For everyone who has condemned the numerous protests, rallies and vigils demanding justice for Trayvon Benjamin Martin, the 17-year-old gunned down in Sanford, Fla., a month ago, please listen to these two words: Shut up!
That may seem harsh, but that is exactly how I feel. I don't want to hear the nonsense that we should let justice run its course. Others say, "Let's not do anything until all of the facts are in."
Let's cut to the chase. There would be no special prosecutor had thousands across the nation not mobilized, organized and took to the streets to demand justice for Trayvon. Would a grand jury be convening April 10? Not a chance. Would the 911 recording of admitted triggerman George Zimmerman calling Trayvon suspicious and owning up to following him have been released? No. Would the Florida Legislature be reviewing and discussing whether to change or abandon the controversial "stand your ground" law, which is at the heart of this case? No. Would the Department of Justice have launched an investigation into the case, as well as the Sanford Police Department? Nope. Would Sanford's police chief, Bill Lee, have stepped down because of his department's inept investigation? No.
Instead of critics condemning the protests, they should be saying, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"
Whether folks want to admit it or not, this always has been the story of African-Americans. Go through history and you will find many examples of cases not being investigated and ones, if they were brought to trial, with atrocious conduct by the prosecution or even the judges. The Scottsboro Boys. Clarence Brandley. Lenell Geter. Medgar Evers. The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.
Justice is supposed to be blind, but for African-Americans, it has commonly been deaf, dumb and blind.
As a result, we've had to live by the admonition of former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who said, "Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!"
It was also Douglass who stated, "Power concedes nothing without a demand."
The main demand in the Trayvon Martin case from day one was for Zimmerman to be arrested and for justice to be served. This wasn't about a ridiculous bounty on the head of Zimmerman by the New Black Panther Party. It wasn't about the selling of T-shirts. It wasn't about who showed up and led a march or why.
It was about holding accountable a legal system that clearly gave more credence to a 28-year-old gunman than it did the unarmed teenager who was gunned down.
For all of our talk about law and order in this country, there is a lot that is wrong with our legal system. We all should feel ashamed when someone is freed from death row or life imprisonment after DNA testing has revealed him or her not to be the real killer or rapist. It should pain our heart when the prosecution withholds evidence in a case that could exonerate someone. And all of us, regardless of race or economic status, should scream to high heaven when the police don't do their job equally for all citizens.
We are a nation of laws, and sometimes they work for some and not for others. When we've prayed, cried and pleaded, oftentimes the only thing we have left to do is march. That is a right that is afforded every one of us in the U.S. Constitution, be it the tea party, Occupy or those demanding justice for Trayvon.
People should not be condemned for taking to the streets and letting their voices be heard. They shouldn't be called race baiters, rabble-rousers or radicals. We all should call them exactly what they are — true Americans.