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Racism, Whiteness, Unconsciousness, and the Legacy of Trayvon Martin (1)
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Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!
So let me see if I understand what just happened…
Is that about it?
“Again the system has failed us. “How? How? I don’t know how.”
- Jewell Miller, who has an infant daughter with Eric Garner.
All true. A New York grand jury failed to indict white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the choke-hold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, this past July. Sadly, I’m not surprised. After the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri failed to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, another unarmed black man, it’s what I expected.
And black people across the United States are reconfirmed in the knowledge that their lives are less valuable than the lives of white people. The lack of trust in law enforcement by black people grows stronger. And many white folks don’t understand. And the wide gulf between us grows wider; seemingly insurmountable. Read the rest of this entry »
In response to my March 23 post — “Trayvon Martin: thoughts from a white parent” — a reader posted the following comment:
It is a tragedy when anyone is murdered, but let’s be clear. There is no comparison here. Black people murdering white people is statistically rare. Black people murdering white people because of race is almost unheard of. Yet this type of ill-informed and misplaced paranoia may well have contributed to George Zimmerman’s pursuit and killing of an innocent, unarmed black youth half his own size. According to the Miami Herald, neighbors in his gated community claim Zimmerman has been fixated on crime and “focused on young, black males.”
Additionally, throughout U.S. history, the consequences for white-on-black crime have been, and continue to be, vastly different than for black-on-white crime. Among the plethora of sources of clear and conclusive evidence, Michelle Alexander’s broadly-researched, and well-documented book, The New Jim Crow presents a clear look at just how different the consequences are for black and white people in the criminal justice system today.
If a young black man had been walking around his neighborhood with a gun, encountered a white man, and said he felt threatened and shot him to death, he would be in jail; yes, even in Florida with the “Stand Your Ground” law in place. Throughout history, black-on-white crime has generally been investigated and prosecuted far more vigorously than has white-on-black crime.
Yet, I will not be surprised when George Zimmerman is arrested one day soon. I fully expect him to be prosecuted. But I also believe it will be as a result of the ongoing public outcry in this case. If Trayvon Martin’s death had not made the national radar screen, had not gone viral through Facebook and Twitter, the initial decision to not arrest or investigate Mr. Zimmerman would no doubt have been the final decision; which has so often been the case in similar situations that never make the national news.
Trayvon Martin was killed, in large part, because white male supremacy continues as the driving force in the United States of America. I encourage those who doubt my words to take the White Privilege Pop Quiz developed by Molly Secours. She posted it for anyone to share “with friends, family members and co-workers who are perhaps curious, doubtful or even insistent that such a thing as ‘white privilege’ doesn’t exist.”
I’ve participated in Coming to the Table since 2006 in order to understand and acknowledge more fully how the wounds inflicted by the historic system of American slavery (and the many forms of racism it spawned) continue to harm all of us today, and what I can do to help heal those wounds. The story of the ongoing healing journey will be published in October in Gather at the Table.
I hope the person who wrote the comment above will seriously ponder how he/she contributes either to further separation, alienation, and trauma, or to acknowledging the truth, and healing. As long as people rationalize racism, we will perpetrate the system of white supremacy that has haunted this country for centuries, and we will continue to not live up to our founding ideals of liberty, equality, and justice for all.
That is what we should not stop thinking about.
To understand one significant aspect of the legacy of slavery and its profound impact today, one needs to look no further than the “criminal justice” system in the United States. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery by Another Name, Douglas A. Blackmon exposes with devastating clarity how the criminal justice system was utilized to replace slavery as a tool to keep tens of thousands of African Americans enslaved until World War II.
By the time this practice ended, government-endorsed Jim Crow laws were firmly in place to maintain a caste system in which white people were firmly in place at the top and black people at the bottom of American society and power. It wasn’t until the successes achieved through the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s that Jim Crow finally ended. Read the rest of this entry »