"A Mother's Fear," a Guest Post

Elayna & son
Some of you may remember Elayna Raphael; she went off on a white Sister 2 Sister reader who wanted to know why Black men didn't want Black women.

Elayna now returns to the bar.

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Trayvon Martin, Trayvon Martin, this name now bounces around my head day after day, week after week as more and more tidbits of information are trickled down to the public. Trayvon Martin and Sanford, FL, over and over again I hear it echo in my brain. For me this has become a personal painful reminder of my encounters with the city of Sanford back in 1994. It is a reminder that though I am a white woman my son is indeed Trayvon Martin and though he did not die, Sanford certainly did all that it could in an attempt to kill him.

I am the Caucasian mother of an African American man, who, like so many in this country, fell to the system of “justice” designed to remove him from society as he entered into manhood and disenfranchise him from the freedom this country is supposed to represent. Many look at me and say, “but, he’s also white”….really? Not in this society. In this society, my son is Trayvon Martin.

I think back on the day he was born and how naïve I was to the racial divide in this country. When I looked down on his perfect little face, I saw beauty, I saw promise, I saw my gift from God. Society saw…Trayvon Martin.
They saw a target.

I tried hard to not believe how difficult his life could and would become because of his race and how his race is perceived by those who determine his guilt simply due to what they see. He would follow the same road as many Trayvon Martins who are deemed guilty for being darker; guilty for being alive. He would be found guilty because he expected to be treated by society as his white mother is treated. In fact, he was guilty of this. He did expect to be treated the same and he was wrong for thinking that he could be and so was I. You see, as I said, when society sees my son, they see Trayvon Martin.

I probably should have realized where his life would go early on when I found myself struggling with the education system. From kindergarten through high school I fought long and hard simply looking for equal education to his white counterparts. I endured the surprised looks when I would identify this child of color as my son. I would wrestle with the education officials determined to force them to overlook the shade of his skin and properly educate him. It was a long and very difficult endeavor, but it wouldn’t be until he left the confines of school and entered society that the realization of the difficulties he would endure because of his skin color would arise.

Yet and still, in my naiveté, I believed that this country was moving forward and that someday in my son’s lifetime he would find a playing field that was almost level. After all, he was born in 1973, a time that was closer to the foundation of civil rights than today’s tragedy of the death of Trayvon Martin. The year of my son’s birth was a time when interracial children were a rare sight. It was a time when doors could and would close to apartments, jobs, and education yet, open to jail and prison cells simply because of the color of one’s skin. A time when walking anywhere but the depths of an inner city could get an African American killed. Oh wait…Trayvon Martin…2012…what’s different?

It was in 1994 that I, like many African American mothers, got “the call.” My son had been arrested for a crime that a five year old could prove that he did not commit. For the police in Sanford, it was a no brainer. They took the black kid and left the white one free. There was never an investigation. There was never a trial. There was a death penalty hung over our heads until we folded like a cheap suit and took a plea simply to save my son’s life fearing what the racist judicial system of Sanford, FL could do to him. The real criminal was left free to do more damage because the Sanford police force, State Attorney and Public Defender assigned to my son’s case refused to believe that a white female could have committed this crime, even though all information culled from her history determined exactly that. I was left with the understanding that there was no way they would let this white female walk the yards of Florida prisons when they had a young African American male in their clutches.

The city of Sanford cost my son eleven years of his life. Eleven years that we will never get back. Eleven years of an informal education on this country’s judicial system for me that began in this southern city. Eleven years that stripped away my rose colored glasses when dealing with society and allowed me to see just how serious the result of racism is. You see during this time I realized that within the white side of my family, I didn’t know someone who knew someone in jail let alone prison. In fact, on the white side of my family, there are several people who are correction officers. However, on the black side of my family, 5 people in the immediate family were in prison. Too many to count were dealing with the justice system in one fashion or another. I also found that African American children die, but no one hears their mothers’ cries because it simply isn’t news. They go missing and no one ever knows. They are imprisoned at an astronomical rate, yet it’s ignored as if we never left the chain gang mentality of the 1800s.

In fact, today I worry more for my son and even more for my grandson and once again it was the city of Sanford that brought this fear back to the surface. Today, with the death of this child, I again shake my head with a heavy heart wondering just when America will actually embrace the “melting pot” values that it touts. In 1994, Sanford became my education on a racist system while I fought them for my son’s life. Today, 2012 and there is no change, no forward movement, no expectation of equality or equal justice within the law. Today another statistic rears its ugly head as we add yet another African America child’s name to the roster of dead children whose lives bring little by way of justice.

While so many people are wearing hoodies in response to this tragedy, I find myself wearing a hoodie of fear that every mother of a child of color wears.
I wear the hoodie of fear of a grandmother and auntie of children of color.
I cry the same tears of these mothers, sisters, grandmothers and aunts. I find myself mentally revisiting my encounter with the city of Sanford, FL and all that it represents to me as it villainizes a child wearing a hoodie, eating skittles and drinking iced tea while walking in the land of the free.

Yes, Trayvon Martin is my son, my grandson, my nephews. With firsthand knowledge of the antics of this southern city of Sanford, FL I say it’s time to pull the trigger on the blatant racism that the death of this child, my child, has exposed. It’s time for Sanford and cities like it to move into what should be a race-less society, but is not. It’s time for change and time for change now….not in another 20 years.

I too am Trayvon Martin’s mom and on this I Stand My Ground.

Comments

  1. Leo Princess3/29/12, 10:45 PM

    *jaw drop* I am in flipping awe right now. The timing is great, too, since I was about to throw in the towel on humanity. At least I have a smidgen of hope back.

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    1. Elayna Raphael3/29/12, 11:09 PM

      Awww......Leo Princess.....you make my heart sing!!!.....Ankhesen....that's the truth....ruth......smile

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    2. Elayna Raphael3/29/12, 11:10 PM

      oh and K.....thanks so much for posting

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    3. Leo Princess3/29/12, 11:11 PM

      You will get no argument from me about that. None whatsoever.

      Which is why I doubt Trayvon's family will ever get justice, even if this case makes its way to trial. I'm honestly surprised that there was a video of Zimmerman to be leaked, what with all the hush-hush going on for a month.

      I am very grateful for this guest post, though. Especially in light of so many people, even POC, acting as if the media is making the case out to be a 'race thing' when it supposedly isn't.

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  2. Damn. Sanford is looking more and more like the haven for Jim Crow.

    @Leo Princess

    Personally, I've already given up on humanity, but it's good to know not all humans are willing to by into the mindset of oppression.

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  3. i have no words.

    Elayna, thank you. And you and your family are in my prayers.

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  4. Elayna Raphael3/29/12, 11:56 PM

    @ Brotha Wolf....don't give up on us...to do so would only allow room for apathy and apathy is not the path we should take. Sanford is very much a Jim Crow kind of town....I lived there until June of last year and wondered if it would ever evolve past the 1960s....and let me say, the mentality in that town is a mentality that is accepted by all races and as a no'therner, I struggled most with that very thing....acceptance of the racial lines drawn in that town confounded me. I could not understand why this was acceptable to anyone let alone the African Americans who live in that town. But it is exactly that. Accepted...and every death of every person of color killed there is accepted and every imprisonment is accepted and they thought I was crazy when I got busy as they came after my son. Did I lose? yeah, in fact I did....but I didn't lose quietly and they knew I was around for the entire 11 years that they made us suffer.....I think by they time my son was freed they were happy because they thought I was finished.....ummm....right.....smile.....don't give up Brotha Wolf....don't give up.


    @ Neo.....Thank you so much....your prayers are always a blessing to us.

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  5. @Elayna Raphael
    “I probably should have realized where his life would go early on when I found myself struggling with the education system. From kindergarten through high school I fought long and hard simply looking for equal education to his white counterparts. I endured the surprised looks when I would identify this child of color as my son. I would wrestle with the education officials determined to force them to overlook the shade of his skin and properly educate him. It was a long and very difficult endeavor, but it wouldn’t be until he left the confines of school and entered society that the realization of the difficulties he would endure because of his skin color would arise.”

    In other words, you walked a mile in the shoes of every black parent. Your Empathy is the result of being inexorably bound to a black child in a way most whites cannot begin to grasp. That’s what it takes for whites to see this tragedy the way you do; that we haven’t been crying wolf for all these years.

    “Eleven years that stripped away my rose colored glasses when dealing with society and allowed me to see just how serious the result of racism is.”

    Notice it wasn’t done by going to a civil rights meeting (for enlightenment); nor was it done by obtaining a degree in social studies. You had to go through fire for this revelation. You have the unique opportunity of viewing life through a black mother’s lens, as she wrestles against the system but finds no voice of comfort.

    “Today, with the death of this child, I again shake my head with a heavy heart wondering just when America will actually embrace the “melting pot” values that it touts.”

    Never, not until Jesus comes. White males are dug in too deep and they have too much to lose. Determined to hold on to privilege come hell or high water; they’re willing to take up arms if necessary.

    “Yes, Trayvon Martin is my son, my grandson, my nephews.”

    “My… My….My….” Three times you uttered this word and each time you typed it I felt what you felt; for I am the Father of a son who has been pulled over twice for driving while black. Each time the K-9 units were called in (because he fit the profile; young- black and male) and in each case they found nothing. But had he said the wrong thing- looked at an officer in the wrong way, or moved suddenly when he should have stood still; he might not be with us today.

    Notwithstanding, you know what it feels like To Your Very Core how a black mother frets for her son, because you have a black child of your own. Welcome to the family dear lady and God bless you. I once was lost but now am found… blind (to racism) but now I see.

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  6. Reminds me of my uncle (he's also a black male). He was sentenced to 12 yrs in a Florida prison for a crime that he should have only gotten probation or a few months for (he plead not guilty instead of taking a plea deal for probation because he believed he was innocent). He became divorced and missed out on his daughters' teenage yrs and early twenties. He just got out in February. There's really no reason he should have spent 12 yrs in prison. You don't even get that much time for manslaughter or rape. There's way too many stories like mine and yours for us to have any faith in the justice system whatsoever.

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  7. Lifecoaster3/30/12, 7:48 AM

    Thank you for this post. I pray for your family, Trayvon Martin's family and all who have suffered from this kind of bs.

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    1. One the most heartfelt posts of 2012.

      I've had loved ones to be wronged by the law. I said it before and I'll say it again, the real danger in this world isn't the criminals that roam in our society. It's cops like some of the ones in Sanford, FL and people Like Mr. Zimmerman that are the danger because of their abuse of power.

      Whether you live North, South, East and West from the smallest townships to the big cities, all of us are at risk to come across people like that. I just pray that The good lord will protect me and other potential victims from people like them and I definitely pray for justice for the Martin family.Though I've never seen the U.S. as a so called free country after Trayvon's death I'am more convinced than ever that it isn't like that at all. I really don't see much of a difference between our country and a third world dictatorship.

      In spite of the ugliness that is talking place in Sanford, Florida I hope that this fight continues.To give up on this would mean that we have failed him and many others who have been are/still in his predicament.

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  8. Elayna Raphael3/30/12, 11:09 AM

    @Ariel I actually ran a prison ministry for 7 years during the time that my son was gone and I found that it is not an unusual thing for an African American to receive a much harsher sentence than their white counterparts. And, my ministry looked at cases nationwide and out of the 250 cases i had in my apt, i found that nearly 200 were either erroneously incarcerated or over sentenced. I was floored let me tell you. It's most apparent in the crack/powder cocaine disparity. Two people can have the exact same amount yet the white person has powder the black person has rock. The white person gets a bed for 18 months in a rehab and the black person gets a bed for 15 years in prison. It's really an eye opening thing this justice system is.

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  9. Great guest post.

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  10. This was a wonderful, beautiful, scary post. Thank you for sharing. My heart goes out to you and your family, Elayna.

    Brotha Wolf...I, too, have given up on humanity. It pains me to say it, but I just can't take this anymore.

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  11. Dear Ms Raphael,

    Is it a shame, or even a welcome revelation, that your post has brought me into this disturbing case. Your simplicity breaks through all the noise.

    I appreciate it,
    Asada

    Thank you Ms Raphael.

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  12. Elayna Raphael3/30/12, 5:23 PM

    @Amaya....I implore both you and Brotha Wolf....look at things through different eyes....maybe even look within....because sometimes that's where we find the answers.

    @Asada.....As difficult as the 11 long years were, I believe everything comes with a purpose and while some of the roads we travel may be difficult, they are indeed ladened with purpose. It's this purpose that moves me to write the things that I do. Without a loud resistance nothing changes......Bless you.

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  13. Elayna Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Its such an amazing post.

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  14. Indeed, Elayna; this is an important post. The timing is excellent because it helps to clean the God awful aftertaste of Sparkles.

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  15. @Elayna Raphael, your post was powerful, heart-wrenching, sincere and beautiful...Some of the things that pro-Zimmerman folks have been saying just makes me so sad sometimes..Fortunately, most can see that Sanford police and Zimmerman were wrong. You, your family, and Martin's family all know from personally experience that the justice system is biased and hopefully justice will be properly served as a result of the dirty laundry being aired. It is really tragic how you and other posters have had loves one be mistreated by the police in one way or another. I can understand for personal things that happened to my own family members in Chicago...And about the "melting pot", I found out that it really was intended only to blend in "ethnic" whites (Italian, German, etc..) and that non-whites were to be the firewood not the material. In other words, melting pot is just another way of making clear that non-whites will never be fully accepted as American (i.e. "White") and receive the same privileges as Whites.

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  16. Elayna Raphael3/31/12, 11:26 AM

    @deedee.....thank you so much for the kind words. Since writing this article and Ms K kindly posting it, I have received so much love from so many people and I cannot tell you how incredibly wonderful it makes this writer feel.....that is given the subject matter of the article. In fact, the article has been so well recieved that I would ask any/all of you to either bring people to it or send it out to whomever you believe should read it.

    The only thing that I continue to be lovingly chastized about is that there was no way for readers to contact me.....so.....please include my email address should you decide to forward. People can contact me at shavsha@hotmail.com

    I know our world, our country is flawed, but I, like Anne Frank, cannot give up on the idea that one day we just might get there. So I continue to hope and pray and fight a good fight that change comes sooner rather than later.

    **Much love to you all**

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  17. *delurking* Thank you for this powerful post. My heart has been breaking over Trayvon Martin, and your words brought tears to my eyes. *relurking*

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  18. Alex Raventhorne3/31/12, 1:02 PM

    Elayna, I am deeply moved by your soul and spirit as displayed in your post and your comments below it. May God continue to bless you, your family, and your friends, and bless them even more abundantly than anyone can imagine, Amen. I've prayed this specific prayer for you, because in my 30 years on earth as a black woman who is a Christian, you are the first white person I have come across who doesn't see whites as superior to blacks, who has developed true friendships with blacks which include being able to learn from them, and (this is the clincher) publicly states that white people can and should be learning from black people. Contrast that to the widespread, insidiously racist & insulting message that whites / western societies are the best and everyone else should be learning from them, and practically never the other way round, despite the countless advances, achievements, and successes of non-whites through history and present day proving the falseness, illogicality, and sheer stupidity of that message. Elayna, I have serious respect for you and your words.

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    1. Elayna Raphael3/31/12, 1:56 PM

      @ Alex.....you've moved me to tears. God Bless you greatly and in all ways beyond time.

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  19. Your words are beautiful. I hope that you are able to reach more people!

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  20. Elayna Raphael4/2/12, 10:08 AM

    My God, My God!! I woke up this morning and burst into tears. The weight of this entire "issue" so heavy on my mind that I couldn't fight the emotion that keeps welling up in my throat. I went outside to walk my dog....Justice (would you think I would name her anything different?)...and picked up the The Palm Beach Post that was laying on the lawn. The headlines?

    AFTER TRAGEDY, BLACK PARENTS TEACH SONS REALITIES OF RACISM

    After tragedy? Really? From my experience, we teach our sons and daughters the realities of racism from birth. How naive it is for a newspaper to print such a headline. It goes on to say how this African American female detective teachers her son to follow the rules, listening to adults and people of authority...OMGGGGG really? What part of walking home from the store isn't following the rules? and...Does anyone else get that this opens our children up to pedaphiles? Does anyone else understand that for all their lives we teach our children to be afraid?

    and............has anyone seen the Santorum Video? here's a quote and then the link to watch it......OMG, OMG......

    "We know, we know the candidate Barack Obama, what he was like. The anti-war government nig- uh, the uh America was a source for division around the world.“

    http://theurbandaily.com/gossip-news/jonathanhaily/rick-santorum-almost-calls-obama-a-government-na-video/?omcamp=EMC-CVNL

    What is done in the dark.....will be exposed in the light. Trayvon has become the highbeam shining on this country. I feel another article coming on, but first let me wipe away my tears and regain my strength to fight a good fight. Right now I'm so angry I can't breath.

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    1. Just watched that vid; the fuckup comes within the first ten seconds. And of course, his sycophants are rushing to his defense, saying that he was calling Obama a "negotiator." If that was the case, then why didn't he say, "negotiator?" Why stop mid-sentence? Oh, because you were actually speaking from your heart and realized that might not be the best course of action during a presidential campaign.

      And then with Trayvon and Rekia and the many other innocents who've died because of some else's assholery. This is why I can't be bothered with society and choose to live in relative seclusion. I can't take all of this; it gets me way too upset. I'm sorry, Elayna, but I just don't have any hope that things will get better anytime soon. You're better than me.

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    2. Elayna Raphael4/2/12, 3:54 PM

      No Amaya.....I am far from being better than you....I just can't give up the fight. I know that it will be another million years before a change comes, but i also know that if i do nothing now and let it beat me then it will never come. as long as there is no resistence there is no hope.....and i am one resistant crazy 56 year old woman....ask my mom...hahah....and i hold firm to these words......The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and conveniences, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. i will die an old woman still screaming for the rights of those who are suppressed. i will die fighting and whenever that comes i will stand before my maker and say...."i never stopped trying"......but believe me, i hear you, i feel you and i know that it can be soul sucking.....that 11 years i spent dealing with my son's "issues" with the "system" could have destroyed me, almost did, but then i got it.....they can't have my son....even in prison, they can't have him.....and with that i realized that even when he walked out of those gates a free man, i wasn't finished.....and i never will be!! that's who i am.....that's why i'm here.....and i'm going to wear that mantle and do whatever it takes until i can't breath anymore......

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    3. @Elayna Raphael
      What is done in the dark.....will be exposed in the light. Trayvon has become the highbeam shining on this country. I feel another article coming on, but first let me wipe away my tears and regain my strength to fight a good fight. Right now I'm so angry I can't breath.

      Love that one and here's another: "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh."

      Emmett Till's mother taught him about the realities of racism before he visited relatives in the Mississippi Delta. Mothers/Fathers of black children are old-hands at this practice. My mother taught me and in turn I taught my children the very same lessons. It was as commonplace as teaching them their ABC’s. That’s how woefully out of touch white America is with the black experience. Privileged enough, never having to know what we know (and more importantly) privileged enough to never have to teach what we as parents must teach.

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    4. One more caveat about Travon Martin:
      When the first officer arrived on the scene he states, “I observed a black male wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, laying face down in the grass.” He questions the man in a red jacket who admits to shooting the subject and still being armed. He secures the 9 mm gun and places the man in handcuffs. Not until the second officer arrives on the scene does anyone go over to where Trayvon lay to get a response- or check the young man’s pulse. After checking, the newest officer on the scene finds none; only then do the newly arrived officers begin CPR.

      At no time it seems did the arresting officer run over to where Trayvon lay to check whether Trayvon was alive or not; let alone attempt first aid. How fast do you think the officer would have ran over to the victim had it been a white female or male?

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    5. Elayna Raphael4/2/12, 5:12 PM

      @ MGibson.....and another observation.....Trayvon was laying face down with his hands in front of him, underneath him. Had Trayvon been on top of Zimmerman when he was shot, don't you think that, he would have either fallen backwards or if he fell forward on top of Zimmerman his blood would have been on Zimmerman....or..when getting up, Zimmerman would haved pushed him off and turned him over doing so? And, two experts have now reviewed the tape of the screams and independent of each other both have come to the conclusion that it was Trayvon's voice screaming on the 911 tapes. How is it that my race can overlook ALL of this? It's all head in the sand nonsense I tell you....nonsense.

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    6. Elayna Raphael said...
      "Had Trayvon been on top of Zimmerman when he was shot, don't you think that, he would have either fallen backwards or if he fell forward on top of Zimmerman his blood would have been on Zimmerman....or..when getting up, Zimmerman would have pushed him off and turned him over doing so?"

      Very astute observation. There would have been blood-splatter on the victim as well as the assailant.

      @Elayna Raphael
      "How is it that my race can overlook ALL of this?"

      Because it’s conditioned (even in lieu of the evidence) to only see the good in whiteness; similar to an acute form of racial glaucoma I think. So therefore culpability must lie with the victim of color. It reminds me of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr; accosted on his front porch by a white officer because he Looked Suspicious. Summarily, the white officer was deemed to be above reproach, thus Gates was presumed to be the one at fault.

      “He was booked for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to a police report.” Mercy, if I had a dime for every time I saw a white person exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior at a white officer I’d never need buy a lottery ticket.

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    7. Elayna Raphael4/2/12, 7:12 PM

      I remember that case. I was completely baffled, but not surprised at how these things turn out. In fact, now, years later, I can sit back and shake my head at how the OJ trial along with the death penalty was held over our heads. We were told that with the OJ trial as publicized as it was we would never get a fair jury in Sanford (it was the last week of the OJ trial)....I have to say, I believed that and it played a big part in our fear of the system.

      but most of all I love the racial glaucoma reference....if you don't mind, I think I may steal that....smile

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  21. Elayna Raphael
    "...but most of all I love the racial glaucoma reference....if you don't mind, I think I may steal that....smile"

    Lol
    You’re welcomed to it.

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  22. Elayna Raphael4/3/12, 12:16 AM

    So today I learned that someone that showed this article to colleagues at work was called into HR and reprimanded. Hmmmm.....seems there are those who fear the truth so much so that they will threaten the livelihood of those who agree with what I said.....someone said that they worry for me and for my son because of the climate that the death of Trayvon Martin has caused and what I've written....My answer? I am not compelled by fear. Fear was not authored by God and if not by God then by who? so...Eph 6:11 Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil......or BUCKLE UP.....

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