An open letter to Robert Zimmerman, Jr.

Stop talking. Now.

I understand you. I, too, have a brother. For him, I would take the burden of proof and go out of my way to say everything I could to prove him innocent. I’d live with reasonable doubt that he could do anything wrong. I’d be the Supreme Court. I’d borrow Justice Harlan’s invocation of our nation’s fundamental values and say, “It is far worse to convict an innocent man than to let a guilty man go free.”

And I’d take the interviews. If I were on Twitter I’d call my tweets controversial and stand behind them. I’d post a picture of the man my brother fought with next to a Georgia criminal’s face. But I’d go further than you. I would have cussed out Piers Morgan on his own show. And knowing me, and how I love a stage, I’d croon Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen loud as a Baptist choir until I was damn sure somebody heard.

If I thought it’d help, I, too, would act like I was somewhere I wasn’t, in memories I didn’t make and don’t have. I’d talk enough to speak for my silent brother and deem everything shooting through my head the truth.

It’d be open season. Everything goes.

But, please, now, shut yourself up. Look past your brother. Hear what you’re saying. If this case isn’t about color, don’t offer another word about it. Appearances matter. Stop making appearances. Let the verdict be the verdict. Isn’t that what you want?

Listen to Florida. Not the people you generalize as the Black Community, or even the White Community, or the White Hispanic Community, whatever e pluribus unum you keep downsizing to one. No shame — I’ve done it, too: called out a race, caught flack. I’ve had thoughts like your brother’s. I stopped at a Panhandle gas station, looked at a man getting out of his Georgia flag bumper-stickered truck, assumed him suspicious, and got back in my car.

Listen to Florida itself. Find a beach. Stare at its broken profile, knowing it leads to the southernmost point, that tides beat the shore relentlessly while Anhinga snake through inland rivers and snakehead fish patrol the ground. Florida’s hardcore as hell and you’re just as harsh and hued, like you’re under its hex.

But ultimately the world is as black and white as a cocked gun and the bullet’s click-clack. And we’re both guilty, Trayvon Martin’s guilty, February 6, 2012 is guilty — of being in a wrong place at a wrong time, a state where race, for all of us, is as permanent as the fixture of night and day. We live in binaries: right and wrong, do and don’t, others and us. I know it. You know it. Your brother knows it.

Trayvon Martin knew it.

So just one more camera. Silently glare at its faceless lens, as Trayvon Martin did, and give it the finger. Then go away, knowing, someday, you and your brother will think of Florida as a safe, comfortable home again — me, too. And the next time the cicadas come, you’ll see a giant ground hornet, territorial and grappling with intruders, and simply call it Nature.

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