As someone else stated, the following quote adequately sums up the Trayvon Martin tragedy, “Only in America can a dead black boy go on trial for his own murder.”
It pains me to say this but stories like Trayvon’s are nothing new and I hear about them and have witnessed them my entire life growing up in the South. But when I first read about Trayvon’s murder, there was something about the story that hit me to the core. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why. When I learned about the verdict and recoiled in horror and disgust along with other people of color, that’s when it hit me. For all intents and purposes, when I was 17, I was Trayvon and I’m lucky because in many respects, I should also be dead.
As a teen, I received an academic scholarship to attend a private school right outside of Nashville, TN. A young black male Hermione Granger, or Artemis Fowl, I was a precocious, obsessive compulsive honors student with perfect attendance. I was a member of the National Honor Society, National Art Honor Society and was the first student at my school to win an award at Youth Legislature. Suffice it to say I received opportunities at the school, I probably wouldn’t have otherwise garnered, but like any other black person in the South, I knew the score.
Making the commute to and from East Nashville to Franklin, I had to be cautious. In many parts of Franklin, the Confederate flag flew prominently and there was as much wealth as there was privilege and prejudice. I could’ve made a drinking game out of the number I overheard the South Will Rise Again. And if I had one red cent for every time I received a scowl from a police officer or was followed in a store while stopping to get gas, Donald Trump would be my apprentice. The working class black kid from the other side of the tracks could find himself in a life or death situation and as such, precautions had to be taken. As far as school went, I kept my distance. I wasn’t taking any chances. In fact it really wasn’t until my senior year that I allowed myself to make some close friends. My classmates might or might not have been pleasant enough, I always had to worry about how their parents would react if their child brought home a Colored for dinner. And I could forget about dating. The one or two times I had an interest in a smart, beautiful, and accomplished female classmate, it was pointed out that she was white and that shouldn’t be forgotten.
When driving home, most days I took side streets and backroads that I knew the cops never worked. I always did 5-10 under the limit. Always made sure I wore my eyeglasses so I seemed nerdy and nonthreatening, no shades or baseball caps or “urban wear.” If I’m pulled over, it’s important that the cops know that I’m one of the “good ones.” Frequently use 4+ syllable vocab terms. Be impressive but not intimidating. Whites get violent when they feel inferior to a Nigrah. Always look in the rearview mirror, if pulled over keep both hands visible. Every bit can make the difference between life and death.
The worst thing most of my classmates had to worry about was a date for Saturday night or homework as it should be. Me, I’m worrying if I’m going to make it home to see my family again. It wasn’t gangbangers or drug dealers I had to worry about, it was white people.
I could’ve been Trayvon and I’m not the only one.
Trayvon wasn’t as fortunate. Neither was Jordan Davis, Darius Simmons, CeCe McDonald, and Marissa Alexander. If we want to go further than that we can look at the Jena 6, Duanna Johnson, Lawrence King, Vincent Chin, Troy Davis, Everett Gant, Rekia Boyd, Aiyana-Stanley Jones, Emmett Till, and countless other POCs who are the victims of a white supremacist system of “justice.”
Trayvon’s murder was tragic in and of itself but what has many of us outraged is the flippant display in which the laws which are supposed to protect us are broken for white privilege and white power.
The interesting thing about monsters, the Zimmermans of the world, is that they are always two-fold. There are the monsters and the enablers.
And who are the enablers? 90-95 percent of the white folks in this country. In other words, most of you.
What? You thought you were one of the “good ones” why because you didn’t burn burn down a black church or wave the Confederate flag. How could you not be one of the good ones, you didn’t do anything?
And that’s exactly my point. For every time you DID NOT say anything when a co-worker or a family member made some racist crack about Asians or Latinos, you enabled.
For every time you DID NOT take the initiative to protest, boycott or do something that forced you to step out of your comfort zone, you enabled.
For every time you DISMISSED legitimate charges of racism and inequality as being too PC, playing the race card, or being too sensitive, you enabled.
For every time you’ve DERAILED a discussion on race, TROLLED a POC’s space and ignored history, data, and our lived experiences with your theoretical hypotheticals, you enabled.
For each time you DID NOTHING while countless numbers of whites engaged in “Trayvoning” on Facebook or Tumblr, you enabled. But let someone disrespect those babies who were murdered in Sandy Newton and most of you would be out for blood and rightfully so.
The silence and apathy of most whites is nearly deafening, until you rightfully indict them on their privilege and then they come out in droves demanding to be counted among the “good ones” and the speshul white allies.
Here’s the truth. You’re not one of the good ones. If you have to say you’re about it, you’re not about it. Unless you’re willing to do the right thing at your personal expense, don’t lecture blacks and other POCs about being one of the good ones. Don’t tell us to look for the good in whites.
Good white people are out there fighting the fight because it’s the right thing to do, not because they want a pat on the back or a kiss on their ass. Unless you’re willing to be a Ride or Die on the level of a John Brown, a Jane Elliott, or a Richard Loving, then don’t get to lecture us about the good ones. Lecture to me about the good ones when you’ve gotten off your collective asses and dealt with the bad ones.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Oh you thought things had changed, and we had progressed. We haven’t. Jim Crowe never died, he’s been biding his time like he always had. Make no mistake, laws and a little progress has been made for people of color but that was in spite of America, not because of her.
For you whites who have always wondered why so many people could’ve been so complicit of the brutality blacks faced during the Civil Rights struggle, look at yourselves, right here right now.
Malcolm X said it best “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, that’s not progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. The progress comes from healing the wound that the blow made. They haven’t even begun to pull the knife out. They won’t even admit the knife is there.”
The recent racial incidents have been most enlightening because they have reminded POCs where we stand in society.
When Ellen Sturtz harassed and attacked Michelle Obama during the fundraiser to aid black children, it was the First Lady who was denigrated for having the gall to disengage from the heckler and from that we were reminded that POCs have no stations, agencies or boundaries with respect to our bodies, energies or our time.
The headlines during the week of July 1 was eye-opening for me also. On one headline, you had legions of people lining up lecturing people of color about why Paula Deen, a millionaire and outed white supremacist, should be forgiven, loved and embraced and how she’s human like the rest of us.
Then on another headline, many of those same people demean and degrade Rachel Jeantel, a young black woman whose only crime was being on the phone with her friend as he was brutally murdered. Or you had people remain silent while their peers did their dirt for them.
We see endless excuses about a millionaire bigot and why she should be protected, but we can’t even acknowledge the humanity of 19-year-old girl.
And of course we watched as legions of white gays celebrated the Supreme Court ruling to gut VRA rights for POCs as well as reverse Prop 8. And don’t think they weren’t celebrating both because the fact that they didn’t pause their pride parades to realize that many of their own just got their rights snatched says everything there.
Whether it’s Paula Deen, George Zimmerman, Ellen Sturtz, or the legions of other monsters, one thing I’ve come to realize is that most whites don’t defend these bigots and their actions because they believe it’s right. Whites defend these racists because they’re defending their white privilege. Whites like having the option of killing black children and getting off scot free. Whites like murdering their children and blaming it on the black guy. White women love the option of throwing acid on her face, blaming black women and knowing the story will be believed. Whites love blaming blacks and other POCs for homophobia despite what facts, and history states.
After all, why be equal when you can be superior, a supremacist even?
I do think the Mayans got it right in that an upheaval, a change, a storm, is coming. Between the economy, the wars, the crumbling systems, and the racial tension, it’s all coming to a head. The pragmatist in me says things are going to get far worse before they get better. Assuming things even improve at all. The old gods are dying but they aren’t going out without a fight.
For blacks and other people of color, we have more battles ahead. I fear more lives will be lost, more blood will be shed. The fight is just beginning. I also fear that for many of us, we’re going to have to take up arms and defend ourselves, by any means necessary.
I’m sure Trayvon had no idea that his death would change the world in the way it has. One can only imagine how he would’ve changed the world had he been allowed to live.