I haven’t had much to say about the trial of Trayvon Martin (yes he was the one on trial) because like many of you— this shit was emotionally destructive. What you may not know is me and Trayvon are from the same neighborhood. Literally. That I went to the elementary school and middle school that fed into Rachel Jeantel’s highschool of the same name. My brother went to Rachel’s high school, as did most of my friends growing up.
Had I not suffered from extreme anxiety that arose anytime I made a mistake, I would have gone to the same high school as Trayvon. The day I was to audition for their vocal program, I didn’t bring background music and after being chastised by the white woman organizing the auditions, I decided not to audition at all and lied to my mom about my rejection. I regret that.
So when I say this shit hits home, I mean it. It hit 197th Terrace in Miami Gardens, Florida. This hit home and it sucks. Because I know very well what comes out of North Dade and what died with Trayvon that night was a whole hell of a lot of potential and no conviction of George Zimmerman will allow us to see what Trayvon could have been.
But as much as this entire fiasco is about racism— it’s also about privilege. Privilege white people refuse to acknowledge and Black people can’t seem to communicate enough. No doubt that the privilege with roots in racism played a role in the trial… but, it’s not enough to say, things would be different if the races were reversed. People never want to deal in the what ifs… and no one seems to want to touch racism with a 10 foot pole. Though the acts are no doubt racist at the root, I rather be effective than right- so I need to acknowledge these things in a way people can digest.
White privilege is being able to live your life as a white man for all intents and purposes and become Hispanic when denying you are racist. That same privilege allows you to not know the difference between race and ethnicity. Privilege involves always getting the benefit of the doubt… because you are trusted.
No matter how ridiculous it might sound that you disobey an order by an emergency professional, and shoot someone to death for nothing really. Privilege is like that. Privilege is about the right to be an individual. That no matter how heinous crimes are that white people are accused of, no one looked at George Zimmerman and thought of Dahmer, or Bundy, or Gacy. No one diagnosed his anger issues, his insecurity, or overzealous nature as something indicative of a propensity to commit violence again. But when you’re Black, you are everyone else. Because, violent and mischievous Black teenagers exist, it was okay for Zimmerman to assume Trayvon was one. And because we don’t ever exist as individuals, then Trayvon becomes at fault for his own murder. Black children can’t make mistakes, white adults can.
Whenever there is an instance of one account versus another, the account of a White person is always more true. It’s the reason that I pull out my whitest voice possible when making any customer service transaction over the phone. When you’re white, you are you— when you’re Black you’re all of us, and all of us, are bad Black thugs. I don’t even like the premise that Trayvon could have gone to college and been a “good nigga.” Don’t show me a picture of another teenager with baggy pants and then with a graduation cap 10 years later… because, Trayvon wasn’t wronged because he could have been a college graduate and traded in his hoodie for a bowtie. Trayvon was wronged because he was here. We are wronged not just because we aren’t afforded individuality, we are wronged because someone believes they can determine the value, or lack thereof, of Black lives.
Privilege is when there is outrage about a white terrorist who makes the cover of Rolling Stone after killing white people in a horrific display of inhumanity. But awkward white boys with backpacks across the world will continue boarding planes, going hiking, being publicly intoxicated, and playing violent video games without so much as a nod in their direction. They will go to school without being tracked, and they will drive cars freely without being stopped. Privilege on privilege is when people are outraged he made the cover and not at the article that promises to tell us how a “popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam, and became a monster.”
No one is troubled by the suggestion that the Boston Marathon bomber was failed by his family and became a monster and Trayvon was supported by his family and born one. Privilege is telling Black people these things are not related in a world where everything is. Privilege is failing to understand the very real physical and psychological damage privilege and racial microaggressions cause. Since I have gotten a new car, I’ve been pulled over three times- more than in almost 10 years of driving. Privilege is when seeing the police is a sign of relief and not one of anxiety.
This discussion about racism will never be valuable if the subject matter and those discussing it are always the oppressed. It will never be valuable if we keep saying people who do racist shit are not racist because they are nice people. The cop who stopped me for “rolling through a stop sign” was a fucking racist. Why? Because he wanted to know where I was going, how long I owned my car, and asked to see my license and registration even though by his own admission, “everyone who comes to that sign always does the same thing.” And maybe he volunteers at his church or takes care of his sick mother and I’m supposed to believe he can’t be racist because he’s a nice person. Well, like people we love are addicts, or thieves or liars— we can love racists. And while we pity him, it is me who has PTSD from being followed in the dark, humiliated, scared, and even as a civil rights attorney well aware that I was stopped for DWB in a nice car, I had to be non threatening and apologetic for a stop that I know was complete bullshit because I wanted to make it out alive.
And anyone whose privilege won’t allow them to recognize that fact, I suggest they ask Trayvon Martin how the decision to defend or be offended is so often a life or death one. I have no doubt Zimmerman spent his life relishing in microaggressions that were dismissed as non racist, and of people being too sensitive or obsessed with being politically correct. But the reality is, many microaggressions make for one big ass MACROaggression and a whole helluva lot of Trayvons. The running theme is, they are not like us, they are dangerous and they are all the same. So long as I have a Black friend, I can’t possibly have ever caused harm to another Black person. And if engaged in a fist fight with a black person, I must use a gun because the pure brute strength of the Black African makes any object in the universe a weapon. We can be armed with fresh air so it’s best to suffocate us all if given the chance.
And suffocate us they do, bit by bit. While we march for Trayvon and pack theaters to watch Fruitvale, I encourage everyone to call out these microaggressions and deconstruct the myth of Black inhumanity. We are human when we are born, not because we go to college, or because we wear bow ties. We are worthy because we are here.
gone agape is a blog that is centered around understanding the world with love as a compass. to go agape is to BE love. agape (uh-gop-ay) is the most divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional and thoughtful love.
to go apape is also to be open, and to find freedom in being honest about who you are. we may not always like what we find, but we must love it. and sometimes that means repairing the most broken parts of us. every post is a chance to challenge everything we have been taught, and unlearn when necessary. you don’t always have to agree, but you do have to be open to the process.