As I tap away on this keyboard a broad, deep knot sets in my stomach. Less than an hour ago I was reminded just how little a young, black man’s life is worth in our country. I read and listen with horror and sadness, and the deepest disappointment with my society that I have ever experienced. I did not want to write anymore about the twisted miscarriage of justice I knew would unfold. I did not want to write anymore about the reaction of white people around the country to the Trayvon Martin trial. I did not want to write this post.
But I have to. The world and my conscience will not let me do otherwise. I cannot just sit here, and not rage and bellow against the cruelty and selfishness that leads to this sort of monstrosity. I cannot pretend to not know that Trayvon’s murder was not the least bit remarkable. I cannot will myself to ignore the cultural pathology that makes losses like those of Trayvon far too common. I cannot make myself not realize that it is so much deeper than just a dwindling population of bigots.
Because it does go so much deeper. We live in a world where people treat concern like a Malthusian resource: limited and carefully controlled. We are told, by supposed allies, that there are other issues that are more important, whether they economic or environmental. Too many of those of us on the “side of the angels” will tell PoC to be patient, that there are other, more pressing problems, as if those problems did not intersect with the painful reality of being black in America. Too many white activists will be angry for a day at “the system” without questioning their own complicity in it.
I did not want to write this post, but I must, because I know too many people. I know to many of my family members, my neighbors, and my acquaintances want to bury their head in the sand. White people, all white people, want to wash their hands of this. Those who are not willfully racist, who do not relish this terrible verdict, will step back and say “it’s not us, it’s them” as if they never benefited from the systems that made Trayvon a criminal just for walking down the road. Too few are those of us that own it, and even among us, too many are those that see their outrage as a form of absolution.
Well I don’t want to be absolved. I do not deserve it. I want Trayvon to be absolved. I want every young, black man who has always had to worry and just had that worry justified to be absolved. I want them to be told “it’s not you, it’s us,” and to have us mean it. I want to own my shame so maybe, just maybe, some other people who enjoy white privilege will start to own theirs. I deserve my guilt, and so do the rest of you. We all murdered Trayvon Martin, and have been for generations. George Zimmerman was just the bullet in our gun.
- Op-ed: Even after the verdict, legal action could continue in Zimmerman case (thegrio.com)
- In grief and in memory. Trayvon Martin & all American boys killed for being black: What is white privilege. (emilylhauserinmyhead.wordpress.com)
- Trayvon Martin is Dead Because He Was Born Black in America – Period (veteranstoday.com)
- It’s Racist For Cops To Prepare For Pro-Trayvon Riots, Says Time Magazine (patdollard.com)