Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It's Okay, White People, We Can Admit The Truth.


When the Trayvon Martin news became a big social media event, I was on vacation in the beautiful woods of Oklahoma - yes they exist. I went to two Walmarts for groceries and was nervous as hell for my car with the Obama sunrise O sitting out in the parking lot. My hope was no one knew what that was. It was creepy. I was surrounded by hunters and obvious Tea Partiers. I felt like I'd walked into the wrong universe.

I am a white woman, so I guess there was no real way to identify me as an outsider -- although, I do look like Rachel Maddow's twin, so it's possible someone could have assumed I was a lesbian liberal Yankee and I'd have been in trouble. I'm not a lesbian but I am a liberal and was raised in New Hampshire, so I was shaky.

But I was lucky. No one sniffed me out. For that period of time, I felt vulnerable. It was my own brain doing that to me, though. No one else.

I read about Trayvon one of the days on that vacation when I hopped online for a few minutes. My immediate thought was, "I can't read that, it's gonna hurt too much". I knew there was nothing good in a story about a dead, beautiful kid. I couldn't bring myself to know what happened because I don't handle grief so well anymore.

After several losses of loved ones in the last six years, and after becoming a mom, I can't watch movies or read books that even touch on a child's death, a parent's death -- or anything sentimental for that matter.

Then we got home and unpacked and I read. I spent the next two days reading and crying and thinking about Trayvon. Thinking I'd had days where I could choose to avoid the grief. His parents had had weeks of nothing but facing theirs. And I got mad. I got mad at a law that allows police to be lackluster, to take the word of a a living man against the silence of a dead kid. I got mad at the man who stalked a child then claimed self-defense.

And now I am mad at the people who haven't uttered a peep. I am mad at apologists trying to make self-defense apply to one person but not another.

And now I am awake.

For years I have read about black men being imprisoned at higher rates than white men. I have read about more black men being falsely incarcerated and later exonerated, than white men. I have read that more black communities suffer from hunger, lack of safe housing, weaker education, slower police response times, and on and on. I've known the data. I was a Sociology minor. I'm a Democrat. I know all of the data.

But until Trayvon Martin was killed and I had to face the sadness and read and listen, I never woke up to the life. The life that is lived by a person who has lived with a system set against him in ways he never knew. In a way society still whispers in our ears but never wants to address.

I have been accused of being a Becky, or of saying the wrong thing when my intent was clearly something benign. I have been stupid and at times in my life, extremely naive. I imagine most of us have thought or said ignorant or fearful things. But we can't play tit for tat or argue over a person's past statements and deeds in lieu of listening and watching current motivation. We can't treat this time as a moment of race-baiting or PC-idealism. And that being said, we HAVE to talk about the fact that Trayvon Martin was killed because he was black. It's okay to actually say it and not feel like backs need to hunch or defensive retorts need to be spit. It's not anti-white people to say it. We can all acknowledge the truth. We, as white people can say, "I don't like that a kid died because he was black". No spite is needed. There's no need to defend Zimmerman's actions because white people are on trial for perpetuating racism by not ever wanting to admit racism. We don't need to find lame excuses or ways to blame a dead kid. It's okay to admit that the President is not being divisive when he says that if he had a son, "He'd look like Trayvon". We don't need to play stupid and act like that wasn't profound as hell. It's alright, white America, to say, "A kid died because he was black and he matters to me".

The Martin family can't hide from the loss and we can't hide from the truth. We can move forward by admitting we are sad and angry and awake.

And yes, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and every vile white person posting at Fox.com, I'm talking to you.


Anonymous said...

good post, such a shame zimmerman is still not arrested and the police know exactly where the killer his. igot a bad feeling if he isnt they will be riots on the streets.

the way black men are treated by the law these days is disgraceful

Anonymous said...

Well done! That needed to be said.

Anonymous said...

Well done. I, too, hold a minor in Sociology but found myself unprepared for the racism I encountered when President Obama was elected. It has been a constant struggle and I have lost relationahips with relatives and friendships. When Trayvon was murdered for being black and the killer walks free, I am outraged. As a white woman, I have felt discrimination but nothing so brazen as this. A new low when killer's father accused President Obama of, "so much hate":

jhw22 said...

Thanks for all of the comments, Anonymi. I am so glad this post is making sense and speaking to so many people.

To Anonymous #3, the accusation that Obama has hate made me feel just a step from completely desperate for our country's salvation. I can't count the number of times I've been completely dumbfounded, disappointed and heart-broken by where people take something and how their perception is so opposed to reality.


doseofreality said...

Excellent piece. I could not agree with you more. I have been writing about the Trayvon case on my own blog, even though I am *gasp* white, because I believe in justice for people who murder children. Plain and simple. And I think to pretend that race did not play a role (THE ROLE) in this shooting is not only naive, but actually quite ridiculous. Off to share your blog.

Diana said...

I've been stunned to hear others accuse President Obama of, "so much hate" when he compassionately stated that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon. Then I realized that it's simply projection. If I am full of hate, then I project my hatred onto other's reactions.

Brooklyn Dame said...

I am never stunned to hear anyone accuse President Obama of anything negative. It is, as you said, projection. We will never get to a point of understanding until people can be honest about their feelings and admit everything from their own biases to the level of privilege they experience. Throughout the presentations of the Trayvon Martin story, the thing that has disgusted me most has been white people saying that this tragic incident couldn't be racially rooted because the US has a black President so racism has passed. *Sigh*


Anonymous said...

Excellent piece. I was a bit taken aback by the comments by Zimmerman's father. How can you twist things so thoroughly? The President's words were empathetic and I thought beautiful, under the circumstances. His father called them hateful! What is it that makes two people, or a country, hear the same statement and come to such vastly different conclusions?

Broadway Carl said...

What is it that makes two people, or a country, hear the same statement and come to such vastly different conclusions?