What to Say About Trayvon Martin…and George Zimmerman

I really wanted my wife to look this over before I posted it, but she’s a bit busy this week (hell, this summer), so I’ll just go with it, or it will be a moot point soon as it won’t be timely.

Before I get into the blog post proper, two things to note:

  1. I am not here to argue the legalities, the moralities or the details of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case, though I will repeat some of my thoughts via Twitter since the jury handed down a “not guilty” verdict for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch guy who shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin dead; the main reason for this post is to reach out to non-black people, particularly the white ones, about the issue of “what should you say?” (or not)
  2. To my black readers, who will probably read this too to make sure I haven’t lost my mind and am up to no-good, this is not a post in which I am trying to steal attention away from the aftermath of this case and bring it to myself. In fact, it is a post I am making only because my black wife suggested I probably should

So, how do I feel about the culmination about the Trayvon Martin case? Here’s what I said on Twitter in the 24 hours after the verdict came in, in chronological order:

  • July 13: Tonight marks a great victory for those who want to ensure that black people can continue to be assaulted/killed w/o fear of repercussions
  • July 13: Remember, if black person isn’t cooperating at 1st w/ your desire to “stand your ground” just keep following/harassing them until they do
  • July 14: Justice only for those with whom you identify or justice geared for majority is not justice at all. It is instead a pass to allow wrongdoing
  • July 14: Succinct, calm and clear–if you don’t get this, you’ll probably *never* get it RT White supremacy, meet Black rage http://www.salon.com/2013/07/14/white_supremacy_meet_black_rage/
  • July 14: Supplement to previous tweet, black woman faces 20 yrs for firing *warning* shots near abusive husband, b/c denied Stand Your Ground defense
  • July 14: Even when Blacks *don’t* riot, they are fucked RT Right Wingers Post Fake Race Riot Video After Zimmerman Verdict http://www.politicususa.com/2013/07/14/riot.html
  • July 14: And, with that, I’m probably done posting about the Trayvon Martin verdict debacle. Will still mourn it & pray for Trayvon’s family though
  • July 14: No, it’s not that the issue doesn’t matter anymore. But I’ve said piece & as wife tweeted last night, allies must sometimes just stand aside

So, now you’re probably wondering, since I said I’ve spoken my piece already, “Why, Jeff, aren’t you shutting up like you said you would, and then stepping aside to let black folks work this out and have their say?”

Well, because I’m not really here to talk about this tragedy or my own place in it, except to note that the night of the verdict, I was useless. Utterly useless. I had intended to write some fiction. Instead, after hearing about the verdict, I was done. Toast. Yes, my wife and I talked about it a bit, but I couldn’t do anything else remotely useful that night (I wasn’t much better the next morning). Couldn’t write. Couldn’t watch a movie. Couldn’t read. Couldn’t play a game on my PC or phone. No, I could only just sit, with a stabbing pain in my temple and a churning in my gut, and stare into space.

I felt useless, and I felt helpless. I have a 21-year-old black stepson, who’s been in situations where he was a hair away from being a victim like Trayvon, without having done a thing to deserve being at risk of a beating or death. I have a nearly 8-year-old black daughter who will face her own challenges, many of them less potentially deadly than black males face, but still horrible. And no, I won’t call them biracial because society isn’t gonna…everyone who sees them in this society as it stands now will never see the white in them; only the black that their brown skin advertises (and marks them with stereotypes at times).

OK, I’ve said that. Why? Is this about me and my pain? No. My pain doesn’t matter one iota of defecation compared to the pain of Trayvon Martin’s family and the pain of black people who feel once again abandoned by the justice system.

Thing is, though, I didn’t know what to do or say, and there are probably a lot of non-black folks out there who didn’t agree with this killing or this verdict…especially white ones…who felt like crap when they heard the verdict but didn’t know what to say.

Say something.

Dammit, say something.

As my wife tweeted the day after the verdict, “your silence says more than an awkward statement would” (or something like that).

You don’t need to say much. You don’t need to pontificate. You don’t need to roll out empty platitudes like “I wish I could do something.”

You can.

Stand by the black community. Let them know you are sympathetic. Maybe you can’t change society, but show that you give a crap. Retweet a link to a story about how blacks are far less likely to be able to claim “stand your ground status” and how whites are way more likely to get off for killing a black person than vice-versa. Post on Facebook that you can’t imagine the pain but your thoughts are with Trayvon Martin’s family. Even if you say only one thing and it isn’t much, say it. Even if you might risk saying the wrong thing, say something.

Because I’ve seen only a very small percentage of people in my Twitter timeline who are white and are posting anything about this verdict.

You may not mean for your silence to mean anything, but it is more likely to be perceived as “not caring” than it is to be perceived as “respectful silence.”

Don’t make it about you. Don’t make a big to-do about it. But say something to show that you actually give a shit.

7 thoughts on “What to Say About Trayvon Martin…and George Zimmerman

  1. Lanna Lee Maheux (@lannalee)

    Thanks for this post. I find myself unable to address the Trayvon Martin murder and Zimmerman verdict because it upsets me SO much, and I already have a full deck of real-life things to stress out about. I feel badly that I haven’t addressed it, but I just can’t. That said, I just got an idea of something I can do, in a general sense., and will be implementing it soon.

  2. Jeff Bouley / Deacon Blue Post author

    Life does toss a lot at us at time. I think I liken this case and its outcome much like I would the death of someone close to a friend or even an online acquaintance. I may not have anything particularly meaningful to say, but sometimes, even just “you’re in my thoughts” at least allows me to acknowledge and reach out to open some kind of door. All the best with sorting out that deck of yours and hopefully dealing out a much better hand soon.

  3. Annie Reed

    Thank you for this. I have struggled with what to say although I have plenty of thoughts and feelings about it. My biggest fear is to offend and I’ve seen enough posts about “white lady tears” to know that sharing my pain is not only beside the point but totally annoying to some. So in the spirit of “saying something awkward is better than silence” I am going ahead with saying plenty of awkward somethings. I may not be saying things right but damn it I do care and would rather be thought awkward than thought to be someone who doesn’t give a crap.

  4. Kate

    Whoa, I didn’t realize not making comment came across as not caring–or worse— not giving a shit!! I don’t twitter so not an option. But if we are being honest here, then I can say that to assume silence implies consent or agreement is just WRONG. Abraham Lincoln was credited with saying
    : “I would rather remain silent and thought to be a fool, than to open my mouth and remove all doubt” (or words to that effect).
    A prayer offered for the victim & parents, or quiet reflective thinking about the issue at hand (race relations) and where we go from here counts for something and might possibly be more productive.

  5. Jeff Bouley / Deacon Blue Post author


    Some people do go on in a very emotional mode that seems (even if it isn’t) disingenuous. That’s why I think if people aren’t sure what to say, don’t say much and don’t go overboard. Moderation can be a good thing in a situation like this, because it is easy to misstep, as evidenced by my own admission that I had hoped my wife could review this post first, being black. …and this coming from a guy who has a pretty high number of black followers and people I follow on Twitter. 😉


    It’s not so much that everyone needs to say something, but it seems like A LOT of people aren’t speaking about the issue, and that, I think, makes many black people feel like the issue isn’t important to white people. I don’t think much needs to be said. But acknowledgement of the tragedy and/or travesty is at least something. As Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Sometimes a litany of voices, even if they don’t say much, can mean a lot, much like a huge quiet protest gathering or vigil ceremony. Just my two cents.

  6. Jeff Bouley / Deacon Blue Post author

    Yeah, the questions are almost always so much easier, aren’t they? Would that it were otherwise…


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