What many believe happened to Trayvon Martin in Florida is what good trial lawyers fear might happen to their clients–that juries will not see them, but will substitute their own fears and prejudices. When this happens, it is almost a foregone conclusion what the result will be–a verdict of guilty.
That’s one of the great frustrations of African-American life, those times when you are standing right there, minding your business, tending your house, coming home from the store, and other people are looking right at you, yet do not see you.
They see instead their own superstitions and suppositions, paranoia and guilt, night terrors and vulnerabilities. They see the perpetrator, the suspect, the mug shot, the dark and scary face that lurks at the open windows of their vivid imaginings. They see the unknown, the inassimilable, the other.
They see every damn thing in the world but you.
And their blindness costs you. First and foremost, it costs your sacred individuality. But it may also cost you a job, an education, your freedom. If you are unlucky like Trayvon Martin, it may even cost your life.