Last night, Tin and I went to a Teach In offered by the Trayvon Martin Foundation. As we all filed into the back room of Special Tea, we were asked to write the first words that come to our minds about Power, Justice, Community and then we squeezed into chairs as the room became standing room only. Michael Wilson offered up how Trayvon Martin’s death and lynchings have much in common as Black bodies are perceived as criminal in public spaces and therefore we must be protected from them. Wilson also talked about the irony of George Zimmerman, a Latino man, identifying as white and meting out protection as a white person, but not fully understanding at the end of the day, he is not white, so now how does he return to the community he has distanced himself from? [This was a continuation of many conversations I had about GZ – a man with no where to hide – not even from himself.]
Wilson also highlighted the prescience of the following lyrics – they are to the Zimmerman verdict what fish are to water and this out of the mouth of an uneducated rapper.
Black man kill a black man, it’s cool they lovin dat
Black man kill a white man & the sentencin’ him to death
White man kill a black man then scream about self defense
Break it down to manslaughter wit all of the evidence
Samori Camara stood up and spoke about educating Black children outside of the institutionalized halls of racism. “Our dependency is our enemy,” Camara said. “We are dependent on the same group of people who got us into this to get us out of it. … We are at war! Will our children and grandchildren learn about Katrina is schools? No. Every 27 hours in this country a Black person is killed by a law enforcement officer or vigilante. … We need to educate our own children.”
A professor spoke about the many ways violence appears:
Cultural violence – a culture sharing group endorses, legitimizes, justifies and defends to enact direct or structural violence such as religion (read: Christianity’s anti-African American, anti-gay stance), ideology, science (Bell Curve) and laws.
Structural violence – systemic racism and the inability to meet basic needs as in making a living wage.
Symbolic violence – internalization of racism
Just as one of Wilson’s students was segueing into how social media helps activism and how it is not activism, we had to slip out because of Tin’s bedtime, but I left the meeting glad to have gone while at the same time depressed.
There were very few white faces in the meeting, which baffled me, as if the Zimmerman verdict and racism only affected Black people. I know that I had overheard and engaged in the outrage a lot of white people felt over the verdict, but where were they last night?
In 1903, W.E.B.Dubois asked the question that still stands today, “How does it feel to be a problem?”
And I wonder myself how can a white person even begin to understand the life of a Black person in this country?
I don’t think they can. It isn’t possible.
But just as a man could never understand what it is like to be raped, a man could surely understand rape is a bad thing, something that should be fought against, something that he should make every effort to ensure doesn’t happen to the women he knows. Similarly, knowing what Black people suffer in this country on an ongoing basis, you would think more white people would understand it is a bad thing, would want to fight against it, would show up because they want to make sure it doesn’t happen to any Black people they know.
One of the true ironies of the night was the Trayvon Martin Foundation said that we should be discussing profiling not race. As if race was not the single biggest cause of Trayvon Martin’s death.
As someone said last night, postracial thought is as destructive as racism.