I have felt like Trayvon Martin. Many many times while walking at night, being pulled over by police, being told that I’m not supposed to ‘be.’ My ‘being’ in a space has caused questions, concerns, suspicions. In the back of my mind I always wondered if there would be a reckoning. If my ‘being’ would become so intolerable to someone that they would try to end my existence rather than engage in a conversation. The only difference between me and Trayvon is that I am still here and he is not. Still, the question lurks around the subconscious when I walk home every night from the subway and a police car slows down alongside me. The squad car slows down. Eyeballs examine my ‘being,’ noticing any signs of anger, insanity, guilt. I continue walking, pretending to be oblivious. In most cases this is the best sign of innocence: by pretending to not notice.
Unlike myself, Trayvon physically noticed the accusation. He noticed the suspicion and dared to walk toward it. Stare at it, as he spoke with his girlfriend over the phone. Curious, as to who could be staring at him so intently he took a step in Zimmerman’s direction. Staring directly at George Zimmerman before quickly walking away.
I could name other incidents of walking while Black: the police slow-downs, pull-overs, suspicious looks. It’s all the same because my reaction has to be measured and numb. I pretend not to notice and keep eyes fixed straight ahead. Hands out of pockets and swinging along my side. Maybe I’ll start singing. A guilty man wouldn’t sing, would he?
More and more the last few years when I find myself WWB, a sad smile comes across my face. After all these years, you’re still looking for that sign of suspicion. It’s not here. I’m innocent. There is nothing wrong with me. I’m just a Black man out for a walk.