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July 23, 2013

By Hama Tuma


I have always been fascinated by, to use an old term, the political economy of walks, their relationship with crimes and dangerous protest. l once wrote a short story on the case of the criminal walk in which one citizen crossed regional lines, called, Kilil in Ethiopia, and violated the pseudo Bantustan edict against walking in areas  and on streets that are not of your own ethnic group. The court labored long to identify what really constituted a criminal walk. And then a Ugandan opposition leader, a clever man to boot, called for a “walk to work” protest in the country where the majority (like the morning human deluge that comes out of the Kibera slum of Nairobi) did walk to work out of necessity. But, his call was deemed illegal and provocative and he was beaten and jailed for his effort. The walk baffles when its impact touches on the political.

And now has come the Trayvon walk which has led and may lead to more deaths. It require being black first and foremost. No menacing face required. Wearing a hoodie is an accessory that makes the walk slide to the realm of the criminal. As the court case against the killer (no need to mention his race) progressed, we came to learn that Trayvon was not walking  quickly as if he had just committed a crime or an offence but was walking slow as if he was about to. Now how slow and revealing was that particular walk that led to the death of the young Trayvon? Did he, under the cover of his hood and blackness, hoof it? Trudge and plod? Shamble and tip toe? Wobble and waddle? Slick and slink? Perambulate or swagger? Or lurch and wend? What pushed Zimmerman to kill, other than the rank prejudice that the jury that set him free refused to see? The judge gave us no insight at all in what made up the Trayvon walk thus increasing the anxiety of the parents of so many millions of potential Trayvons. Can Latinos do the walk? Can Ethiopians in the USA, of whom some imagine they are neither black nor white, be caught doing the Trayvon walk unawares?  So many questions.

Walk aside, the Trayvon case is notable for shining a light on the American justice system, strength and failings included. Obama, fresh after praising the Apartheid backing Bush senior, the massacre supporter from Bangladesh to Vietnam, the invader of Panama, the man who avoided shaking hands with Africans during his brief visit to the continent, as a man who contributed to make America healthier, better and what not, spoke of similar experiences he had had in the past. Though Obama is half black, but black skin wise, he said he was followed by guards in supermarkets. He must have read one of my own African Absurdities wailings on the matter because he also mentions old white ladies clutching their bags tight in the buses when they see a black fellow. Black as evil, as pernicious, threatening, criminal, and more—it is still out there despite Obama being elected president for two terms. Racism has more lives than the proverbial cat and the colour black is on top of the list of its victims. Reading a book called Impressing Whites, I was struck by the fact that Indians, who do not consider themselves black and are racist towards Africans, also suffer from racist prejudices because of their color and despite their exotic side(gurus, Hara Krishna, etc.) The Chinese are also racist as are Africans. The generalization is not unintended in this case. But, Trayvon was not killed by any of these (Chinese, Indian or African) and we are forced to raise the question what if the places have been reversed and Trayvon had shot and killed a hooded or not hooded Zimmerman? Would there have been a jury to set him free? That we do not have, to say the least, a certain and sure answer to this highlights the problem. For all that it mattered, Trayvon may have danced an Afrian spear wielders’ dance on the street as he walked home but he would have been shot at anyway. He courted death with his color (his parents are to blame actually for his blackness and we Africans whose ancestors allowed the slave trade to take place are also responsible), with his hoodie, timing and that walk that is alleged to have tweaked the alleged  self-defense or “stand your guard” (not mentioned by Zimmerman though) instincts of the killer. Zimmerman is now chubby, dressed conservatively, looking as the defender of the helpless white ladies old or young. There are by far too many Trayvon candidates in America at a time when the Malcolm Xs and Rap Browns are not that much in evidence and the Beyoncés and Jay Zs play at being militant.

Writing on Perspectives on Racism, Tracy Baker had the following to say:

Racism in this country is, and I believe will always be, a permanent condition. It is a thread that was sewn into the very fiber of the American flag. When Betsy Ross sewed the first stitch of the flag that would represent a new country, Crispus Attucks had already died fighting for every man’s liberty–except his own. None other than the forty-first President of the United States, George Bush, Sr., was still practicing this racist tradition in 1991. On January 8, of that year that former President vetoed a Civil Rights Bill. Seven days later, on January 15–Dr. Martin Luther King’s official birthday holiday–Bush ordered the largest number of minority soldiers off to fight in a war. The fountain of this country is racism; its nature is racist, and sadly the one permanence that I can count on is racism”.

An exaggeration? Hardly, given the Trayvon murder and the setting free of his killer. As oppression is not an option and most African Americans are not the Rice variety the Trayvons, those dead or alive, will have their day of reckoning and real justice. That’s one other thing we can all count on.

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  1. I will not dispute the fact that you are a great writer, Mr. HamaTuma, however, when you post your writing, it is about the conditions other than about Ethiopia. For example, there are thousands of papers, reports and commentary written about Trayvon Martin. I would like to see you write about the conditions in Ethiopia. There are so many subjects you could write, i.e. land grabs, sending our young women to Arab countries, the corruption, the jailing of our innocent citizens, etc. Why don’t write an investigative reports unless you do not want to offend your Father-in-Law.

  2. Dawit Zelelew permalink

    Ms Martha, you have bad intentions. Hama has written many many articles on Ethiopia and her problems. His latest on Trayvon Martin is a critic of Obama and his policies and that concerns Ethiopia. Your reference to a father in law shows your shameful intentions. By the way, what have you done for Ethiopia ever ? Ask this first.

  3. GashaCherku permalink

    Dear Martha,
    I thought Hama, mentioned it briefly on the third line of this article by saying Kilil in Ethiopia, where by these days an Amhara can not do Trayvon walk in Oromia region,,so on amd so forth..

    Hama stay as focusead you are

  4. Gasha Cherku permalink

    Dear Martha
    You are completeley out of context,did Hama’s blog exhausted your tribalist convictions ? If contributing to AIGA forum is considered doing substantial contribution to Ethiopa,Good Luck and go ahead ! BUT DON’T POKE YOUR NOSE IN THINGS WHICH DOESN’T CONSERN YOU!!

  5. Dawit Zelelew permalink

    Martha are you jealous? do you want to go to the place and beg? otherwise shut up. Comment on content and not on your ravings. Hama Tuma will not sink low to come to your sewage. Go away! It is a fine article and satirical if you can get what this means.

  6. GashaCherku permalink

    Dear Martha,

    what is your contribution to Ethiopia and Ethiopians..?..beside contributing articles tor AIGA forum,?

  7. I wanted an answer to the question I wrote, instead I did not get an answer, but comments full of negativity. For my simple question, I read comments full of emotions and anger. If you cannot answer simple questions, how on earth you can lead a nation. You know nothing about my standing yet you throw personal attacks. Sadly, all you want to hear is glorification and praise, if it is not about this, then you are want your readers to be stupid and blindly accept whatever it is written as words of God. I wrote a straight question expecting a straight answer, I did not get the answer to my question, but defensive responses. By the way I never heard of aiga forum, but it must be your choice of website.

  8. GashaCherku permalink

    LOL…Martha, why all these animosity, Hama will not and should not indulge in addressing your cynical question . The comments comes from us the readers. I for one wish to hear your comments regarding the Trayvon walk.
    But you chose to disrespect him and his readers. YemeCHISH.

  9. koroktu permalink

    Martha ! you must have been your first reading of Hamas pieces. please ,i advice you to make a through search either in congress or in any other libraries ,if you really have profound interest to read.,more of his writings on thousands topics on Ethiopian issues . I can say no individual,in my recent memory,who treated Ethiopian and African issues with such depth than Hama. So to speak,Martha take interest to dig out the truth before passing your judgment . I see no reason why you mentioned about his father -in law as has nothing to do with the topic. If you again interested to hear, go and check ,what he said about his father -in law in Ecadef pal talk room.

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