Copyright © While They Sleep

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Frustrations regarding the injustices of Trayvon Martin

There have been many thoughts, opinions and emotions being exchanged recently on Facebook regarding the death of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old African American teenage boy that was gunned down by a half-Latino, half-White, 28 year old neighborhood watchmen, George Zimmerman, in an upscale, primarily White Sanford, Florida neighborhood.  And through a process that has angered communities and individuals nationwide, breaking news of what really happened that day slowly emerge discrediting initial findings only further angering and frustrating those of us that saw the truth behind the smoke and mirrors.

I always say, there are two sides to a story, and then there's the truth. In this situation, one side was gunned down.  The other side, interestingly enough may have completely fabricated the truth. Questions around the integrity of Officer Timothy Smith from the Sanford Florida police department in reporting the facts that day are becoming increasingly sketchy. Witness encounters are seemingly becoming less credible.

I know we will all form our own opinions on what happened that day, what should have happened and why it happened in the first place. We're not all going to agree. I get that. What I do not get is how people can say this case was not in some way "possibly" racially motivated. If you are one of those individuals that doesn't understand the possibility of this incident being racially motivated, you are incredibly naive.  Perhaps, you are disillusioned into thinking that racism doesn't exist in such inadvertent ways, or that racism can't occur from minority to minority, or perhaps the color of your skin hasn't affected your life as it may have to another minority. Either way, you are incredibly naive. And that's my feeling on it. Trayvon Martin died because he was racial profiled. This is something that the country cannot, no matter how hard many people may try, ignore.

This is 2012. Yes, over 200 years has passed since the enslavement of Africans in U.S. history. But it has been less then 50 years since the civil rights movement aimed at outlawing racial discrimination against African Americans and restoring equal voting rights to them occurred. Less then 50 years! Yes, we have made some progress, but we are not that far advanced from a nation free of racism to think that the situation leading to the death of a 17 year old African American boy was NOT racially motivated in some way. Especially when there were encounters, including taped conversations that led so many to believe that this incident was in some way racially charged.

I lost a friend recently on Facebook that I found out was prejudice toward Muslims. This "friend" has always cracked inappropriate, politically incorrect jokes. But he never made me feel less of a person because of my faith.  I am a Muslim-American. I don't claim to be an overly religious person, but I am faithful to Islam and my beliefs. That being said, ignorant and hateful comments and jokes were being made about Muslims that I took to be incredibly offensive. I could have ignored the comments, I could have deleted that person from my Facebook and I could have been silent. But I wasn't. I wasn't silent. I let that "friend" and any ignorant commenter's on that thread know exactly how I felt. I deleting him after the fact because a friendship at that point was severed and I had no interest in repairing any damage after learning that deep down this "friend" was a damn racist neanderthal! And truthfully, I can live with that "friend" no longer being in my life. What I cannot live with is ignoring other people's views, stances or underlying racist comments, when they offend me. That will not happen. It didn't happen in the case of hateful comments being made toward Muslims, it won't happen with the  views in the Trayvon Martin killing. I am not Black, but that doesn't change the fact that I still found some of the insane comments in recent days around the Martin killing to be incredibly offensive. And I addressed them. And I will keep addressing them.

My views are based on my sociological lens, specifically around my intense dissection of race relations through my undergraduate studies. And while I am NO expert, and while we are all entitled to our own opinions, we are also entitled to address and stand up for our views when they are being negated and dismissed.

Kai Wright, wrote a blog in Colorlines: News For Action, that described in profound ways how Martin was doomed from birth.
Trayvon Martin did in fact have it coming. He was born black and male in the United States and was thus marked for death. The cruelness of our economy and of our criminal justice system isn’t reserved for men or for black people. But there is a particularly gendered and particularly racist way in which black men are set upon in this country, most acutely those who don’t have the resources to push back. And it has a very long, still relevant history.
Society has proved time and time again, that being black and male in America is doomed for success. There are many reasons for that. One being years of institutionalized racism.
From a sociological perspective, racists and racism can be broken down into several forms/levels.
  • We have the Aware/Blatant Racist who is an outright racist, without any apology or confusion who will make it very well known that his hate stems from the color of someones skin. There is no mistaking the Aware/Blatant Racist.
  • There's also the Aware/Covert Racist. When racists are being racist but just not saying it. For instance, upon seeing that a potential tenant is Indian, rather than saying it directly, a landlord will pull the apartment “off the market” without providing an explanation.
  • There's the Unaware/Unintentional Racist who with the best of intentions, the best of education, and the greatest generosity of heart, operates on the misinformation fed to them from day one, and will behave in ways that are racist, will perpetuate racism by being ‘nice.'
  • Then there's the Unaware/Self-Righteous Racist. This person will make racist attempts to shame Blacks into being blacker, scorns Japanese-Americans who don’t speak Japanese, and knows more about the Chicano/a community than the folks who make up the community. They know everything. Or so they think they do.
  • Last but not least, there's the Internalized Racist. Stereotypes and attitudes of the white hegemonic system are internalized by members of oppressed groups and peoples and taken for truth or inform the ways they think about themselves and others from similar backgrounds or cultures.
Personally, in regards to the Martin killing, I haven't had to deal with very many Aware/Blatant Racists, but I have dealt with a fair share of Aware/Covert Racists, Unaware/Self-Righteous Racists as well as Unaware/Unintentional Racists and it has been very frustrating.

Wright, from Colorlines: News For Action, also wrote:
The fact is the U.S. often seems like it’s built to kill black people. This is not to say racism is equally lethal today as it was even a single generation ago. But it is to say that the same set of deeply ingrained ideas about what black people have coming to us justified the brutality of yesterday and today alike. And one particular manifestation of those ideas routinely leads to the early death of men like Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell and Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin.
Those very same ingrained ideas about what Black people have coming to them are exactly the narrow-minded views that are the most frustrating. It has also been increasingly frustrating how unaware people are to the term White Privilege, which can be described as the way in which American society continues to limit the opportunities for minorities while favoring those of white people. This includes police discrimination, as well as many others, demonstrate the fact that white Americans are “overprivileged” in comparison to African and Latin Americans.  Acknowledging that White Privilege exists in a time where young Black children, among other minorities, are inadvertently treated as if their existence doesn't matter is one step in addressing this systematic issue. The social system in which we live completely favors the majority racial group and limits the opportunities of those not belonging to this group, which keeps White people at the top of the social ladder, and minorities, specifically Black people, at the bottom. Statistically, "as a black infant, Martin was more than twice as likely to die as his White peers. In his teens, he was at least one and a half times as likely to meet an early death as his White peers. Homicide is the leading cause of death for black men his age, and comes at a rate many times more than every other racial or ethnic group. If he had reached his 20s, he had a 1 in 8 chance of going to prison, because that empty bag of marijuana he had at school would have meant something very different for him than it does for the middle class white kids who use drugs at higher rates. He’d have gone on to live in a country in which nearly 4 in 10 black children live in poverty, in which 1 in 4 black households lack food security." And while statistics show that Trayvon Martin was marked for death from birth, understanding the institutionalized and systematic reasons for why that is, is crucial in understanding race relations. He wasn't just a "bad" Black kid roaming the streets of a predominantly White neighborhood. He was a Black kid that was sought out because of the color of his skin, and killed. People can deny it all they want. It doesn't change the truth.

Ironically, the Facebook war that ensued in recent days, has validated my thoughts and rebuttal from my original stance. Recent updates in the Martin case have emerged stating that Zimmerman was not as hurt as he claimed or as hurt as was fabricated by Officer Timothy Smith of the Sanford Florida police department in his first encounters documented in initial police reports.  Zimmerman did NOT look like someone who had only moments before been fighting for his life. Clearly, his appearance and his story do not match up and it has led to the lead investigator seeking a warrant for his arrest. View video footage here. What is utterly disgusting is that despite an overwhelming amount of police evidence, no one has arrested Zimmerman. As I said before, there are two sides to a story and then there's the truth. And needless to what some have been saying, the truth is emerging and it's clouding a lot of what has been assumed on Martin's death not being racially motivated.

The bottom line: JUSTICE HAS NOT BEEN SERVED for Martin. Martin was killed a little over one month ago. That's over one month of justice denied. Personally, I have been very angry regarding Martin's death. Being a new mother to a little boy has definitely fueled some of that anger. Because my son has brown skin. My son will probably listen to rap music.  My son will probably wear hoodies, eat skittles, drink ice tea and walk in his neighborhood or other neighborhoods where the majority of people may or may not be, White. My anger stems for my love for Elijah, my son, and that this sort of racially motivated injustice could easily happen to him. Just recently, I posted a picture that previous friends on Facebook had shared -- the picture was of a sticker on the back of someone's car window. It read "Remember when Elk Grove was White - right!" Elk Grove is where I live. It is a pretty diverse suburb in Sacramento County. But it was once, predominantly White. And some parts, specifically East Elk Grove/Old Elk Grove is still largely made up of White Americans. You can see how scratching out the word "White" and replacing it with "right" can make you wonder if your own son, who has brown skin, is next? I do not apologize for my thoughts and concerns regarding this incident with people that I have come across, whether in person or online. I have never been one to sit down and shut up and I definitely am not one that feels intimidated or fearful in exchanging my views on something I'm passionate about. Feelings will get hurt in the process, but I've never meant any disrespect.  However, I can NOT apologize for addressing some very ignorant people, some who are just naive - in my opinion, and in some cases, inadvertently racist.

With everything being said and done with the Facebook war I took part in, I have learned a lot. I have learned that some people truly are naive. No matter how much education and experience they have gained in their adult life, their naivety is transparent. I have also learned that some people are truly unaware of their internal racism, and will never see it as such, or understand that to be the truth. I have also learned that although we will never agree on many social issues, including racial injustices and the motives of crimes such as the unjust killing of Trayvon Martin, I will not back down. I will not sit down and shut up. I will not be dumbed down or intimidated.  I will listen to your side of the story, but I will also engage. I will not stop confronting and speaking out against those injustices.  Because I live in a world where my son could be the next Trayvon Martin. And I refuse to let that happen.

Ask yourself this, if Trayvon Martin was a White boy walking through a predominately White neighborhood, do you think any of this would ever have happened? That's what I thought.

(to read the full blog posting from Kai Wright in Colorlines, please click here)


Post a Comment