One of my husband’s former coworkers shares a birthday with him, so we go out to dinner with his family every year in July. They are usually stimulating, fun occasions. Jake and Cindi* have two bright kids interested in a wide range of topics. On Friday, somehow we got onto the subject of what we wanted done with our bodies after we die—possibly suggested by the Day of the Dead décor at the Mexican restaurant. Ann*, their daughter, said she wanted to be shot into space; I asked her whether she wanted to donate her organs first, and Jake said, “We don’t do that.” People of color, Jake said, were vulnerable to having their organs harvested before they were fully dead. That led to a discussion on the ethics of the Bodies exhibit that had been at the Rochester Museum and Science Center a few years ago, in which the remains of Chinese prisoners had been put on display in various poses to show the internal workings of the human body. And that topic led to the more recent “Race: Are We So Different?” exhibit at the museum we had all seen and that led to…
You guessed it, the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin trial (because Trayvon Martin, the victim, was on trial, it seemed, as much as Zimmerman was).
We were all upset by the way the defense lawyers had demonized Martin. I noted that the police had made no attempt to find Martin’s parents after Zimmerman killed him, and it bothered me that this lack of concern on their part had dropped out of the public discourse so quickly. Jake and Cindi hadn’t been aware of that, and Jake said, with disgust, “They were treating him like a punk.”
The rest of the evening, we sat around a bonfire at their house and talked about science-fiction shows we loved, leaving my poor, documentary-oriented husband out of the conversation. Meanwhile in Florida, the nearly all white jury (which for some reason, the media consistently referred to as an all-woman jury instead) deliberated the fate of George Zimmerman.
We usually see Jake, Cindi and the kids once or twice a year. But this weekend saw them a second time at the demonstration in downtown Rochester attending a protest of Zimmerman’s “not-guilty” verdict. The kids, whom I have always seen alert, sharp and jokey, stared at the ground. I could offer only a lame, “I thought when the jury asked the judge to clarify the manslaughter charge, it would be at least manslaughter.” Cindi was on the brink of tears and seemed to have aged a year in those two days. And part of me wished I had not seen her face, because now I know what a mother’s face looks like when she imagines her children being murdered with impunity in the United States of America.
*names have been changed