Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Trayvon Martin, Je Te Plumerai

h/t and best wishes for P6

via Bomani Jones

Warning: this will be long.

Trayvon Martin, And When A Black Man Deserves To Die

My jones for Bomani notwithstanding, I agree with him 100%. I just want to share my thoughts and feelings now, since they're . . . more readily accessible to me at the moment.

Now, there is a reason we jump to defend people with "pristine" images: wider (ie, whiter) America can support Rosa Parks whereas Claudette Colvin presents something of a problem. For them. Me? I got a lot of respect for Colvin, and all the other men and women who've challenged, intentionally or not, our racial status quo.

As well as all the innocent and unarmed men and women who've been shot and killed by the folks who're supposed to serve and protect. And in some cases, watch.

Cause I'm sure Trayvon Martin didn't have this in mind, talking on the cell to his girlfriend while walking home with some skittles (Taste the rainbow?) for a younger brother and a can of Arizona (ironic, huh?) iced tea. 

And I hella know George Zimmerman was only supposed to watch. That's watch as opposed to surveille.

Now, my Jones makes the point that this racialized suspicion of black men doesn't just reside in Zimmerman or Joe Oliver his black "uncle" to whom he's apparently not very close . It resides in . . . all of us, to be quite frank. Tim Wise points out that we live in "[a] society in which anti-black racism has been so long ingrained that not only most whites, but also most Latinos and Asian Americans, demonstrate substantial subconscious bias against African Americans in study after study of implicit racial hostility (and even about a third of blacks themselves demonstrate anti-black racism)." And listen, if the Rev. Jesse Jackson can admit it, then so can you. I strongly pray you to read Tim's aforementioned essay. The fact that I used the word "pray" in this manner should demonstrate the urgency and emotions of my request.

But a lot of questions have been raised by people who insist this incident (and, I imagine, their reaction to it) has nothing to do with race. They insist that Pres Obama was being divisive when he said if he had a son, that son would look like Trayvon. So let me address those issues:

  • I don't care if Trayvon was in Orlando trying to hide from CSI: Miami on murder charges. Zimmerman wouldn't have known. So all these "leaks" concerning his suspension from school and his picture with the gangsta-grill don't make a lick of difference.
  • You've seen Michelle and Pres. Obama's two daughters. If they had a son, he would look like Trayvon. Though, I do give you a few points for resisting the urge to suggest he actually could be Pres. Obama's son. Race baiter or an absent baby-daddy, I know it was a hard choice to make. I commend you for sticking with the more plausible, though equally as false, of the two.
  • The reason he doesn't look like your son, Newt Gingrich and Jonah Goldberg, is that your son is white! At least any legitimate ones cause I can't imagine an openly black woman who'd marry you.
  • That someone died would've been a tragedy no matter the race of the victim or perpetrator.
  • The black community is well concerned with black-on-black crime. You just don't know that because you don't live in the black community.
  • One reason we're code orange on this one is that the killer has not been arrested, nor the case properly and fully investigated. If you can point me to a case where a white teenager was killed, circumstance hardly investigated, and the killer still free and armed, I may change my tune. If you can show me a history of white men being killed with impunity, I will pinch myself and wake up.
  • Another reason we're near code red is that Trayvon's body sat in the morgue as a john doe at least until the next morning. No one called the last number dialed on his cell phone. No one checked his ID. If you can show me where that happened to a white kid, where their body sat in the morgue unidentified even though you had their cell phone and possibly an ID, I may change my tune.
Ultimately, the reason for the uproar is that this is not an isolated incidence. We've had it with policeman killing us with impunity. That's been a tough pill to swallow. That fact that Oscar Grant's killer was convicted of anything, even if not outright murder, did help; still, it only pinched the nose. But to tell us that a white man can shoot and kill an unarmed black boy and not even be arrested?! Ooooo, honey, honey, honey, honey chil'!!!  Damn it!! Somebody better hide the red button cause it's bout to be pressed! All y'all Fox hounds need to thank CNN and MSNBC for covering the issue like that have, otherwise. . .  Well, let me put it like this: in years past, black protest riots were centralized to black ghetto, but today, some of us live in gated community beside you.

So now, Bomani Jones:

Pop quiz: if Trayvon Martin were 25, would you care to know his name?

If he had just been released from prison two weeks earlier, would you care that he was dead?

Why do you care so much about what happened to this one particular young man?

I ask because so much of the outrage surrounding Martin’s shooting has to do with his age. He was 17, shot on the way home from buying a bag of Skittles and an iced tea from a corner store. The imagery is striking — this young, skinny kid, far away from home, shot dead by a vigilante while returning from buying candy for his little brother. It tugs the heart strings, and it gets attention from even those “tired of talking about race.” A boy died, and there appears to be ample reason to believe that he got shot for, literally, trying to mind his own business. It’s the rare case where race is an unavoidable variable, probably the catalyst for everything bad that happened, and there is no polarizing effect. That’s what happens when kids get shot. No one wants to be the one to condone a child being stalked like prey. It’s an easy case to get behind.

But if our victim wasn’t so pristine, not a babe in the woods, are we having this discussion?
Check the last quote in this story, offered by the now-kinda-resigned police chief in Sanford.
“We are taking a beating over this,” said Lee, who defends the investigation. “This is all very unsettling. I’m sure if George Zimmerman had the opportunity to relive Sunday, Feb. 26, he’d probably do things differently. I’m sure Trayvon would, too.”
The most annoying thing about being a black man is constantly having to explain what reason you have for being wherever the fuck you are at a given moment. George Zimmerman tracked Trayvon down because he was unfamiliar. As self-appointment overlord of the neighborhood, he needed to know who this odd black person was. In fact, based on the 911 calls, he needed to know who every unfamiliar black man was. When you’re black and male, you’ve always got a purpose. No one wants you just hanging around. It’s called “loitering,” in case you weren’t aware. No matter what, it would behoove a black man to have a helluva explanation for why he is doing whatever he’s doing. Because, if you wait long enough, someone is going to ask. If you don’t answer quickly enough, the cops will probably be called. And, if you don’t answer quickly enough, you might wish someone had called the cops, cuz they may have been your only hope for walking away unscathed.

Where’s your ID? Why are you here? Who’d you come to see? Hurry up and get where you’re going. We always have to prove we belong or, in other instances, that we deserve to be where we are.

In cases like this, we tend to try to figure out if the victim deserved to die. Did he have a weapon? Was he high? Was he behaving in a suspicious way? Was there any reason why someone may have thought, “I need to protect myself?” Or, put more simply, did he have it coming?

So what would have made it OK to shoot the kid? Or me, for that matter.

Not to get all self-indulgent, but with a hood on, 6-3, 140 pound Trayvon didn’t look much differently than I would. And I first would have walked quickly, then run. And if Zimmerman got out of his car and came toward me, I’d have swung on him. And then he would have shot me, and I would have been just as dead. Thing is, since I’m a grown man, chances are Zimmerman would have had some marks on his face for the cops to see.

Would you, after the fact, have then thought it was OK to shoot me?

For giggles, let’s say that Trayvon’s body was found with a gun nearby. This happened in a town I went to school in many years ago, where Irvin Landrum, Jr.,the victim of a police shooting, was found with a gun nearby. Cops claimed the young man drew down on them. The gun was once registered to a deceased former cop. The district attorney found no evidence the gun was planted, though.

For a second, forget whether or not the gun was planted. The real question is whether simply having the gun made it OK for cops to shoot this man. By that token, any cop riding in Sanford would have open season on George Zimmerman. He had a gun, after all. But we all know simply having a gun doesn’t mean you deserve to get shot. They wouldn’t license them if that were the case, no?

Had Trayvon Martin had a gun on him, would it have been OK to shoot him? Not had he pulled it. Just if he had it. Would that have been enough?

Those are the trickier questions when things like this come up. The biggest reason people feel so comfortable fighting on behalf of Martin and his family is there are no issues like those. He is a perfectly clean victim, the opposite of Rodney King.

Thing is, it’s not cool to shoot dirty victims for no reason, either. Had Martin been packing with a quarter-ounce of weed in his pocket, George Zimmerman still shouldn’t have followed and shot him. If Martin had a rap sheet long as my arm, there still would have been no reason to end his life. Bottom line: “looking suspicious,” is not probable cause, especially not for some dude who just lives in the damn neighborhood.

But so many black men look suspicious. The elephant in the room in this case is how mainstream the belief is that black men look “suspicious.” I’ve seen the outrage from many white people — and black ones, for that matter — that this could happen, but not a lick of introspection.
It’s not hard to look on the Internet and find black men writing stories about their personal experiences with the police. My sister wrote about what missing children mean to her as a survivor of the Atlanta Child Murders.

But is there anyone out there documenting how this case made them realize how scared they truly are of black men? Is there a blog post out there about how someone, like Zimmerman, finds black men suspicious and now realizes how faulty that thinking was? Where are these people who have crossed the street when they’ve seen me coming? Where are the cops talking about how they erroneously hassled young black men, accused them of being gang members, or all the other stuff I’ve had to deal with? Where are the old ladies talking about how they’ve called the cops on guys who may have been doing little more than walking back home?

I’m personally tired of hearing about how this affects black people. Quite honestly, there’s little for the average black person to learn from this. Most of us know the deal with police. We just know, now, we gotta worry the same about fuckin rent-a-cops. But trust, we knew people were afraid of us. We learn that at a very early age and deal accordingly.

But listen to Zimmerman on the 911 tape. Listen to how calm he sounds. And listen to how predictable everything he says is (including not even mentioning the black part at first, but it was clear what he was saying). We’ve heard people say stuff like this before because…people say stuff like this. But if you turn on CNN or any other place, you’ll find dozens of people saying this sort of flawed and irrational thinking happens all the time…but not a soul out here saying, “damn, this made me look at myself differently.”

Once again, we’ve got all this racism…but the only racist to be found is George Zimmerman. Who, as many have gone out of their way to point out, is part-Hispanic. FWIW, his last name is Zimmerman. So there’s that, as if anyone should truly care about either fact.

Bad news, folks: there’s a great chance you’re part of the problem on this. I’m not judging anyone. We all grew up in this country, surrounded by this racism, bombarded by images from the same media. It takes conscious resistance to avoid judging black people in this country, especially when it comes to men and criminality.

But please, read through what I wrote here. Think about some of the more basic elements of this story. Then, ask yourself how many of them sound personally familiar. If they do, please change.

Because just like Trayvon Martin got shot, it could have been me. I may be “famous,” but I wouldn’t make nearly as good of a victim. I’d just be a dead black man, not a boy, and that’s something few seem to care about.

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This isn't too complicated. If you disagree with me, I'm more than happy to have an honest discussion. I'm quite open to learning new facts and ideas. I'm dying for a conservative to explain their ideas in a sensible way.

But, I do have rules, and they also apply to those who agree with me. They just get the benefit of my already knowing the fact they'll be referring to.

So, here're the comment thread rules:

1 - Use facts.
2 - Refer to policy.
3 - Don't rely on theories and conjectures. Show me how, for example, a public health insurance option will lead to "rationing" of health care.
4 - No unfounded attacks on any entity.

If you break those rules, I will edit your comment to my own whimsical satisfaction.

Lastly, perhaps most importantly, I'm not going to entertain too much pro-white/racism-denying discussion. I want this to be a space to discuss strategies to fight racism, not space where I have to fight racism. I want anti-racists to be able to come here for a mental respite. If what you're interested in doing is attempting to demonstrate the fallacy of anti-racism by repeating the same ole comments and questions and accusations we hear all the time, please do that somewhere else.

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