The Blues: a feeling of frustration and sorrow in the face of harsh reality; a refusal to surrender despite deep pain.
“The blues” describes my reaction to the “not guilty” verdict in the death of Trayvon Martin. I cannot be dispassionate about this matter. For I know what it feels like to be a black man in America, regardless of the impassioned denials of so many that race had nothing to do with this case.
I, too, have been profiled by police officers, followed by campus safety patrols and stalked by mall security guards for doing nothing more than walking to my office, shopping for clothes, or enjoying an evening stroll—for just minding my own business. Once, while walking on a busy and well-lit street at night, I was abruptly stopped by the police, rudely questioned and roughly searched, under the suspicion that I was the perpetrator of a robbery—only to later discover that the only characteristic I shared with the actual criminal was the pigmentation of our skin, he being much younger, shorter, and heavier than I. This happened despite my being a priest, a university professor, and a respected member of the community (or so I would have thought). The police offered no apology. Nor, to be honest, did I really expect one. Living with such terror and indignity is to be expected.
You don’t have to wear a hoodie or sagging pants to be perceived as a threat. The very presence of a black man in any space that violates the expectations of those in authority can constitute sufficient probable cause for suspicion and danger.
This is why the verdict of “not guilty” has touched a deep well of resentment, sadness, and horror in many African American men (and in those who love us). For I not only know that if I had a son he could look like Trayvon; I know that I could be Trayvon…
2 thoughts on “REFLECTION: When profiling is “reasonable,” injustice becomes excusable”
Thank you for posting this powerful article. Being white, I feel a need to distance myself from the laws that make all this possible, but saying nothing is not helping. I mourn with all for the loss of Trayvon and all the young black men, and continue to work for peace and justice with Pax Christi Metro New York and Pax Christi USA and Call To Action.
The fact is Trayvon Martin is dead and his race is a principal reason why. Bringing Aquinas into this seems confusing to me since even if you think it’s appropriate to evaluate the events of that evening between a teen and a grown man with a lens meant for nations/institutions, it doesn’t pass muster in terms of 1)this was an exercise of power vs. for a just cause, 2) Zimmerman was not a properly instituted authority of the state (and they implored him to not follow Martin) and 3) right intentions are clearly in question (his quote on the 911 recording about how “these @$$#*%$ they always get away”).
My experience with Catholic “social justice”, particularly on this issue, comes from the Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/cultural-diversity/african-american/brothers-and-sisters-to-us.cfm
I really appreciate Fr. Massingale sharing his perspective and I stand in solidarity with him as we all continue to work to build the City of God.