Destructive Ignorance in St. Louis and South Florida and the Unfulfilled Potential of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman



Editor: Tef Poe is an artist from St. Louis City. Through powerful imagery and complicated honesty, he has earned a reputation as one of the best rappers telling the story of St. Louis, which is about much more than one place. Poe has been featured in music publications such as XXL and Urb Magazine. His next project War Machine 2 is slated to be released June 5th and followed up by a full-length with DJ Burn One entitled Cheer For The Villain. Follow him on twitter @tefpoe

Every week in I'm Just A Rapper, Tef discusses modern life, hip-hop, and the deep connection between them.

My relationship with music has made me a bit more sensitive than I would prefer to be. Our favorite songs somehow signify the signs of the times and the momentum of our society. I think about the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman case on the regular. I've pondered if I should musically address this incident through song. I sat in my living room watching the Zimmerman bond hearing a few weeks ago on CNN and I can't help but think about the wasted potential affiliated with this case. I look at George Zimmerman and I feel sorry and ashamed for him. The Martin family lost a beloved son to this tragedy.

Now the Zimmermans will possibly lose their son to the judicial system. Racism is an unforgiving beast and ignorance surely adds fire to the flame which keeps it alive. There is no clear winner in this scenario -- everyone will lose. This story is a complete waste of human potential for both parties.

Growing up in St. Louis, I was faced with many decisions. The pressures of a young man growing up in impoverished neighborhoods can be intense. Should I join a gang for protection and do I smoke marijuana to fit in with my peers? The wrong decisions could open the door to death or prison. My story could have easily gone differently than it has, and my true potential would have never flourished. Trayvon didn't wake up the morning of his death with the intent to die. I personally don't believe Zimmerman was living life set upon becoming a murderer. In the blink of an eye everything can change for a person. We hope that most change is positive, but in the heat of the moment tragedy can happen.

This isn't a Zimmer pity party this is a discussion about wasted potential. As a musician I am constantly living life in fear of wasting time and living my life with a uncertain purpose. People such as Trayvon Martin die in the name of motivating us to never take a single day for granted. Some of us are guilty of living life blindly without a plan for tomorrow. We live to fulfill the dreams of other people. Day in and day out we faithfully go to work for another person's aspirations. The sum of our lives has been reduced to a very robotic form of existence. We live to work, eat, sleep -- freedom of thought is often something we take for granted. We do not cherish nor respect the power of our own potential. Imagine if you were robbed of the chance to dream about your future. For me, such a thought is frightening and unbearable. But this is indeed the reality most of us live in whether we know it or not. So here we are, struggling to climb out the abyss of self-doubt and social insecurity.

You are different than me so I will vilify you to protect myself. I could careless about your mother, your father and your children. I will allow myself to bow down to ignorance. I will not think about tomorrow and I do not care about your future. I am human but I do not feel as if all humans are members of the human family.

These are the seeds of homophobia, racism, sexism and anything else that is evil.

Trayvon never got to attend his first rap concert as an adult. He didn't get to enjoy the Arizona Tea that he purchased prior to his death. Unfortunately, this story is not unique to so many black males in Trayvons position. Young men living in a world that doesn't completely embrace them for who they are. When this is your position in the world you quickly learn to adapt or get devoured by the perceptions of others. We live in a generation of people who are seeking to maximize our potential even though many of us currently have no clue how to do so. We argue over ridiculous things like same-sex marriage as if any of us actually give a damn about marriage to begin with. We are overly consumed by worrying about the wrong things at all times. We are judgmental and often heartless about the plight and struggle of those that are different from us. We run from responsibility, point the finger at others and seldom seem to look in the mirror at ourselves. We do not connect with anything that isn't buried in ignorance and lack of education. We have taught ourselves to disregard facts and create theories based upon Facebook blurbs.

Zimmerman followed Trayvon and approached him. He says his actions were self-defense but I don't agree. I'm going to select a random teenage male in the Loop follow him with a gun and see what happens. He'll probably get a little scared and run or turn around and fight me. I'm going to pull out the gun and blow his young brains out, smoke a cigarette, wait for the cops to come, and tell them it was self defense. Recently one of my favorite rappers, Game, dropped a new mixtape. On the track "Bills Is Paid" featuring Nipsey Hussle, Game spits "I got my hoodie on, it's a starter/ I'ma rock this motherf$%ker for Trayvon Martin/ I'ma rock this motherf$%ker for Trayvons daughter /that he never had/ where's his killer at?/ the whole hood is mad." I think about this line a few times a day because it really explains this tragedy in a nutshell. What would've happened if Trayvon's life was not interrupted by this horrific moment. If I were Trayvon in the very same situation in St. Louis, Missouri, chances are I would also be dead. The only black males certain people in West County are not afraid of are also on the Cardinals roster. If you these men take the Cardinals uniform off and go for a stroll in Ladue chances are they will be harassed and arrested for nothing.

The truth is I can't walk down certain streets in Clayton, Ladue, Chesterfield and even Jefferson County without being unjustifiably profiled. It's a shame that this is where we are as a society. The suburbs of St. Louis are filled with Zimmermans. I once worked for the Mayor as a canvasser. One day I was sent to his neighborhood to work and knock on doors with my partner. We were educating St. Louis voters about a particular proposition on the ballot. We had clipboards and bright yellow shirts with the proposition's name running across our chests in bold letters. As we head back to our vehicle to travel to the next street I noticed a woman driving by with a very nervous aura. She looked at us, we glanced back and kept it moving. No more than maybe five minutes after this moment, the cops arrived and acted like total butt holes towards us. I told the police we were working for Mayor Slay and asked them if I could call the office. They told us to sit on the curb while they searched the vehicle, our pockets and backpacks.

They ran our names and searched for warrants. We weren't being charged with a crime at the moment yet we were sure treated like it. Two black males being profiled while working for Mayor Slay -- now that right there is a news Channel 4 headline. I naturally assumed the lady driving by called the cops on us.

Ironically enough the proposition we're promoting was one to help protect the jobs of police officers. I even told the cops this, yet still they remained douches. Why not hear us out? Why treat us like animals in broad day like this? What are you actually investigating when there is nothing to investigate? Why are we acting as if this isn't the theme of the day for many of us? To whoever called the cops: I hope you die in your sleep. I perhaps perpetuate the problem with this type of thinking. But at the end of the day I'm just being honest about how I feel. The woman that drove by us that day has been marked for death in my brain.

She probably wasn't the person that dialed the number but for the rest of my life, my mind is stuck on blaming her for my inequities. She was the last person we encountered before the cops came. I can never forget a face so mentally I have thrown tons of negative energy in her direction. The look on her face was drowning in fear, so even if she didn't call the cops she wasn't far off from doing it. I felt like we lost the moral battle for justice that day. Completely innocent, sitting on the curb, letting these guys talk to us like we're morons simply because they have guns and we don't. The mayor came to the office and ran damage control. We met him and a few other people normal black guys like ourselves don't get to meet unless the mayor is protecting his image. My co-worker quit his job the next day due to this incident. He said to me "anything could've happened out there, if they would've shot us who would care in that neighborhood?" I replied to him "possibly no one." So yes, when I think about this incident I am completely angered.

I wish and pray the person that called the cops on us experiences nothing but painful turmoil in their old age. I hope you spend the final years of your life rotting to death on a Barnes Hospital bed in a hospital room that lacks air conditioning. New faces enter your neighborhood and the first thing you can think of is call the cops? God sent me to tell you that you're psycho. The world has developed far entirely too quick for your harbored ignorance to notice it. Black males walk the streets in white neighborhoods and some of the people living in these communities call the cops. The cops arrive, arrest us or maybe the person calling feels lucky and comes out and shoots us themselves with no need for law enforcement. I'm straying off topic with my rant but even underneath all my insanity I'd love to be given the chance to sit face to face with these people and explain myself.

I'd love to be able to show them how human we actually are. We all have families and people we care about. We're all Americans whether we like it or not, so showing each other a bit of compassion shouldn't be a chore. We've been living together since this country's conception, and yet none of us seem to understand the power of tolerance. This is the world's greatest nation, and racism has devoured a large chunk of our potential to be even more progressive than we already are. An entire country has fallen short of what it was meant to be due to lack of understanding and reinforced hatred for each other. Racist whites don't fear blacks in Cardinals jerseys at Bush Stadium. Everyone seems to be happily getting along when the Cardinals are on a winning streak. Then reality sets in and they drive back home to O'Fallon and turn on the burglar alarm. My city will never reach its full potential as long as we continue to be one of the nations most racially segregated places. I truthfully would rather have a nuclear bomb dropped on my head than raise children in such a ridiculous climate centered in thinking like this is still the 1960s.

I don't have children at the moment, but I most definitely won't raise my children in St. Louis when I do have them. In Chesterfield, my son or daughter could easily be Trayvon'ed with no remorse. The inner city has crime issues the mayor chooses to ignore. So what self-respecting parent fighting for his family's well being doesn't want to live in a neighborhood that has maximum safety and developmental resources. This is the new America, and Blacks have the same educational opportunities as whites. There are plenty of holes in the system and the playing field still isn't leveled. But I have faith that if a person is willing to work hard and create opportunities for herself, nothing is impossible.

With this being said, blacks are moving into the suburbs and working the same jobs as white buddies. We are attempting to normalize ourselves in this society. The president is black? No big deal. A black family attending the same church as you? No big deal. Missouri: this is not the Jim Crow era. Hip-hop is helping kill a lot of this foolishness and the next generation will hopefully fulfill the potential promises of greatness our parents were too scared to honor. Trayvon Martin was born a member of the generation striving to do better than our predecessors when it comes to issues such as this. Zimmerman -- an older guy from the previous class -- didn't see it this way for whatever reason. Zimmerman profiled Trayvon while I'm sure Caucasian kids in Martin's age bracket from the same neighbor know the difference between a kid eating some skittles and a menacing house burglar.

Regardless of how you feel about the scenario, let's face the facts: This moron chased a sixteen year old kid down, got into a fist fight with him and shot him. Zimmerman is a damn idiot. First of all, no sixteen-year-old kid that you're following to begin with should be able to throw hands and whoop a grown man's behind. He deserved that hand-to-hand beating. He went heads up man-to-man (well, correction: man-to-boy) against a teenager and got dealt with. When the fight got too real he shot him dead in cold blood. He actually got off easy when you consider what could've happened. If Trayvon Martin actually had the strength of a 30-year-old man this might have ended differently. You cannot follow a innocent person with a damn gun and expect nothing to happen. I'd throw this guy in jail for being a damn idiot. Aside from his ignorance I feel sorry for his family and the predicament they are now in.

Trayvon died too soon like so many of the young men before him. We live in a world where everyone thinks he is John Wayne. We walk around with guns and we shoot anything moving. Zimmerman sat in court during his bond hearing as a shell of his former self. Whether the law convicts him or not he will live the rest of his life as a murderer. The decision to maximize your true potential rest solely on your shoulders.

Trayvon's choice to partake in the same self-discovering journey was snuffed from him far too early. Allowing ourselves to be influenced by bigotry and hatred damages our ability to bring positive change into the world. In the artistic community so many people seem to sit idle ignoring their potential. I wholeheartedly believe if our world will change then the musicians and artists of our world will serve as the beacons of light. This is why it's so drastically important for us to understand our potential. We should continue to fight like bats out of hell to protect this potential.

This was written in honor of a young kid who probably made the same mistakes I made his age. He was just an American teenager not really having a worry in the world. He probably never for once thought he would die like this. This is a sad story, and while I share empathy for Zimmerman's family I also realize only one person in this scenario is sleeping in a grave. Only one person in this situation is dead as a doorknob. Trayvon was murdered, and we must continue to destroy ignorance in all forms or we are indeed no better than Zimmerman.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.