I’ve just been reading so many things about Saturday’s verdict — about white supremacy, institutionalized racism, “Justifiable Homicide,” racial profiling, what to tell the children, and what privileged white people like me must ask ourselves to best support and advocate for the rights of people of color. There are more things to say and talk about. This is just the beginning of the conversation.
In White Supremacy Acquits George Zimmerman on The Nation, Aura Bogado indicts the white supremacist culture that motivated the crime regardless of Zimmerman’s own race:
When Zimmerman was acquitted today, it wasn’t because he’s a so-called white Hispanic. He’s not. It’s because he abides by the logic of white supremacy, and was supported by a defense team—and a swath of society—that supports the lingering idea that some black men must occasionally be killed with impunity in order to keep society-at-large safe.
Lisa Wade at Sociological Images looks into the data on racial bias in “Justifiable Homicide” Trials:
The data is clear, compared to white-on-white crimes, stand your ground increases the likelihood of a not-guilty finding, but only when a person is accused of killing a black person.
At The New Yorker in What The Zimmerman Trial Was About, Jelani Cobb gets into what was “really on trial” — the logic of racial profiling in general:
There’s bad mathematics at the heart of this—a conflation of correlations and causations, gut instincts codified as public policy. To the extent that race factors into this equation, it’s in the way we selectively absolve, the way that no sum of actions by certain people quite reaches the bar of suspicion, the way that it becomes deceptively easy to surrender the civil liberties of others.
None of this could come up in closing arguments, yet it also seems certain that without understanding this idea we’ll reënact this drama at some future date under slightly different circumstances, but with a common pool of suspicions still present beneath the surface.
Before the verdict had been revealed, Miller Francis wrote a piece for CNN about Trayvon’s right to stand his ground, notable for this perfect point:
Think about it: We’re told over and over that if Zimmerman was afraid of Martin, according to Florida law, he had the right to put a bullet in the chamber of his concealed handgun, get out of his car after being told not to by the 911 dispatcher and follow and confront Martin and shoot him to death.
At the same time, we are told that Martin, who had far greater reason to fear Zimmerman, practically and for reasons of American history, did not have the right to confront his stalker, stand his ground and defend himself, including by using his fists. We are told that this was entirely unjustified and by doing so, Martin justified his own execution.
At Gawker, Cord Jefferson recounts a personal experience with being racially profiled in The Zimmerman Jury Told Young Black Men What We Already Know:
For conservatives, it’s a triumph of permissive gun laws and a victory over the liberal media, which had been unfairly rooting for the dead kid all along. For liberals, it’s a tragic and glaring example of the gaps that plague our criminal justice system. For people of color, it’s a vivid reminder that we must always be deferential to white people, or face the very real chance of getting killed.
Also before the verdict had been released, Jamila Aisha Brown wrote in The Guardian in response to a conversation on Piers Morgan with Marc Lamont-Hill about what would have happened if Trayvon had been a black woman:
“…the victimization of young women is subsumed into a general well of black pain that is largely defined by the struggles of African-American men. As a result, any insight about this important intersection of race and gender is lost under the umbrella of a collective sense of persecution.
Despite Piers Morgan‘s assertion that if Trayvon Martin were female, then her case would assure a guilty verdict, all the evidence suggests otherwise. The same social and cultural protections afforded white women are not readily granted to African-American women and girls.
If Trayvon Martin had been a young black woman, no police chief would have resigned over a bungled investigation. No CNN host would be discussing the case of her accused killer. And we wouldn’t be livestreaming her murder trial and hanging on every word of each witness.
I wanted to be proven wrong on this Zimmerman case. I wanted to tell myself that my cynical reaction based on a lifetime of not too pleasant interactions with whiteness and white supremacy in America wasn’t warranted. I wanted to believe that it’s the justice system and not the ‘Just-us’ system. I wanted to believe that a Black life is just as valuable in the United States as a white one.
The courtroom in Sanford, FL and that verdict just pretty much verified and summed up what I’ve been saying for seven years on this blog in various ways when I talk about race, race relations, whiteness and white supremacy.
At Black America Web, Erica L. Taylor recalls Sanford’s racist past, where two founders of the first local NAACP chapter were killed in their homes after being firebombed by the KKK and Jackie Robinson “encountered one of the worst bouts of racism in baseball history.”
On Crunk Feminist Collective, a conversation on how to process anger for Trayvon in the Black Feminist way:
I know it may seem selfish for sisters to even suggest that our struggles matter in this moment. But if the treatment of Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon Martin’s friend, has taught us anything, it is that we are in this shit together. Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, has been an exemplar of Strong Black Womanhood throughout this ordeal. What other choice did she have? But while many folks may admire her strength and resolve, We Black feminists know that those regal robes of superwomanhood are much too heavy a load.
There has been the question of what to say to our children. At Feminist Wire, Christen Smith writes an open letter to her son in An Open Love Note To My Son: On Mourning, Love and Black Motherhood:
“… I still could not shake the feeling of helplessness and sadness I had associated with bringing you into this world. In my traumatized and irrational mind, mothering black boys was imminent mourning, and the empathy I felt for mothers like Sabrina Fulton, Mamie Till, and Laura Nelson brought that into stark relief. But my feelings were not only born out of the hegemonic silence that shrouds the real lethality of white heterosexist patriarchal supremacy on Black women and Black transgendered people. It was also born out of the raw and painful emotions of love that I have for you.”
On Womanist Musings, Renee describes watching the trial with shock and horror “from a distance” as a Canadian, slightly more secure about her son’s safety only because of Canada’s more stringent gun laws:
The glorification and absolutely masturbatory fascination Americans have with guns, combined with a White supremacist culture, which purposefully criminalizes and cheapens the lives of Black children before they can even take their first breath, are directly responsible for the violent unnecessary murder of Trayvon Martin.
At The Root, Elsa Nefertari Ulen grapples with the question:
Our son is 4. He waves at firemen as they zoom past in their big red trucks, and they always wave back. He is deeply interested in the pantheon of American superheroes. Spiderman is his favorite, but he can name almost all the “good guys and bad guys.” He knows their mythological origins, knows why they were created for good — or for evil. For him, the line between good guy and bad guy is clear, impossible to cross. So, how do I explain Trayvon to him? What do I say to prepare my son for this world, where a neighborhood watchman who is supposed to be the good guy kills an innocent child who looks so much like my son does?
White anti-racist author and activist Tim Wise wrote about explaining America to his daughter, recounting the Bernhard Goetz case and admonishing those who claim this case had nothing to do with race:
Those who deny the racial angle to the killing of Trayvon Martin can only do so by a willful ignorance, a carefully cultivated denial of every logical, obvious piece of evidence before them, and by erasing from their minds — if indeed they ever had anything in there to erase — the entire history of American criminal justice, the criminal suspicion regularly attached to black men, and the inevitable results whenever black men pay for these suspicions with their lives. They must choose to leave the dots unconnected between, for instance, Martin on the one hand, and then on the other, Amadou Diallo or Sean Bell or Patrick Dorismond, or any of a number of other black men whose names — were I to list them — would take up page after page, and whose names wouldn’t mean shit to most white people even if I did list them, and that is the problem.
Melissa Harris-Perry addressed the issue on her show Saturday, sharing the surprising relief she felt when her ultrasound revealed she was having a girl and not a boy, and what it’s like to “live in a country that makes me wish my sons away.”
There have also been some really really poignant pieces written about the importance of never forgetting, not for one minute, how racist America is. This is especially important for white people like me.
In On #Trayvon and Us, Faiqa Khan on Native Born challenges those who insist race is not an issue:
“I want to tell you all, for your own good, stop saying that. If you think race isn’t an issue, then race is most definitely an issue for you. When you pretend something does not exist, you give it power. That’s why Harry said “Voldemort” instead of “He Who Must Not Be Named.” Be Harry. You cannot destroy that which you think does not exist. You cannot heal a sickness if you refuse to believe that you are sick. You deny a sickness, though, and it only grows.”
At The Root, Lawrence D.Bobbo describes how “the racism that resides at America’s core has led to the continual dehumanization of blacks”:
America is racist at its core. I used to doubt this simplistic claim. Today I cannot. The murder of Trayvon Martin demands total, simple, honesty. A jury in Florida failed us. We have not seen a moral failure this grave since a similarly all-white jury in Simi Valley, Calif., in 1992 acquitted the four LAPD officers who beat Rodney King.
Roxanne Gay (whose incredible writing you may be familiar with from The Rumpus) echoed those sentiments in Racism is Every American’s Problem:
“We must forget the convenient narrative that racism only thrives in the South. Racism is an American problem. We all need to stop trying to absolve ourselves of responsibility.”
In Racism Is To White People As Wind Is To The Sky, Sunny Drake asks white people to acknowledge our own racism because if we don’t, nothing will ever change:
“It’s not enough to simply know that racism exists, that we live in a racist world. In the outpourings of grief and anger about the Zimmerman verdict, I’m asking myself and other white people: how are we reflecting on and actively transforming our own personal racism? And our collective racism? Because white people: we are ALL racist. It is impossible to have grown up in a white supremacy and not have taken on racist beliefs and actions. And before you defensively cite the number of friends of colour you have, please remember that sometimes these beliefs and actions are incredibly sneaky – they are designed by white supremacy to look normal and natural. As white people, sometimes we can find them difficult to spot – yet they are glaringly obvious to those who are hurt EVERY SINGLE DAY by our racism.”
And finally, via writeswrongs (there’s something weird happening on that tumblr though that makes me unable to link to a specific post, but you can read it in its entirety on Jasika Nicole’s tumblr, sugarbooty):
Instead of saying “I am Trayvon Martin” it would do more good for white people [and non-Black people] in solidarity with the Trayvon Martin case to recognize all the ways they are Zimmerman.
As in, if you live in a “safe” suburban or gated community that is mostly white and that is considered a “good” neighborhood because it excludes people of colour [especially excluding Black people] then you benefit from the same conditions that created Zimmerman.