked at my mugshot on my mantle that was taken when I was 16 years old for protesting to use the public library in Greenville, S.C. I was thinking: For what purpose? Then I had to try and be objective about what I did was for equal rights, fair treatment and a life that we could all enjoy.


After hearing that one juror was considering a book deal with her lawyer husband, who thought that George Zimmerman was not guilty from the beginning, I asked myself: What was the judge thinking? What was the attorney general thinking when she stated that this case was not about race? Wow!

All I can think about is that what happened to Trayvon Martin involved a “life that did not matter” in Seminole County, Fla, and in some parts of these United States. Facebook is going crazy with people asking why Trayvon didn’t just tell George Zimmerman who he was and where he was going.

George Zimmerman had no right to ask those questions. By simple definition, “Neighborhood Watch” means just that — “watch.” Zimmerman should have made sure that Trayvon Martin got home safely. Not hunt Trayvon Martin down and then claim self defense for something that Zimmerman could have avoided.

My gut told me George Zimmerman would get away with this killing. I knew that from my life experiences. My gut told me that when I was arrested in Greenville, S.C., for sitting in a “whites only” library because I wanted to use a reference book.

My gut told me that George Zimmerman would be set free when I marched on the Capitol in Columbia, S.C., to protest the inequality that African-Americans faced. I knew in my gut that George Zimmerman would be set free when I wanted to swim in a “whites only” pool because there was no pool for African-Americans.

I knew that George Zimmerman would be found not guilty when I was not allowed to sit next to a white high school student on a public bus, was called the N-word, and we both were forced to go to the police department to have our parents come and get us. (I refused to go unless the white girl went as well.)

I knew that George Zimmerman would be found not guilty when white students could sit at a lunch counter to get a milk shake, and I could not.

These are just a few of my life experiences that had already told me the outcome. I was also reminded that in August 1954, some 59 years ago, a 14-year-old from Chicago visiting family in Mississippi was kidnapped, brutally beaten, shot and dumped in the Tallahatchie River for allegedly whistling at a white woman.

Two white men were arrested for the murder and acquitted by an all-white jury and they later boasted about committing the murder in a “Look” magazine article. This case became a cause celebre for the civil rights movement, just like I hope the Trayvon Martin case will become a turning point as to how we look at young African-Americans boys in this country.

I know that the bloggers will have a field day with what I have written. But before you start your tirades, I want you to know that you will never know what it is like to be African-American and to always be judged by the color of your skin in this country. Please write what you will. It’s OK, because you are the ones that I must watch out for everyday.

I must continue to ask myself what life lesson this tragedy offers me and others who are just amazed that this kind of act can go unpunished, when a young African-American boy’s life is not valued as the result of the distorted perceptions of some white (or Hispanic, in Zimmerman’s case) men who feel they have to carry guns to gain the upper hand and feel superior.

However, in the final analysis the “decider,” to quote President George W. Bush, will not be a jury but the ultimate decider, God Almighty.

Dee Dee Wright lives in Salisbury.

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