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A Day In The LifeBlogging Challenge

A Letter To White People On Why The Trayvon Martin Case Is Such A Big Deal

By July 15, 2013 17 Comments
NYC-Trayvon-Martin-Rally

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.

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17 Comments

  • This is such a poignant example of the true issue in this case: the “rules!” That is the problem, that is why this man was allowed to kill a child and walk away, that is why this will happen again, that is why we are still living with injustice. Until the laws are changed to truly be fair and equal for all we will continue to suffer with the same result; and that is the tragedy. 🙁
    Carin Clark @Mrscpkc recently posted…3 Reasons Why I am OK With the Not-Guilty Verdict in the George Zimmerman TrialMy Profile

    • Paithen says:

      This whole Trayvon Martin case has shown in clear daylight that rcsiam is very much alive and well in this country and apparently more so in Florida. Repeated demonstrations illustrating the public shock and awe of the blatant disregard for both Trayvon and Sabrina. And now there is a dead blackman who had a MEDICAL EMERGENCY call through Life Support, and the police knocked down his door, Tasered him and shot him dead in his own apartment!The worst of all of this, if the people had not stood up, this all would have been ignored! Who is running the law enforcement in Florida? And now I have more doubts about our US DOJ under Eric Holder. All he seems to do is justify illegal acts by the US Govt. toward people in jail for over 10 years without proper legal representation.

  • Amy says:

    Tamala,
    How courageous of you to write down your opinions about this matter. So many awful events I hear about have me shaking my head. Don’t let this steal your joy from your new show. Unfortunately we live in a broken, fallen world and evil oftentimes does win the battle, but the WAR will be won by GOOD, at last, “Vengeance is mine, I shall repay” says the Lord and that should comfort us all.
    Amy recently posted…Welcome to the world, baby boy!My Profile

    • Tamala says:

      Hi Amy,

      Thanks for visiting and saying hi. After reading some of the comments below I feel like a made a little mistake in sharing this letter… eeek!!! LOL God will take care of all things and I believe if we as as a species were more evolved – we would be able to learn, heal and grow from this. I am not sure that’s happening. But God sees a lot better than me so what do I know 🙂 Thank you again for visiting me Amy.

      Have a miraculous day!
      Tamala recently posted…When I Thought I Wanted To Be A 911 OperatorMy Profile

  • I’m with you a thousand percent! It IS a big damn deal and whether or not others see it that way doesn’t make it any less of an important event. I’m white and I totally get why this is a big deal. TOTALLY.

    Thank you for sharing the letter and your feelings. I continue to hold a higher vibration that we all learn what is needed through this travesty and that Trayvon did not lose his life in vain.
    Lisa | Practically Intuitive recently posted…(UBC) Day 15: Introducing Edwene Gaines and the Four Spiritual Laws of ProsperityMy Profile

  • Ruth Hill says:

    I hadn’t planned on commenting here, and maybe I shouldn’t. I’m not going to speak about my own personal opinions on the subject. We are netitled to an opinion, but I was horrified at the first comment on here. It is okay to disagree. You know what? There are statements that I did not agree with in this blog post, but you know what? They were well-stated, and it angers me when a blogger is attacked. If someone wants to voice their own opinion in the right way, we do live in a free country, the last time I checked. This means that everyone is entitled to have their own opinion. I have read many inflammatory comments and seen the outrage. At least you, glorious blogger, are going about this in the right way. I often don’t branch out and speak forth my views on political issues nor controversial issues. I hate the fact that this has turned blacks and whites against each other. I don’t understand how all these years after civil rights, slavery, and so much more injustics that we are still a country torn in two concerning racial issues. There are many complicated issues within this entire case, and adding my voice is not neccessary. All I can do is hope and pray that there will be a true healing. Saturday’s verdict shocked me more than anything. Please don’t tear me down because i don’t agree with everything. Indeed, this fantastic writer on this blog said many things that are true. But most importantly, let’s heal!
    Ruth Hill recently posted…Lightning Book Promotions: “Finding My Lost Soul” by Glenell Randolph Promo BlitzMy Profile

    • Tamala says:

      Ruth… thank you so much for taking the time to write this comment. I just woke up and saw these men yelling at me…LOL Like you I am very much okay with people seeing things differently from me and there is a way to express that without name calling.
      You are so right in that we need to heal… sometimes I think these circumstances present themselves for us to do just that. We can either talk about it, try to see it through another lens, get a open and flowing dialogue going.. or we can push it under the rug and bury it. You seem like someone that prays and meditates, so I’m sure you know how harmful that could be – burying things without truly healing them. It becomes cancerous. Or we can throw tantrums which most of us are doing as well. Human nature is so fascinating.
      This is my first time posting on something so controversial. Not sure I will do it again.. HA!
      Tamala recently posted…When I Thought I Wanted To Be A 911 OperatorMy Profile

  • Chris says:

    So what would your thoughts be on the OJ case? A black man gets away with murdering 2 white people? How quickly we forget.

  • I’ve reblogged this excellent post. I blogged my own frustration about this the other day. I don’t know when we will ever have true and fair justice in this country. And having lived in Florida, I just don’t get what is up with that place at all.
    Kate Eileen Shannon recently posted…A must read post from Tamala BaldwinMy Profile

    • Tamala says:

      Hi there Kate! Thank you so much for sharing this post and for simply taking the time to read it – I know it’s pretty lengthy 🙂 I am going to visit your site to read your thoughts on the issue.

      I really hope there will be a day in the future where things will be better… a lot better… not just here but all over the world. Our planet needs help. We need help.
      Tamala recently posted…When I Thought I Wanted To Be A 911 OperatorMy Profile

  • Nancy Boyd says:

    Tamara thank you so much for sharing this letter. It’s right on point. But I’d like to add something important to this conversation, which has to do with how we as a country have passed laws that encode white male supremacy and power into the system in ways that are tragic.

    We’ve given “them” the right to act out violently for any reason they can even remotely “justify”.

    Hey, I make you fear for your life? You can kill me — and get away with it. But if I am a person of color/female/LGBT/foreign-born? If I were to kill you for the same reasons I would not get away with it (that is, I’d likely be arrested and convicted of a crime.)

    Fear is the only winner as a result.

    Justice isn’t even on the menu here.

    And that’s the saddest thing of all. It should be.

    The ONLY good thing I can see coming from all this pain is the chance — remote thought it may be — that caring people of all races and backgrounds step up and demand that we tear down all the stupid-ass laws and rule that protect bullies and power-mad white men. I can see this as a real possibility for the first time in my life — and I celebrate it.

    This is so much more than “about race” to me. It’s about human decency. Apparently we haven’t got any rules about that. And that’s the REAL shame of it!

    I would also like people of color to know that there ARE white folks who DO get it — and would very much like to bring about a fair, just, and balanced world that works for everyone, not just a privileged few.

    What none of us can do right now is sit back and mumble “how awful” and just go on with our lives. We. Just. Cannot.
    Nancy Boyd recently posted…How Do You Overcome Limitations?My Profile

  • gillie says:

    I hope your post and this letter goes viral. It deserves to. Not just in respect of this case but in respect of our society as a whole. Now go celebrate your show. To use a well worn UK phrase … don’t let the bastards get you down 🙂
    gillie recently posted…frozenMy Profile

  • KLee Banks says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings – and this excellent letter – about this travesty of so-called justice.

    As a mother, I can’t imagine enduring the pain and outrage over having my unarmed teenage son stalked and killed, and the killer then literally getting away with my son’s murder. It’s unconscionable.

    I feel the same sense of disbelief, sadness, and horror as I did about Casey Anthony being found “not guilty” of murdering her precious baby.
    KLee Banks recently posted…Facing Your Fears and Moving Forward: Part 9 of 9My Profile

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