Dear Reader, you will notice I did not call it the Zimmerman Trial because he was not on trial. Trayvon Martin a 17 year old young man who many chose to call a thug, with no evidence that he was anything of the kind was on trial. The essence of the trial was whether or not Zimmerman had the right to kill an unarmed teenager he outweighed by 50 pounds or more because he found him ” suspicious” for no reasonable reason. The decision of a jury of five white women and one Hispanic woman was that he did.
We can, and probably will be arguing for decades about whether or not a black man’s murder can be judged by a jury with no black people on it. And that brings me to one of the three things this trial proved.
1) That many white people do not think black people can be objective, or even trusted on the subject of race, but believe they can. This is ironic. Let’s look at some of the decisions about race that white people have made over the years about people of color and try to examine exactly how objective they are as a group. a) That anyone not a WASP was not white–you do know that the Irish, the Italians, the Eastern Europeans were not granted whiteness until it became evident that if they were not they might band with the people of color and throw the WASPs out
b) That pesky slave thing
c) The decision to wipe out the indigenous people variously called American Indians, Native Americans, First Nations, etc. Having killed most of them by exposing them to European diseases they decided to finish them off with rifles and when that did not work quickly enough by giving them blankets infested with smallpox while also taking their children away to “civilize” them.
d) To pass laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act once the railroad and other grunt work were done and they did not want the yellow folks hanging around.
e) Jim Crow or modern slavery
f) Japanese Internment–even though the Italians and Germans who had fairly recently been declared white, were not interned.
g) Lynchings of 3,446 black men and women well into the mid-20th century
h) Segregated separate but unequal schools well into the middle of the 20th century
i) Using Latinos to do work most Americans do not want to do and exploiting them to prop up the economies, particularly in agriculture and then declaring they should all be deported
j) The Tuskegee Experiments where they injected black men with syphilis to see what happened to them.
Hmm I see why some white folks think we should trust their judgement about race and whether or not there is racism involved. They have proven so good at it.
2) The preconceived notion that all black males are thugs. This is clung to even though it is a remnant of pro-slavery writing that tried to scare poor whites and abolitionists into supporting slavery by saying how dangerous black men were by nature. Ask any black male who is in a position to be honest with you, if he has been the object of clutched purses and crossed streets and challenges to why he is somewhere he had every right to be and listen. The jury of white women thought of course Georgie was in danger, there was a black teen mad at him and you know how dangerous they are!!!
3) The continuing persistence of some white people to refuse to recognize the enduring nature of racism. It is one of their dearest beliefs that racism is all in the mind of people of color and that any incidence ( even if you show them dozens, or hundreds) of obvious racism are rare and perhaps misunderstood. (Please read some white authors like Peggy McIntosh, Joe Feagin and Tim Wise if you will not take a black person’s word for it because we cannot be objective, of course). How in the hell can you set yourself up to judge if someone is the victim of racism when you are not subject to institutional and historical racism yourself? That is like a man telling a woman she should just shake it off because a man grabbed her breast, he didn’t mean anything by it and in the final analysis what did it hurt?
Racism hurts, and here is a bulletin for some of you , it hurts whether you meant it to or not. One of my former students posted last week that she uses a practice in her class to explain damaging other people verbally or otherwise. She hands them a plate and tells them to throw it on the floor, it breaks, she then tells them to say to the plate ” I’m sorry.” Then she asks them, “Did your apology work, is the plate back the way it was?”
Racism is alive and well in this country, if you do not want to hear about it work to wipe it out
It is impossible for you to understand what it is like to live in a country where people who probably do not like you have power over your existence, employment, credit, children, education and life in general.
I have white friends who would go to the mattresses for me, some of them more than my black friends, but a lot of people do not. ( Shout outs to Etta, Donna, Rose, actually two Roses, Carolyn, Jeff, Tim-both Tyson and Wise). I was exposed to this kind of white person only after I got to grad school ( they seem to proliferate more on college campuses, probably one reason the racist right hates education so) . For the first time I met white people who got it, who were unequivocal in their rejection of racism, homophobia, sexism and any other form of oppression. They were not just supportive and empathetic, they were leading the charge. But, these champions are in the minority. I believe most white people are well-intentioned and do not think they are racist, but they will believe almost anything negative said about a person of color without questioning it, they will sit silent in the face of comments and actions they know are racist, and that, my dear friends, makes you a racist too.
If Trayvon Martin looked like my grandson Sam who has fair skin and blue eyes and only slightly wavy hair and would be taken by most for a white boy, he would still be alive. So, should I just rejoice that my progeny which is all at least bi, some of them tri-racial, will probably not be shot for being black like Martin was? ( Just as a matter of information, I am an Old Testament kind of woman, if someone decides to stand their ground with one of my loved ones they had better hope the police get to them before I do).
Or should I be sad and mad and outraged that a child can be shot and people defend his killer based on ” law.” If the law says you can call the police on a young man who is doing nothing wrong, then proceed to follow him because he looks “suspicious”. Unless you are an idiot you know he did not look suspicious to the murderer because he was carrying a soft drink and some candy. Get in your car, follow him ( stalk him) get out of your car and confront him,( if you think I believe the boy attacked him first you are nuts, and on the odd chance he did, if you are being followed by an armed man and you do not know why , shouldn’t Stand Your Ground allow you to defend yourself by force?) , and when he seems to you at least to be winning the fight you caused by following him , against the instructions of law enforcement, shoot and kill him, then the law is wrong and should be changed.
At the same time Zimmerman is free to go shoot a few more people he does not think have any right to be in his neighborhood, a black woman Marissa Alexander is serving twenty years because she shot a gun into the ceiling of her house as a warning to her abuser who was coming after her. Black woman gets 20 years for shooting her ceiling, Hispanic man gets 0 years for killing a black teenager. Maybe if her ceiling had been black Marissa could have gotten off with no jail time too.
Don’t tell me at any point that when I say some thing is racist it is not. That is arrogance and insulting. Do it and you had better stand back because I am going to roast your eyebrows off.
Trayvon is only one in a string of young men shot who should not have been. Perhaps we need to put our attention on gun violence period. If Zimmerman had not had a gun he would probably not had the balls to follow Martin, if he could not beat up a teenager who he outweighed by more than fifty pounds he cannot be much of a warrior.
Stop shooting people period, and quit telling me this shooting did not have anything to do with race and we will get along fine!