A jury in Florida pronounced white neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman not guilty of murder — or even manslaughter — for the uncontested shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin. In doing so, the justice system found his actions in line with the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense laws.
Beginning the night of the tragedy and continuing through the aftermath of the verdict and the recent demonstrations, details of the case and constant media coverage have focused attention on apparent race-related aspects of the situation.
Although I didn’t follow the saga, I am inclined to believe that Mr. Martin might not have been killed had he been white and Mr. Zimmerman might not have been acquitted had he been black. Racial bias and unequal justice remain stubborn realities here in America.
It’s always been this way, even in my seemingly liberal life. By junior high, the place very much resembled one of those prison documentaries where the inmates self-segregate into ethnic tribes, mixing only when forced to share a common space for some required activity.
By high school, the students wanted to proclaim their social gang for all to see. Tattoos weren’t a thing back then but there was a tradition where a circle of friends would make up a fake club and put it in the yearbook along with their legitimate school affiliations. Like some kind of secret fraternity or sorority.
So underneath someone’s picture it might say “Viking Voice (Editor), Tennis (Co-Captain), Fiddler on the Roof (Golde), S&P Olympics” where the S&P Olympics was not some school-sponsored investing competition but rather the most definitely unsanctioned “Shot & Pot” tournament featuring the champion boozers and burnouts.
Anyway, it’s the senior year and several of the boys in my group list themselves as members of the TMFN Club. TMFN? Some of these guys I know since the kindergarten but I never heard this acronym. Of course, inquiring minds want to know.
But no one would tell me. Clearly, all of the friends, both the boys and the girls, were wise to the words. I asked and I asked, only to be told again and again “it’s not very nice” or “you wouldn’t like it”.
I didn’t understand why I was being singled for exclusion. I had a good sense of humor. I was a world-class secret keeper. Still, I was being left in the dark and I felt hurt.
Finally, I asked Jennifer, a recent transfer from somewhere in the deep south.
When she told me, I had to ask her to repeat. She had a bit of an accent. I must have misunderstood. These young men were athletes and scholars from “good” families and headed to top universities. They would become teachers. They would become fathers. They would become jurors.
The horrible truth is that TMFN stood for Too Many F*ck*ng N*gg*rs.
Immediately, I felt shame. Red hot shame. I don’t know if I was ashamed of them or if I was ashamed for them, but I did know that I would never again associate with the members of this particular brotherhood.
© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.