Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Things White People Say...

This is a list made in response to how some folks have handled Trayvon Martin's death. I present:

 Fifteen things white people say when they would rather say "Fuck Whining Niggers".

1. You know Arabs owned slaves right?

2. Black people did too.

3. If he wasn't guilty, why did he run?

4. Why not just let the police search you and your car if you're innocent?

5. Why don't black people march for black-on-black crimes?

6.  My ancestors didn't own slaves, I don't see why I can't get a job or go to school because of Affirmative Action.

7. Maybe if you didn't look so dangerous you wouldn't have so many problems

8. Of course racism is still kind of a problem, sort of.

9. I can't be racist, I have black friends.

10. Black people are more racist than any other race.

11. You don't hear the Asians and Mexicans whining about racism, they just go to work.

12. Why can't black people try to be colorblind like me and my friends?

13. Stereotypes are based on facts.

14. I don't have all the facts and I think it's unfair to make a decision without all the facts.

15. Look like a thug, die like a thug.



Thursday, March 22, 2012

It Is All About Y'all

"Where are all the black leaders and marches when a black person kills another black person in the street?"

Human beings have a favorite response to information they dislike, distrust or that discomfits. It's called deflection. Visit any website where a mixed crowd of conservatives and liberals gathers, and you'll see tons of deflection in the largely anonymous comments posted at the end of stories.

Trayvon Martin's death has not changed that fact. While many black people believe the circumstances surrounding his death provide a perfect example of  how little value some people still attach to a black life, for other folks that's not even a consideration. As millions express outrage and disgust at the child's death and the police handling of the case, others quietly and loudly seethe at what they see as black America's myopic focus on race, and its impact on black lives. They just see us complaining again.

These complaints do not provoke introspection, but instead encourage avoidance. People want to avoid examining why they find it plausible that an unarmed black youth posed a life-threatening danger to an armed white man. They don't want to consider why the police have made the strange choices they've made.
Instead, many of them want to figure out exactly how this little black boy was responsible for his own death because that dovetails perfectly with their belief that this is true for most black men who die. More importantly, they are distraught that this single death has galvanized the black community and dominated the airwaves and Internet, and they grasp at straws to explain why this response is completely unjustified.

"If black people got this upset when these little thugs shot each other in the street, crime would disappear."  
There is persistent belief that black people like crime. We supposedly encourage and protect criminals and are always openly hostile to the kindly police just trying to do their jobs. We bring our misery upon ourselves, mainly because that's our natural state.

That belief is a part of most conversations about crime among white folks, particularly when they don't have to worry about being identified by black folks. Many of them loathe Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson only slightly more than they dislike the NAACP, so whenever Ministers INC descends upon an issue it is a clear sign that something shady is afoot. It's a clear sign that it's time to remove the benefit of the doubt.

 White people, and I use that term to refer to the group as a whole not to everyone within the group, believe that if black people really wanted things to change, they would. If we didn't want drug dealers spreading their poison, it would cease. They calmly ignore the fact that their children and peers are just as likely to be addicts as ours, more likely in fact according to several reports. They ignore this fact because those addictions do not create violence, which seems to be confined largely to the neighborhoods inhabited by black folks. Clearly, it's the black folks who are the problem, not the drugs and the poverty.

This persistent certainty that we encourage, foster and cherish violence is why so many people feel the irresistible urge to bring up black-on-black crime in a discussion about the violent shooting death of an unarmed child by a man violating police commands. It's why so many people cannot help but note that if black folks didn't do so many bad things they wouldn't get treated so poorly. It's why certain folks in certain places have tried their hardest to find reasons to impune Trayvon Martin's character.

This latest tragedy cannot be the fault of American racism and discrimination because black folks bring their problems upon themselves. White folks do not need to consider the larger ramifications of this death or what it says about American culture. They do not need to consider exactly how stereotypes and assumptions can be fatal. Black people are to blame. Period.

We always have been, and we always will be.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

When Death Visited Sanford

Dead people are a regular part of my life.

I see them and the aftermath of their deaths quite frequently. My job requires that I'm there when people die violently, and I must sort through what gets left behind.

As I listened to the Trayvon Martin 911 calls it struck me that my life is not normal. The lives of the people who live in the neighborhoods where I see recurring violence are not normal. We do not have the same reaction to real violence that most Americans have, and that says something profound.

Those tapes show a neighborhood in distress. People are amazed, shocked and frightened that gunshots have disturbed their tranquil neighborhood and they understandably fear for their safety and the safety of their loved ones. It is clear as they talk to police that gunshots are not something they are used to.

This is a neighborhood more familiar with dog walking and the occasional property crime than murder. It is not a place of bodies and blood. One woman, who was several streets away from the shooting, was so distressed that police discussed possibly sending out a crime victim counselor to discuss the incident with her just to help her cope. And she never even saw Trayvon Martin.

Those tapes made me think how different life can be for different people. In the neighborhoods where gunshots are background noise, and dead bodies and makeshift memorials are the norm, people have much more subdued reactions to violence. Death becomes a spectacle, an event that gathers people together to interact. There is some sadness, particularly from distraught family members, but many of the people who gather whenever another young black man dies aren't deeply moved. Their lives are so closely intertwined with death that the departure of a soul from a body has become borderline blase.

But what does that do to a person? The people of Sanford were crying, wailing and shaking when a stranger died in the midst. Their reactions make sense when you consider the awesome finality and pain of death. But, do people have the luxury of such a visceral reaction when every day could bring another body? Can you allow death to sear your soul if it comes more frequently than the rain? You can't allow it because it would be impossible to function. But what do you lose by cauterizing that part of your soul? 

What do those of us who see death so regularly lose? How does it change the way we see the world and treat others? What type of world does it create? Why are some people, those who live in dangerous neighborhoods, forced to carry that burden?



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trayvon Martin and Truth About America

There are certain hard, unpopular truths about America that rarely get discussed.

1. This country was never intended to be a meritocracy, has never operated as a meritocracy. Injustice is just as much a bedrock of this country as man's inalienable rights.

2. The law has typically been used to maintain the status quo.

It's important to note these unassailable facts because in the case of Trayvon Martin, these facts are not only what led to his death, but they have also allowed his murderer to walk the streets as a free man. It's not enough to decry Martin's death as an unspeakable tragedy and sympathize with his grieving family. No, it must be noted that his death is just the latest salvo in an ongoing war against the rights of minorities, and a recent incarnation of a longstanding meme that black and brown lives are worth less.

Those who think this country is truly concerned with justice and equality must examine those beliefs under the harsh glare of a case where an armed, adult white male accosts a smaller, unarmed, black teenager for no crime, but because he deemed the youth "suspicious." This man demands that this child "present his papers" and when the child takes offense, they scuffle. This man is somehow bested by a child he outweighs by more than 100 pounds, and decides that his life is so endangered that he's justified in killing the young man. That's right, the larger more aggressive suspect who accosted the innocent bystander kills him and then claims it was self defense.

And the police have accepted this explanation.

Clearly this is not the more common scenario that typically surrounds the slaying of an unarmed black man, where a police officer in a pressure-filled situation overreacts and points to the threat of potential death. This is not the case of a homeowner protecting his property, even under the most dubious claims..

No, in this incident, a man sought a fight, found a fight and then killed a child when the fight didn't go his way. And he did it all despite commands from law enforcement to stand down. That's what makes this incident such a prime example of the injustice that dominates America. This man's actions, and the response from authorities, is driven by the idea that a white man who kills a black man has an inherent right to take that action. More importantly, a black man who is killed, probably deserves it.

Honestly, this can't be surprising to people. A quick perusal of the evening news, or the pages of your local newspaper will show that black men are violently killed at an alarming rate, typically by other black men. It's impossible not to note how these deaths are often viewed as part of the status quo, while the deaths of non-blacks, particularly whites, are viewed as a sign of the coming Apocalypse. This media quirk, it is a business decision made based on the stark realities of life in this country. Black lives are worth less.

Trayvon Martin's murder, and it was a murder, has not captivated the nation's consciousness because on a certain level, his death is to be expected. As a black teenage male, he was living on borrowed time in this country where far too many of his peers still view reaching age 21 as an accomplishment and age 30 as a miracle. Any suffering he endures is almost always going to be believed to be his fault or the fault of those charged with caring for him. It's why so many folks have rushed to defend Zimmerman's actions by providing anecdotes about their own encounters with dangerous black youth. These reactions are driven by the conscious and unconscious belief that black people, particularly the males, are inherently dangerous and sometimes need to be put down. Mistakes will be made, but the end justifies the means.

That is what is so infuriating about the situation. It's as if black people can see this obvious reality, but we're constantly being told it's all in our minds. We know what it's like to be black, and about half of us know what's it's like to be black and male. We see the tightrope we walk, and we learn from youth the consequences of falling.

But too many other folks are caught up in the American myth..


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Racism killed Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin.

You may have heard the name already. If you haven't, it's the name of the latest victim of America's racism. Because while it may have been Neighborhood Watch Commando George Zimmerman who shot and killed Martin as the boy walked back to his father's Florida home, it was racism that was truly responsible. The racism that is so deeply embedded into the psyche of so many Americans that it makes it only smart for every black person to constantly keep their head on a swivel.

Martin died because black boys are suspicious. They are suspicious, they are dangerous, they are frightening, they are criminal, they are evil. That's what racism teaches us. Black boys in a neighborhood with white people are a clear sign that something is wrong. Black boys deserve to be questioned, they deserve to be confronted and ultimately, they deserve to die.

If you don't believe that, you haven't been paying attention. You haven't looked behind the thin veneer of proactive policing and "stop and frisk" to see the ugly truth. Just being black is probable cause. It is an indelible brand that marks you as a deviant. You have been identified, cataloged and eventually you will be put in your place. Trayvon Martin was put in his place for sure. He was killed on a sidewalk despite being unarmed, despite being in the neighborhood where his father lived, and despite having just as much right to American air as any other citizen. And the 25-year old man who shot and killed him in cold blood was set free by police.

I have two black boys. They're small now. Still in that cute stage where people of all races smile at them and want to pat their heads. But, one day that will change. One day they will be threats. And it won't just be people of other races who see them that way, it will be black people as well. I'm guilty. I'm guilty of seeing groups of black boys and girding up my loins. My wife is too. We're guilty of believing the hype.

Racism is that strong.

But, are we stronger? Are we strong enough as a nation to make an example out of Mr. Zimmerman. To make it abundantly clear that his actions are not acceptable. That he can't explain away the unjustified murder of a black boy using the same tired racial code words and lies. Will the American justice system do that to a white man? Will that message be sent? Or will black folks receive one more reminder of what our lives are worth, and what the lives of our children are worth?

Time will tell.


Raving Black Lunatic