A Can Of Worms

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?

So little.

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.

 

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7 thoughts on “A Can Of Worms

  1. I’m glad you wrote this.

    The conversations and answers to a lot of the points raised and questions asked here are too long for a comment box, but they are important and certainly discussions I want to and am open to having.

    I respectfully disagree that justice was served here. I think that the law was upheld but when laws and the system built around them are inherently flawed then it’s difficult to reconcile the outcome with a fair and reasonable outcome. Just like I think that when it came to Casey Anthony, OJ or any other other individual who walked away from a crime without any sort of punishment. I think that a boy was profiled, stalked by a man with a loaded gun and then shot to death and that that man walks away with that same gun in his hand and the 450K he raised prior to the trial and I think nope, the law might have been upheld, but justice is as far from this case as possible.

    I don’t just blame Zimmerman; I blame the prosecution. I blame the police. I blame the handling of this case in its entirety. And I blame a society and the mindset that sees black people (boys and men in particular) as a threat, even when they aren’t doing anything but walking home.

    To answer your question about the initial following and accosting of TM: it is not against the law to do either of the above. But given the instructions handed to GZ by the dispatcher and his wilful disregard of them; there are other questions here about what exactly his intentions were when he stepped out of his car and decided to tail TM.Given what we know now about GZ (trained MMA fighter, prior violent conduct and behaviour) and that TM was unarmed, I think the shooting outweighed whatever beating he said he was receiving (something that wasn’t proven without a doubt.) I also think another question is if I were walking home and noticed a man following me in the dark with a gun tucked into his waistband, aren’t in my rights to accost him and defend myself?

    No, you are not a defacto racist by asking these questions. These questions NEED to be asked because the answers certainly aren’t clear to everyone. The death of a black child is definitely not worse or any sadder than that of a white one. Race came into this because TM went on trial after his own death. Photos of him smoking weed and holding guns (ironic, I know) were dug out and used against him as if to say “well look, he was a little thug so of course he attacked GZ and of course he should have been shot,) while GZ’s own chequered past didn’t even enter into proceedings. Race comes into it because he was profiled. Because this isn’t really anything new: minorities are seen as “threats” all the time whether it’s to safety, to jobs, to a “normal” way of life. Because Rachel Jeantel was embarrassed by the defence and then dragged in the media by people criticising not what she had to say but the way she said it. Because the statistics are there. It’s a shitty truth but it’s the truth nonetheless. The argument of “had this been a white child” might not be valid to many and it is true that none of us can predict the exact circumstances but history has shown us that we can almost safely say that if an armed black man followed a white teenager home in the dark and shot him dead, the outcome would have been different. Because this keeps happening. John H White is convicted of manslaughter for shooting a teenager who arrived at his house and threatened his family. It’s difficult to separate race from situations such as this because it’s a key part.

    You’re right, people did campaign to see GZ apprehended by the same system they criticise. I am one of them. But for now, it’s the only system we have and we can always hope that something might one day change.

    No you’re not wrong to be offended. And if these are your friends speaking out against you, I’d only suggest you speak to them as truthfully as you have here.

    Fuck, I wrote a novel anyway. I hope that this is in the very least coherent (it’s midnight and I am pretty beat). There is so much left to say (people and pages to cite) and we’ll keep talking because I’m grateful that the chance to engage exists. Thank you for raising this.

  2. I think that George Zimmer was an idiot for not listening too local law enforcement to stay in his vehicle. The question I pose is what would be the difference if Trayvon got a hold of George’s gun and shot him. Would the law of stand your ground be applied? My thought of what the sad truth is a young man was shot and killed which the person who shot him now has to fear for his and his family’s life.

    • Ollie. Law enforcement never talked to Zimmerman.
      No one told him to stay in his car.
      The law of “Stand your ground “was never applied.
      I agree with your “sad truth” comment.

  3. I watched this trial unfold and watched for all the evidence they would present with great interest. There seemed to be a reason that small town sheriffs department released GZ the same day. After following the trial was it unreasonable that I agreed with that sheriffs department?
    What I would like to know is what have I missed? What detail did I overlook that showed the GZ was a racist child murderer?

    Further why does LA riot anytime their teams win/lose or some sort of social injustice takes place; What’s in their water?

  4. The death of TM is a tragedy but it’s not about race according to these paraphrased quotes I’ve ran across.:

    Trayvon’s parents to the media: “This is not about race”

    Prosecutor’s opening statement to jury: “This trial has nothing to do with race”

    FBI after interviewing 46 people who knew Zimmerman: “There is no evidence to support a hate crime”

    Jury of 6 women: “Not guilty, race not a factor.”

    George Zimmerman’s prom date: Black.
    He mentors minority children.
    Protested against local police department for abuse of black homeless man.

    Trayvon Martin: Called Zimmerman a “nigger” and a “creepy ass cracker.”

    President Obama: “If I had a son he would look like Trayvon.”

    Al Sharpton: “This war ain’t over. We intend to fight!”
    Has protests scheduled for Saturday.

    Attorney General Eric Holder:
    “We will now investigate Zimmerman for racism”

    If Liberals can create a division in this country and tie it to right vs left they win every election. Obama so loved the poor he created millions more. It’s a strategy and a sick twisted one at that.

    Stand your ground fact:
    http://dailycaller.com/2013/07/16/blacks-benefit-from-florida-stand-your-ground-law-at-disproportionate-rate/

  5. I feel as though I have to respond to Stereo, although something tells me I will later regret it. There is so much in that I would like to address I will do it on a point by point basis and be as brief as possible.
    She wrote;
    “…when laws and the system built around them are inherently flawed then it’s difficult to reconcile the outcome with a fair and reasonable outcome…” -This is a statement that would require a defense of some kind. In what way are the laws and the system inherently flawed?
    “I think that a boy was profiled, stalked by a man with a loaded gun and then shot to death…” -It seems that there are many people who think this, the only problem being that there is no evidence of it. The only time Zimmerman brought up Martin’s race was when he was specifically asked by the 911 operator.
    “I blame a society and the mindset that sees black people (boys and men in particular) as a threat, even when they aren’t doing anything but walking home.” -There are two problems with this, number one is that Martin was not walking home, had that neighborhood been his home he might not have been a stranger to Zimmerman and number two the very idea that it was the color of his skin is what made him suspicious is assumptive at best and racist at worst. I have been approached and asked what I was doing while walking to a friend’s house, I am 6’6” and of Irish decent. At the time I was wearing a grey polo shirt, khaki cargo shorts and Adidas sneakers. What can we infer about the motivations of the middle aged white man who wondered why I was walking past his house in the dark? I am the father of three beautiful daughters and the husband to one wonderful wife, I find every single male I see near them to be suspicious unless I know them. Trust me the color of a man’s skin is the last thing I am worried about. One day there was an unfamiliar van parked near my daughter’s bus stop, it pulled up just before the bus arrived. The driver was white. I wrote down the van’s tag and had a police officer friend of mine run it to find out if my assumption that the driver was an escaped felon intent on kidnapping my daughters was correct or not. It was not. My point is that I see men as a threat, irrational or not, I see ALL men as a threat, and I am not alone.
    “I also think another question is if I were walking home and noticed a man following me in the dark with a gun tucked into his waistband, aren’t in my rights to accost him and defend myself?” No. You can only defend yourself against an ACTUAL assault, not an imagined future assault. If you attack someone who you think might be a threat to you then you are both morally and legally in the wrong, and this entire premise is at odds with the rest of the point at large. Attacking a perceived threat because their appearance?
    “Race came into this because TM went on trial after his own death…” -Race came into this because someone at NBC News decided to edit a 911 tape to create a narrative that never existed, when it came to light that the entire “Zimmerman is a crazy racist killing black babies” was fabricated the fervor to exact “justice” did not die down. The rage should be at a national news outlet that used an exposed nerve to get ratings.
    “Race comes into it because he was profiled.” -Was Martin profiled? Yes. Was he profiled because of his RACE? There is zero evidence of it. Might you THINK he was? Sure, you can think whatever you want, but the absence of evidence backing up your feelings on the issue suggests that you are importing preconceptions into your analysis. If I were to see an unfamiliar person in my neighborhood I would ask them why they were there. If I see a young black man in a hoodie and think to myself that he is a thug it is NOT racism because if I saw a young white man in a hoodie I would think to myself that he is a thug and if I saw a young Asian man in a hoodie I would think he was a thug.
    I empathize with Zimmerman for a couple of reasons; first I lived in Florida and I can tell you for a fact that George Zimmerman has faced more racism than you could imagine. Every time he applied for a job or walked into a business in Florida he was identified as “another Mexican” I have seen it and heard the vicious comments. Now he is being accused of being a racist, the irony is lost on most of the country. Secondly, I happen to live in a very safe little part of a very safe little town nestled in a very safe little county in a very safe part of the world, and I am paranoid about the protection of my family. Irrational? Perhaps, but I figure better safe than sorry. I believe it is my job and father and husband to be their protector. If there were burglaries in my neighborhood, if they were reported and if the police did not respond by having a permanent presence in front of my house I would patrol my neighborhood myself, and I would do it armed for my own protection.
    “…we can almost safely say that if an armed black man followed a white teenager home in the dark and shot him dead, the outcome would have been different.” – If the details were exactly the same I cannot imagine how. Is there a case you are aware of where a black man was being beaten by a white person and used a firearm to defend himself and was then convicted of murder?
    “It’s difficult to separate race from situations such as this because it’s a key part.” – Where is the evidence that it was a part at all? Is every act of violence that involves two races inherently racist? I cannot see how.
    It seems to me that all of the excitement in this case vis a vie Zimmerman’s guilt revolve around the idea that Zimmerman initiated a physical confrontation. There is no evidence that this was the case. If Martin’s death transpired in the way that Zimmerman’s statement, eyewitness statements (and sworn testimony), and the physical evidence (Zimmerman’s injuries) all agree that it did then it is a tragedy to be sure, but Martin was not an innocent bystander in his own death. If Martin attacked a neighborhood watchman concerned for the safety of his neighborhood and after breaking his nose, bashed his head into the concrete, continued while the man beneath him screamed out for help and was then shot as a last resort, I am sad that he is dead, but I do not understand holding him up as the poster child for race relations in the United States or pretending that he was an innocent victim.
    Is there racism in the United States? Yes. Is there institutionalized racism in the United States? Yes. Are there black men in prison and on death row because they are black and a white policeman arrested them? Yes. I would love to discuss and push for reforms in the Texas criminal justice system. I would love to punish those who have knowingly jailed innocent men based upon race. Racism is abhorrent, as is the hatred and dehumanization of any group of people. But there is no evidence that George Zimmerman was motivated by race. If there is any evidence that he was I would love to hear it and then ask the Prosecutor why it was not used at trial.

  6. Hello beautiful,
    I am doing the rounds this morning, visiting old friends and making new ones, inviting dear kindreds to join us for August Moon. http://www.katmcnally.com/p/august-moon-13.html
    I know you are juggling so many things right now, but it would be so special if you joined us. Actually, it wouldn’t be the same without you. (So, er, no pressure!!)
    Kat xx
    PS Please forgive me including this light and fluffy comment among the erudite, thoughtful ones above and in response to such an important and compelling issue.

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