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

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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.


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14 comments
Funksoul1965
Funksoul1965

Many of us white folks hear ya' Tef and feel the same. Please don't think we are mostly all racist idiots... What happened to the Sixties ideals of equality middle aged white St. Louis?

Big Kev
Big Kev

When you know Tef on a personal level inspiring and passionate stories like these come up in every day conversations. But something about this one really stood out. Well written Tef. Much Respect.

UBU
UBU

I have visited, and lived in various cities in the U. S., and I can say St Louis has too many young people that are trying to emulate a so called thug persona. I look at the youth, and think how they were once a small child, and how the lack of guidance, from parents, family, school, have left them feeling that they have no other way to get attention. They walk around without, trying to put on a fake facade to fit in. A lot of youth, male, and female are hurting mentally, with the lack of opportunities in this city, and the status quo of typical low paying job offerings, only reinforces that this is all that I'm am going to be able to achieve in life? It is many layers to the problems that have attributed to this current state of destruction. Their should be no finger pointing, but acknowledgement of the issues, and ways to get the youth mentally prepared for bigger challenges that exist in life.

Thanks for the great post!

Hr4thabr
Hr4thabr

I agree with your post and have no love for Zimmerman. But I'll be honest, if you look, dress, and walk like a thug in an upper class neighborhood, no matter the race, you should be prepared to be profiled. It's common sense. Inversely, if a white boy dressing like a rich white boy takes a walk in Pine Lawn, he is going to be looked at as an outsider and probably be picked on and laughed at.

Gravy
Gravy

*long and slow applause*  Well written Tef. I couldn't agree more.

Junior Samples
Junior Samples

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Rickyjuice365
Rickyjuice365

Unfortunately The powers that be in America Tef; Purposely ROB black communities and their youth of the idea that we are good enough as a race. The war has always been for the black mans potential and imagination. Its no coincidence that most of our prominent black leaders were murdered or jailed. Black people like any other people have immense potential, but the if it mean that the Consuming white man has to take a back seat to our intelligence or popularity they will most definitely snuff us out.  In Short The Racist is afraid of the unknown, but more afraid of competition and even more afraid of not being in control of resources.

Wars in American History were not started because of evil powers, but the right to control resources.

Our Black People are strong, but afraid that if we were to rise up as a people they would once again invoke a reign of terror in our communities.

Brad Hicks
Brad Hicks

I've been making the point all along that I sincerely hope that Trayvon Martin threw the first punch. And I tell people why. Look at it from Trayvon's point of view, which, thanks to the fact that he was on a hands-free phone at the time, we know:

Trayvon Martin was a teenaged boy ...

Who had been followed for a block and a half by a middle aged man in a van ...

And then stalked for another black and a half through an alley by that same man, in the rain ...

And when the middle aged man caught up with him and Trayvon asked him who he was and why he was following him, he refused to say.

What in the HELL do people THINK that Trayvon thought he was dealing with? I don't think George Zimmerman was right to assume that some random teenaged kid he'd never seen before was a burglar, but for crying out loud, we raise all of our kids to think that a strange adult in a van who stalks you for blocks is a pedophile kidnapper. I sincerely do expect that Trayvon roughed him up bad, because as far as Trayvon Martin knew, he was fighting for his life; as far as he knew, if he lost this fight, nobody would ever see him again but his abductor.

George Zimmerman had no business stalking that kid, and even less business putting a gun in his waistband before doing so. But all the way up to the last second, this whole tragedy could probably have been avoided if, when Martin asked him who he was and why he was following him, he had said "Neighborhood Watch."

Keepliving19
Keepliving19

Tef, really love your post. I'm so sorry that you were harassed by those cops, but glad you guys weren't hurt. Even though I agree with you about STL being one of the most segregated, racist areas in the US- bad people are everywhere. Don't let evil people steal your joy or pride in your city. Saint Louis needs people like yourself to bring about change. I encourage you to pray for that woman who was scared and hope she meets a black male that changes her perspective one day.

FM Smith
FM Smith

Thanks Tef Poe, thanks RFT. Plenty to think about. More, please.

Gen A Jones
Gen A Jones

There is a HUGE difference between being "picked on and laughed at" as you said would happen to the rich white boy in Pine Lawn and being arrested or harassed the way Tef Poe describes above....

Coming to expect that we will be profiled, that we will be harassed, that we will always be "different" and that as such we should just deal with it is not the way to progress. That is how you keep a slave in a slave's place...

I REFUSE to stay in "my place," I refuse to just deal with it. It is the persecutor that should change, not the persecuted.

Tef Poe
Tef Poe

 well I see Mormons in Pine Lawn and North STL passing out Jesus pamphlets on the daily and no one bothers them , they ride the bus knock on ppl's doors and talk to them ..they dress in slacks , dress shirts , church shoes and ties,  no one bothers them at all and they've been doing this for years...ppl in the ghetto have bigger problems than worrying about a random white dude ..yeah they are incidents because ignorant people are everywhere but for the most part it's whatever..south stl is filled with whites, college students living here temporarily, ppl who jus live on the southside because the rent is cheaper...my room mates are both Caucasian.. it was raining the cat had on a hoodie ..I could see if it was summer time 90 degree's outside and he's walking around looking like a weirdo..

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