I have been so tense this entire fracking weekend when I should be celebrating since I am getting ready to start a new show. I should be singing and dancing while doing laundry and shit because in a few days I’ll be starting a new adventure. But I have not. I have felt HEAVY all week. I have tried to keep away from the media but a minute ago I read someone’s blog in the Ultimate Blog Challenge that basically told everyone to focus on things that are more important, like women’s right, gay rights, the environment and sustaining humanity. It’s like she hit on every issue – that everyone should be protected equally under the law (homosexuals and women) but when it comes to race, all those black people need to shut the hell up already. It is infuriating because it’s clearly happening on a sub-conscious level. I am not a lawyer so I am not going to debate the law with anyone on this case, but I do know that something does not add up with this case. I read a quote, “Just because it’s the law doesn’t make it right” and it’s so true. I mean, it was only TEN YEARS AGO that Alabama legalized interracial marriage – but since it was the law, it had to be right, right????? And believe me, Alabama did not change this law willingly, but who cares because there are more important things to talk about. DING DONG… They are all important. All change is important!
Me as a young, MBA holding black woman, simply expressing why I feel the Trayvon Martin case is important isn’t enough, so I thought to share this letter I came across yesterday. In this letter a white person explains to other white people why black people are upset that the slaying of an innocent teenager wasn’t even met with manslaughter charges. I BEG any white person that thinks that black people are simply overreacting and using that damn race card to sit down and read it. No need to comment or respond… just sit down with an open mind and read it. Here it goes:
To White People From A White Person
Look, white people, I’ve seen some of your comments tonight and some of the editorials that you’ve been writing for the last half dozen months, and I just have to say that you don’t really get what’s going on here. Like all big court cases, it’s not just about what’s going on in the case. Details are simplified, factors are amplified – certain court cases get attention because they represent grand moral debates that effect our lives, not just the people involved in the incident. Mentioning that Zimmerman was Hispanic or that the photos used to represent Treyvon Martin unfairly portrayed him as much younger and innocent looking than he was at the time of his slaying don’t really matter, because they’re distracting from the point of the controversy.
And please, stop posting that picture of a thuggish looking kid and saying that’s the real Trayvon – it’s a different kid with the same name and some slight differences in appearance, such as skin tone, facial structure, build, and everything else [www.snopes.com/photos/politics/martin.asp]. Now, this brings me to the crux of the issue. Not for the black community, because I have no right to speak for it. No, this bit is about us.
It’s about the rules.
White people love rules, even if they’re utterly arbitrary. This is why white culture seems to be based largely around home-owners’ associations and filing clerks. In Western Culture, our rules grant us privilege. We are the majority, we are the self-styled default, and we make the rules that reinforce that privilege. And it’s rarely conscious anymore, which is the great thing about privilege. You rarely have to think about it. White people aren’t constantly reminded of their whiteness every day, unless there’s a situation such as this one; straight people don’t have to assert their pride in who and what they are; men don’t have to deal with an opposite sex that is given many advantages and the source of most of the violence against them. But those who lack these privileges are aware, and constantly reminded of this fact.
And that brings us to what the Rules actually are. See, there aren’t many overtly racist laws left in America. But there are still rules that govern how people of different races interact in our society. They are largely unspoken, sometimes fair, usually horrifying and cruel. They’re not openly enforced, legally, but they’re the insidious boundaries that define how we interact with the world. One that white people like to bring up is how, baring an actor or a writer or someone using it with ironic, historical detachment or whatever, white people can’t say the N-word (we still do, all the time, but let’s pretend this is a real Rule). Some white people get fucking indignant about this issue. I never quite got it (because why would you want to say it, unless you’re an asshole or an actor playing an asshole?), until today. White people know that these rules exist, at least subconsciously, and this is the only one that really affects us in a negative way. I mean, it kinda makes us act like better people because it forces us to be mindful of what we say and not dehumanize an entire race of people that we enslaved and persecuted and whatever, but it takes something away from us, however small, and some people can’t handle that. The Rules are supposed to protect US, not tie our hands.
Now, in the wake of Martin’s killing, the media scrambled to make the event fit into the Rules. And they couldn’t, and not for a lack of trying. Geraldo et al. tried to retroactively demonize the hoodie that Trayvon was wearing as the uniform of a gangster, despite that fact that I don’t know a single American under the age of 40 who I would be surprised to see in a zip-up hooded sweatshirt. The hoodie is so ubiquitous that it’s probably going to be the iconic fashion item of the 2000-2020s. But it had to be bad, somehow, because Trayvon HAD TO HAVE BROKEN THE RULES. There must have been some sort of transgression, because the System and Rules must be protected.
See, he didn’t break the Law, that much is certain. He bought some candy, put it in his pocket, put up his hood, and walked down the street. He then had the unmitigated gall to confront an armed vigilante that stalked him. We can act like he assaulted Zimmerman, but Zimmerman’s credibility is so ruined by his refusal to listen to the dispatchers that it really doesn’t matter what happened, he was in the wrong and Trayvon was in fully in the right to confront this idiot. In the worst case scenario, Trayvon turned and attacked an armed stalker who was outside of his petty little “jurisdiction,” was winning the fight, and was shot dead.
Now, there have been comparisons to other cases, and the one that really raised an eyebrow was the case of Emmett Till. Till, if you don’t know, and you should, was tortured and murdered by two men for whistling at a white girl. Till didn’t break the law, but he broke the Rules. And that’s how white people justified it at the time. Sure, it was sad that a young boy had been murdered, went the Racism-logic, but he did cross that line. There had been a breach. It’s the same victim blaming logic used by rape apologists – well, it’s a shame that the woman was raped, but she should have known better than to walk in a dangerous place at night alone and dressed like that. Tisk tisk, sorry, but that’s they way the world works, and she shouldn’t have been so stupid… It was a monstrous set of rules, but they were rules, and Black America was forced to internalize it, as it has done for centuries, and lived within it, hoping that obeying these cruel codes would offer them some protection from the wrath of White America.
That’s where a lot of this outrage comes from. It’s not just an act of injustice – it’s a sign that the rules really are bullshit. Even following these illusive codes will not protect you. If you are a black American parent, your kid is never safe. It doesn’t matter if he dresses and acts like any suburban white kid. It doesn’t matter if he does nothing wrong. It doesn’t matter if he does nothing to seem threatening to white people, other than being a black kid going about his daily business. If a white person decided to shoot him, well, a confederacy of dunces will swoop in to defend his killer, and he will go free.
And we will not change. Because it doesn’t really affect us. The Rules may be a lie, but our privilege isn’t. It protects us, comforts us, and comfortable people have no drive to change. So move along, nothing to see here.
Tomorrow will be just another day in America.