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Trayvon and Anousone, beyond an (un)reasonable (in)justice


Shrine of Anousone Phanthavong at True Thai Restuarant, where he was a celebrated chef.

Hearing the words, “not guilty” can be the most joyous or frightening day of anyone’s life. But so is the person who is dead. Unable to speak for oneself. The world is angry, no, they are pissed off. Not at Zimmerman, but at the fact that a man can kill a boy and walk free, unpunished for his actions. History tells us this is the plight of the Black man. It is also the plight of many people of color funneling through a legal system that has its version of justice: sometimes it delivers, sometimes it doesn’t; and that typically depends on those in power and who are privileged.

The whole nation followed Trayvon’s case. I can barely remember anyone in Minnesota who even knew Anousone’s name, but we all knew who killed him. People are in fear of talking about race. The sensationalized media dishes what they can bank on, but the best freedom of expression is with the people on the streets, witnessing injustice day in and day out. I can’t help but make the comparison, not between the victims involved, but of the limits and failures of a system intended to protect and serve its people, the lack of acknowledging a racialized society, and the power of community organizing when we speak up. As Bryan Thao Worra points out, “It’s time we call things as we see them, because things only get worse, not better, from our silence. Whether it’s politically correct can no longer matter”.

Some will say, well, it’s because one is Black and the other is Asian. We can’t undermine each other’s struggles. Let’s move beyond pitting disadvantaged communities against one another. Is this really justice? Are these kinds of laws flawed? Are we not doing enough to hold these systems accountable? These are very real and relevant questions that America is trying to process and seek answers for, post-Trayvon verdict. Let the families and communities impacted by it define what justice should mean for us.

The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates said it best in his article “Trayvon Martin and the Irony of American Justice”:

“When you have a society that takes at its founding the hatred and degradation of a people, when that society inscribes that degradation in its most hallowed document, and continues to inscribe hatred in its laws and policies, it is fantastic to believe that its citizens will derive no ill messaging.”

Anousone and Trayvon. They were sons and they were loved. We must remember them and fight for the thousands of Anousones and Trayvons who aren’t alive to fight for themselves. They represent the people in our communities who continue to fall through the cracks, against systems that plague their livelihoods and stagnate their freedom to live with dignity and true justice. Democracy is being thrown around and reshaped to reflect the times. People have the choice to do so.


Tonight at 6:00 pm, there is a #HoodiesUpMN rally for Trayvon at the Minneapolis People’s Plaza in downtown. If you want to see the faces of hundreds of people impacted by what injustice does, drop by and be an ally. Details here:

-Chanida P. Potter


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