So, this Trayvon Martin thing happened and I am at a loss for how to synthesize it in my own life. What follows is my attempt to make sense of it according to my own frame of reference. Very little of it has to do with my own feelings on the actual matter as I’ve chosen to focus instead on the reaction. You will disagree with it, maybe in part and maybe in whole, and I am glad that you will. I invite you to react to my piece and to my ideas, no matter how disparate your own. Maybe somewhere, we can all come to a consensus.
I was born and raised a little white girl (Italians don’t count, right?), in a predominantly white suburb and sent to a mostly white school by my bleeding heart, liberal (though very white) parents. Mr and Mrs Sciolino raised me by hand (and metal spoon) to believe that ‘nigger’ was a foul word and that all people are capable and deserve the same shot in life; that hard work, heart and integrity are the only criterion for judgement, that keeping silent in the face of the unfair makes me just as bad as those perpetrating the actual injustice. We packed Thanksgiving baskets for the Little Sisters Of The Poor and learned life lessons from the stories my mother told about the pregnant girls she attempted teaching grammar to. We HAD but were constantly reminded that that made us no better than those who had NOT.
Having said all that, I am not such a fool as to think that I live in the post-racial world that some of my high school contemporaries seem to be posting about all over social networking sites. I may see no color in my friends and acquaintances and business relationships, but I am not so blind as to not see the struggles of others. My lack of travail does not negate the travail of others. I know that I don’t have enough experience of the world to believe that what I know is the limit of it. How could that be possible when, until I was 16 or so, I’d only known maybe 10 or 15 black people? It wasn’t, in fact, until high school, when I had a boyfriend who sold dirt weed by the seedy, stemmy pound in the Arbor Hill neighborhood of Albany, NY that I’d interact with an environment that other people would have me be “afraid” of. My naïveté and the “street cred” that came with being The Dealerman’s Girl Who Can Roll A Fat-Ass Philly kept me (and my parents’ late model Volvo) safe from the hands of those with ill-intent–thugs, if you will. And even then, what did I KNOW about racism? Classism? The Man, or Being Kept Down? What do I know NOW?
There is so little that I understand.
George Zimmerman was arrested and tried for the crime of murdering Trayvon Martin. He was found Not Guilty by the same justice system that The People At Large demanded he be remanded to. That is justice. I believe that any further civil action against him by the Supreme Court of the US is Unjust and calling for some kind of violent retribution is not only wrong, but completely ironic and makes you a hypocrite. Am I Racist?
A friend asked a good question, and one that makes me ask “Why IS this situation different?” And that question was, taking all race out of the equation, if I was patrolling my own neighborhood because the local police department was too understaffed to do so, and I found someone, anyone who I didn’t recognize wandering around suspiciously, is it wrong for me to drive up on them and ask what they’re doing? And further, if I call the police, and I know from experience that their arrival time won’t be for another 30 minutes, am I wrong to continue to pursue this person and demand to know their intentions? And what if this person attacks me? And breaks my nose? And smashes my head into the pavement? Am I wrong to defend myself? Am I Racist for asking these questions?
And EVEN BEYOND THAT, how did this become an issue of race? How is the death of a black child worse than the death of a white child? How is this argument of “If it had been a white child….” valid? We do not have crystal balls. We cannot predict different twists of fate. We simply DO NOT KNOW. Or rather, I simply do not know. Am I Racist?
Does simply being ignorant of the “obvious” answers to these questions make me a de facto racist? Because as I look at my Twitter and Facebook feeds, I find myself in disagreement with the attitudes of quite a few friends, many of them friends of color—my BLACK friends. If I am offended by being lumped into the “Stupid White People” posts, Am I Racist? And is it right for you to look at me after expressing that offense and say “Now you know how it feels, White Girl”? I mean, an eye for an eye, right?
I am not some naïve, bobble-headed girl. I don’t hold my black friends, my gay friends, my woman friends MY MINORITY FRIENDS as BADGES OF FUCKING HONOR to hold up to some ever-present -Ism Authority At-Large. My friends are my friends for the TYPES of people they are, NOT for a quota they fill in my Rolodex***. I hold every one of them to the same (high) standard, and treat the world to my own behaviour in kind.
I believe that words have power and I don’t tolerate words in my presence that I feel have the power to wound. I call people out on their pre-conceived notions and make an effort (a flawed effort, for certain) to defy stereotypes. I fight and confront injustice in my own life and challenge the children I come into contact with to do the same. I ask these questions to find the answers and to maybe become a better fighter for this human cause.
I am NOT a racist. But I cannot abide hypocrisy and will not stand silent. I will not be lumped in as part of a problem that I work very hard to combat in every way I possibly can. I am white, but I am not White.
***Rich friends are an entirely different story and may apply within.