Culture · Death · Horror · Human Rights · Politics · Repatria · Trauma

Walking While Brown

Trayvon Martin, Rest in Peace

Because I’m still not driving here in Boca Raton (and not really having any place to go but the public library), I’ve taken to walking around the neighborhood in which my husband grew up. These 20 pounds I need to shed aren’t going to lose themselves, right?

Palm trees, three different types of lizards, eagles, falcons, cranes, storks, and white people taking their dogs for walks are what I encounter on a daily basis. From my calculation, in the 1.5 mile radius of my in-law’s house there are only three families of color who live here. One Columbian/Cuban, another Haitian, and the third a Vietnamese family right next door.

On my walks I also see gardeners, palm tree removal experts, and other manual-type laborers, 98% of whom are black, brown, and Asian. Down the street at my grandfather-in-law’s residential care home 100% of the residents are white and 100% of their serving staff are black. It’s like freaking Tara in there.

These in-my-face racial discrepancies bother me (um, segregation much?), but I didn’t feel unsafe walking around brown until I heard about Trayvon Martin, who lived just three hours from me here in Boca.

Seventeen-year-old Trayvon was walking home through his gated community from a convenience store, ice tea and skittles in hand, when a white dude came out and shot him point blank in the chest. The man claimed Trayvon “looked suspicious”. What he meant was, “There’s a black kid in my neighborhood and I’m a murderous racist fuck.” The murderer has yet to even be charged with this crime in spite of having admitted to the killing “in self defense.” The 911 tapes chillingly account for how the child begged for his life and for help before he was shot down in cold blood.

Suddenly, walking around “my” neighborhood has become frightening and I’ve taken to bringing one of the dogs with me when I go on my evening sojourn. I feel safer. Like the dog authenticates my brown presence in this white neighborhood, proving to any murderous racist fucks that I legitimately belong on these streets and please don’t shoot me.

Two days ago I walked by a house a few streets over. The car in the driveway had an NRA sticker on the back window. I was never so grateful to Moose, my golden retriever companion, even though technically, the dude is brown, too.

Please sign the petition to hold Trayvon Martin’s killer accountable.

©2012 Sezin Koehler, image via


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