Dear Brother Oliver:
I am writing to ask you—respectfully—to wrap up your George Zimmerman Defense Tour of 2012. I am nobody in particular. But just as your friend Zimmerman appointed himself sentry and executioner of Trayvon Martin, I am anointing myself captain of Black Citizenship Watch.
I created this role after watching you humiliate yourself and the African-Americans who still claim you on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. As my first official act, I am declaring you the suspicious character.
Now, when you first insinuated yourself into this national disgrace, I saw you as a distraction. That was before mainstream media outlets treated you as if you’re a reliable source. Because Zimmerman won’t speak for himself, I can understand why they’d book a self-described family friend and volunteer defender the first couple of times. But you have to know that, symbolically speaking, you’re just The Black Guy.
Yes, Mr. Oliver, you are The Black Guy who racists trot out when someone probes their questionable behavior. Like the Slinky, the Trapper Keeper, or the “urban, streetwise” TV character who always seems to be bouncing a basketball, you are both a throwback and a novelty. You’ve repeatedly claimed that race has nothing to do with why Zimmerman decided Trayvon Martin was potential felon rather than just a teenager from out of town who may have needed directions to his father’s fiancee’s home; a slowpoke kid talking the long way as he chatted with his girlfriend; or a human being trying to get out of the rain. But then, bizarrely, you’ve alluded to your own experiences as an African-American man facing the specter of racial profiling, vilification and law enforcement violence.
I can only surmise that you are so desperate to protect this friend/acquaintance/extended nephew of yours that you’ve lost some of your mental capacity.
How else could you go on television and equate second-hand reports of Zimmerman’s fear, trauma, PTSD, depression and alleged remorse with the gun blast that ended the life of a 17-year-old, unarmed child?
How could you claim that Zimmerman was just trying to keep his community from being “victimized” by burglaries but leave out how he routinely blew up 911 at odd hours in the morning, how he’d been arrested and charged at 20 for antagonizing a police officer, and how his then-fiancee filed a restraining order against him?
How could you obscure your friend’s clear disregard for the 911 dispatcher who suggested he stop following Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012?
And finally, when you were confronted with the fact that your 28-year-old White family friend muttered something like “f*cking coons” on the 911 tape, how could claim that some folks use “coon” as a term of endearment? In the constellation of cray cray, this is your North Star.
Mr. Oliver, I don’t believe in vigilante behavior. I’m not going to harass you the way your friend Zimmerman menaced and killed that child. I’m just asking you to listen for the whispers of your ancestors and the cries of Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton. Then I urge you to stand down.
Akiba Solomon is an NABJ-Award winning writer, freelance journalist, editor and essayist from West Philadelphia. She writes about the intersection between gender and race for Colorlines and is the co-editor of Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts .