Blog Archives

We Can’t Just Get Over It

I don’t usually rant, but I just need to say that I get a bit annoyed when some White folks try to tell Black folks how and how not to respond to injustices. Telling folks who are hurting to get over it, put it behind us, move on, you’re overreacting, and let it go are just not acceptable. And yes, I have heard and read all of these statements.

Our anger, our fear and our frustration are not just about Trayvon, it goes so much deeper than that; the extensive history of racism and inequality plays a huge role in provoking the thoughts and feelings that we have; AND an awareness that based on how we have historically seen things play out causes feelings of despair.Our pain is the result of cumulative experiences and a constant lack of resolve and change within society. So, no one can ever tell us how to feel, how to be, and how to respond!

If those who are white are tired of hearing us (and our allies) talk about this, perhaps they should consider that they are not the only ones who are tired – we too are tired – of decade after decade of the same old ill treatment and disproportionate discrimination. If you are weary of us “whining and complaining” or “playing the race card.” keep in mind that we too are weary, weary of racial profiling, weary of constant subtle and not so subtle messages that we are not as good or as valued as our lighter brothers and sisters.

So, when we say this is about race, it is not solely about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, it is inclusive of a frustration with a judicial system and societal norms of suspicion regarding who and how we are as Black folks. SO YES, it is about race, racism, and we can’t keep ignoring and denying it.

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System Fail… Again

photo credits: unknown

photo credits: unknown

In the case involving George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, last evening the jury pronounced him not guilty. The verdict shocked me, angered me and saddened me. There is absolutely no way George Zimmerman should be able to walk the streets for killing an innocent 17 year old kid! He was NOT defending himself, that rainy night in Florida, the only defense he needed was his car, which he should have stayed in, and a gun, which he should have never used. The shouts from the crowd of “the system fails again” is well understood. The system has been communicating for years that African Americans bodies are not as valuable as others. I am so angry and frustrated that it is difficult to put words together.

If Trayvon Martin had been born white he would be alive today. That has been established beyond all reasonable doubt. If he had been white, he never would have been stalked by Zimmerman, there would have been no fight, no funeral, no trial, no verdict. It is the Zimmerman mindset that must be found guilty – far more than the man himself. It is a mindset that views black men and boys as nothing but a threat, good for nothing, up to no good no matter who they are or what they are doing. It is the Zimmerman mindset that has birthed a penal system unprecedented in world history, and relegated millions to a permanent undercaste. Trayvon, you will not be forgotten. We will honor you – and the millions your memory represents – by building a movement that makes America what it must become. RIP. – Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow

 

Now that I have dried a few tears and have tried to silence the outrage in my soul over the Zimmerman verdict heard last night, it is my hope that I can put words together in some way or another. My first reaction to the verdict was anger, and then sadness, and eventually outrage! Trayvon Martin is dead and the man who killed him gets to walk away from the crime without serving any jail time. For a brief moment as I awaited the verdict, I had some hope that maybe, just maybe the judicial system would work in favor of an innocent, unarmed 17 year old kid walking home from the store. Even though our history in America has done nothing to even encourage such glimmer of hope.

According to Robert Zimmerman (the brother of George), our judicial system is one of the best and actually works well. A statement that would not likely ever be voiced by African Americans and other brown skinned bodies, especially Black men. The system is slanted against African Americans disproportionately – the evidence repeatedly bears this out. And even when a Black teenager walks home from a trip to the store, folks are willing to suggest stupid stuff like “he was armed with a sidewalk” – what kind of BS is that?

This of course is not the only stupidity and ignorance that has been spouted off by those in favor of the verdict. Here are a few more:

  • This was not about race
  • My brother committed no crime
  • Trayvon was not only armed with the sidewalk, he was armed with his fists
  • Trayvon was not the victim of a murder/crime
  • People are playing the race card

Of course there are more ridiculous words that have been uttered, but I think you get it by now. It is still just as unfathomable to me today as it was over a year ago, that a man driving in a neighborhood with a gun sees a Black male walking in the rain with a hoodie on in “his” neighborhood and assumes he is guilty or “up to something” even though he was simply walking home – yes that’s called racial profiling!

This strong, or at least heavy set grown man with a gun, exits his car to follow the Black guy – a young man who has no idea that the guy pursuing him is neighborhood watch.

If anyone needed to and perhaps did stand their ground, Trayvon would have been justified in defending himself against this stranger walking up on him for no legitimate reason. But instead, this young victim gets blamed for his own murder. This SCREAMS injustice!
A teenager’s life was taken from him unnecessarily.
George Zimmerman is not an innocent man event though he’s been allowed to walk free
An innocent child lays dead in the grave, a guilty man goes free, and Trayvon’s parents are left not only to mourn the loss of their son, but also to endure the outcome of a justice system which provided no justice for them. 

I pray for Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. I pray for African Americans who once again have had to hear the underlying message that our lives do not have value and intrinsic worth. I weep for those who insist, perhaps due to blindness or at best denial, that race does not factor into this situation.

Justice was not served yesterday. Utter disregard for the value of brown skinned people and the legitimizing of racism is what happened yesterday evening. This hurts like hell (yes, I did just say that). And as much as I wanted to ignore the pain that I felt last night and the sorrow in my heart today, sometimes we just need to sit with our pain for a bit – not spiritualize it or stuff it down in the name of taking action, but just acknowledge it and cry as much as we need to.

Last night and even somewhat today, the only prayer I could offer was in the form of tears. Sometimes the tears are the prayer – no fancy words, and for the most part, no words at all, just tears flowing from a place of deep pain and anguish.

Still weeping….

It’s Not About the Hoodies!

Photo Credit - Flickr_bMethe

My first post on this topic was filled with so much pain and emotion that my thoughts were incohesive, and I believe that is ok. Though my heart is still broken, hopefully this one will be clearer.

This past Sunday many churches and groups across the nation held what they referred to as “Hoodie Sunday.” Individuals stood in solidarity with Trayvon Martin’s family through this action. I commend churches and others for supporting the family in such record numbers and celebrate it as a great thing. But if we stop at making it about hoodies and skittles we fail!

It’s trendy to get in on this by wearing a hoodie, and make claims to care (and perhaps all involved actually do); but what will we do after this “big” case? People of color are being profiled, targeted, discriminated against and even slaughtered every day. These are individuals who will never make front page of a paper, be a blog post, cnn video or protest rally. And the silence prior to Trayvon has been somewhat deafening. And yet, rather than be too cynical I consider that maybe this situation is what we need to put a little fire under us and move us to a place of saying enough is enough. Let’s hope so. Here are some observations to consider that flow from the current situation at hand.

Unanswered Questions
There are questions in this tragedy that remain unanswered. Did Trayvon confront Zimmerman (the 911 tapes indicate that Zimmerman followed Martin)? Did Zimmerman feel threatened by Martin? Why did Zimmerman deem it necessary to shoot and even more importantly, why did he deem it necessary to shoot to kill? Why have the Sanford police department delayed arrest for a month? There is much that we don’t know….
What we do know is that Trayvon Martin is dead and his family and loved ones are experiencing intense grief. We also  know that death did not have to be outcome. We know that George Zimmerman is eleven years older than Martin was and weighed approximately 100 pounds more, and pursued Martin when instructed not to. The 17 year olds death was  unnecessary and avoidable – still it happened.
We know that the Sanford police department made certain that Martin’s system was checked for drugs and alcohol (even though he was the one dead), and failed to do the same with Zimmerman. Seems absurd to me!
Systemic Racism
As an African American woman I am intimately acquainted with racism. It is not an individual challenge, it is systemic. There are structures and power dynamics that work against people of color (not solely African American) in this nation called the US. And the truth is that systemic racism is more difficult to eliminate. People do not give up power easily. For those who make people of color feel as though we are somehow imagining that racism still exists, the disproportionate prison rates, reactions from dominant cultural groups when race is mentioned, and even educational institutions provide ample evidence that we are not naive and overreacting. It matters not whether individually we are the ones who put the structures in place, what matters is that we take responsibility for eradication of systems and structure that are oppressive to people groups.
Cultural Callousness
I hate that Trayvon Martin, an innocent teen is dead! And I wonder if perhaps this is one of the incidents that can be used to move society from a place of apathy and cultural callousness to a place of cultural sensitivity. Trayvon is not the first African American teen to be the recipient of violence. This type of thing happens all the time and we fail to care deeply enough to act and say enough is enough or even more importantly to engage in preventative measures. It’s time to change!
Societal Biases
It matters not how spiritual or not spiritual one is, all cultural groups have their biases, preferences and affinities. This is normal, natural. The trouble arises when we move beyond biases to a place of disregard and disdain for those who differ from us. Biases are not license for hatred, discrimination and violence. I do not often take things personal, however in the middle of the Trayvon case and all of the emotional pain it causes, I read an article and tweet reactions to the popular Hunger Games and admittedly it sent me over the edge. The overt racist comments by not just one, but many nearly took me by surprise. Perhaps this is because most racist individuals I have encountered are not as blatant.
I then read of another hate crime towards an Iraqi woman and became even more baffled by the audaciousness of any cultural or racial group to see themselves as somehow greater than another. We’re better than this aren’t we? In the depths of my being I believe that EVERY individuals is precious and valuable because of our Creator!
Additionally, there are those who minimize the realities of racism and biases as though we are somehow imagining these things. To deny a person their right to their stories is to insult their equality as unique creations of God. To deny a person’s story is to see them as liars, disrespect them, invalidate their experiences and further exasperate the issues of inequality.We must deny no one the right to have a story!
So, like I said, it’s really not just about hoodies, it goes much deeper than that. And the question remains, what are WE going to do about it from this day forward?  ” Now we must go from wearing hoodies to transforming the hood as we fight for justice! – Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III

Who Cares?

Photo from chron.com

Two words have been on my mind for the last couple of weeks – “Trayvon Martin.” I have turned the revealed details over in my head and heart and respond with an appropriate feeling of anger at the apparent injustice of it all. I did not know Trayvon and I do not know his family, causing some to ask why I care. The only response I can muster up to such wondering is “why don’t YOU care?”

I have deeply spiritual and human reasons for caring. My heart aches as I wonder what it might have been like for Trayvon to journey from the store to his dad’s home only to have the entirety of his being filled with fear as he peered down the barrel of George Zimmeran’s gun, never anticipating that his trip to the store might be the last trip, the last pack of Skittles, the last bottle of iced tea.

In the Martin, Zimmerman case, it is difficult for me to believe that the “Stand your ground law” in Florida is designed for people like Zimmerman – based on the 911 calls, Zimmeran was following Martin even though instructed not to do so. Zimmerman is about 100lbs heavier than Martin was. Zimmerman was armed and Martin was not. The mere reality that Zimmerman followed this teen because, according to his perceptions, he looked suspicious is cause for the law being in place for people like Martin – who really seems to be the one whose life was in danger and threatened? And even if Zimmerman was in danger (which I doubt), did he need to shoot to kill?

Assumptions regarding racial motivation on the part of Zimmerman (whether false or true) serve as a reminder of the yet existent pain of racial inequality in the US. Being Black in America still means encountering individuals who will view your very existence as a threat and see your skin pigmentation and way of being as “suspicious.” In many cases “looking suspicious” only means I look different than you, have different mannerisms, hair texture, and wardrobe.

Social stereotypes still exist – can’t even where your hooded sweatshirt when it’s raining, especially if you are an African American male. And rather than focus on the injustices surrounding Trayvon and other “Trayvons” of society, we still have individuals like popular TV personality Geraldo Rivera spouting nonsense that suggests that Trayvon’s death was as much his own fault because he was wearing a hoodie. But as Eugene Cho says

Hoodies don’t kill just as short skirts don’t rape. Focus on the injustice and not the wardrobe.

The stark reality is that even without the hoodie, Trayvon still lived in his brown skin.

I love my lighter brothers and sisters – sincerely, but the subtle hints that we are overreacting and simply reading into things when we insist that racism and racial profiling are the real experiences of the African American race is an insult that only causes the societal realities to continue. We are not yet a post-racial society as some would suggest, therefore more work is yet to be done.

Dr. Martin Luther King’s quest for “Strength to Love” reminds me to continue to love others even through the experience of anger and outrage – and this love is to be for all.


The question in all of this is will we care enough to be disturbed to the point where inaction is nearly impossible?