It has been almost a month since Trayvon Martin was killed. His killer remains free. If you cannot wrap your head around the idea that the shooting of an unarmed, black youth had to have been at least somewhat racially motivated, then you probably have been drinking too much of the white privilege Kool Aid, whether or not you are actually white.
Police say they have no reason to suspect that his killer, George Zimmerman, did not act in self-defense. This, despite the fact that Trayvon was unarmed. Zimmerman had admitted to following the young man in his vehicle because he was “suspicious.” What exactly made the young, black man, who was visiting his father in his gated community, suspicious should be fairly clear. The fact that Zimmerman had to leave his vehicle in order to even be in a position of needing to defend himself, the fact that he had been told to not continue following Trayvon by 911 operators, should turn any notion of self-defense right on its head, even when taking into account the “stand your ground” laws that Melissa Harris-Perry mentions on her show.
Let us be clear. Trayvon was suspicious because he was black. Trayvon was confronted by Zimmerman because he was black. Trayvon was killed dead on the street because he was black and Trayvon’s killer is free, because Trayvon was black. To deny this is delusional in the extreme. Let me restate this, Trayvon was unarmed, and his killer was told by authorities to stand down. This should be an open and shut case.
Here is where I start to lose my patience. This case has finally been getting the attention that it deserves. People around the internet are finally intelligently discussing the idea that young black men are unfairly considered suspect regardless of their actions, class or employment status. A young, black community volunteer has to legitimately worry that the police, or the captain of a neighborhood watch, will hassle him on his way home from the soup kitchen where he helps out. This is a fact of life if you are any PoC in this country and especially if you are black. Through all this dialogue, in forums and Facebook comment threads all over the internet, you see white people complaining that they feel they are being unfairly targeted by this talk.
It is not a majority of white people, but even if it was a small minority (it is not) it would still be disgusting. Really? You are going to make this about your perceived victimhood? You feel targeted? By what? Shame? If this is your big complaint, you really need to stop whining because black people in this country are targeted in a much more real way. They are targeted in a way that puts their life in jeopardy. They are far more likely to be the target of violence by someone of any race than a white person would ever have to worry about, despite what the persistent narrative of black criminality against white victims that still pervades our popular culture would have you believe.
You need to take a step back and think about why you are protesting. You need to, in the now popular vernacular, “check your privilege.” If you want people to stop “picking on you” because you are white, ask yourself what you are doing to undo the inherent racism in our culture. Do you talk to your white friends about what you all could be doing better? Do you forgo the television crime dramas that still paint black men as perpetrators (even when the “real” villain of the episode is white, which does happen more often, it is portrayed as an aberration among whites while the cops shake down a half-dozen PoC for information.) Do you boycott movies that reinforce this perception of black people? Do you question your own attitudes and try to alter them? Do you vote out law makers who pass laws like this “stand your ground” law that makes it easier for white men who feel “threatened” by “scary” black youth, to murder in cold blood? Do you vote out lawmakers that support mandatory sentencing in drug laws that far disproportionately affect PoC? If you are not doing any of these things, really if you are not doing all of these things, then you are part of the problem.
So yeah, it is about you, and what you can be doing to make the world a better place. Don’t ask PoC for advice, they didn’t make this mess, and before you say you didn’t either, before you tell them that slavery was a long time ago (it’s not), that racial discrimination is over (it’s not) and that they all have the vote now (they don’t) remember that you do contribute to our still racist society by accepting your white privilege and doing nothing about it. If they want to put their two cents in, welcome it and listen, but don’t expect them to educate you. Educate yourself. This shouldn’t be hard. Most of this should be pretty self-evident if you just give it more than a second’s thought and put aside your own wounded pride and privilege. If you don’t do that you are doing the entire world a horrible disservice. If you don’t do this, we will continue to see innocent young men like Trayvon Martin killed, and yes, their blood will be on your hands.