The Trayvon Martin Wound
A view from white privilege
Imagine a harmony that could be better described than just the climax of a Boyz II Men song. Imagine if the word peace didn’t have to share its pronunciation with a deadly weapon, holstered in the waistband of the malevolent. Imagine if acceptance was about common interests and not common color.
Imagine if the world hadn’t been exposed to the illogical murder of a young African-American boy at the hands of a bigot. Perhaps then, we would still impulsively believe we are closer to equality than we really are.
Oh, the amenity of deception is always much more bearable than certainty.
On February 26, Florida teen Trayvon Martin was chatting on his cellphone with his 16-year-old girlfriend when he was confronted--and then murdered--by George Zimmerman, a self-made neighborhood watch captain. Zimmerman had contacted 911 before the confrontation to report the teen as being suspicious, but despite 911 operators and police instruction to not follow the teen, he ignored them.
Though Zimmerman remains free, the FBI and Justice Department announced plans last week to investigate the case amidst public opinion of inadequacies by the Sanford Police Department. On Thursday, Sanford police chief Bill Lee Jr. stepped down from his duties in part due to criticism from civil rights leaders, who had called for his resignation over his mishandling of the case.
Though the immorality of racism is at the forefront of the case, there’s an underlying revelation that may be less sinister than racial assumption, but still poignant.
Have the authors of the Stand Your Ground law made the use of deadly force too easy?
What fears could George Zimmerman possibly have had of a 17-year-old boy he outweighs by more than 100 lbs? If he felt threatened by his confrontation with Trayvon Martin, how could he not have reasonably defended himself from a 120 pound teen carrying nothing but a plastic bottle of ice tea and pack of Skittles?
No rhyme, no reason.
Organized protests have began to extend from Florida to New York in support of Trayvon Martin. It’s quite graceful to witness Americans of all ethnicities, tied together like shoe laces, and marching to city streets in a kindred alliance reminiscent of the days after the September 11 attacks.
Athletes and celebrities have taken to Twitter, removed charismatic avatars, and took raw pictures of themselves in zipped up hoodies to show their new uniform of solidarity. Last night, between 5,000 and 8,000 supporters of Trayvon Martin took to the streets of Philadelphia, many adorned in hoodies themselves.
There was a time in a dismal history when "the hood" stood for evil in the African-American community. Now the irony of it ambushes the revulsion.
If only the harmony can continue to be sung.
The Trayvon Martin case is a doleful reminder of how little the betterment of race relations has come since the Rodney King beating, 22 years ago. There’s still a prejudice to the music, style and culture of today’s African-American youth. It continues to become the inspiration behind incidents of unprovoked profiling from those of white privilege.
That unjustifiable privilege--and complexion for protection--would be better used to speak for the voices of the minority, who are a hindered dissonance to ears not in tune with injustice. Being fully awakened involves facing a light that isn’t as comfortable as putting faith in a new days sunrise to be the only hope we have from the plight of yesterday.
I am white.
I am the color of that privilege.
I will never look inglorious in a hoodie and a fresh pair of white Nike’s. I will never be able to fathom how it feels to be presumed guilty before proven innocent. I will never be denied a job I’m well qualified for because the color of my skin.
What I can recognize is that erasing the dilemma of racism can be as natural as amicably coexisting. To raise my toddler, and future children, to acceptably coexist, because believe it or not, that’s the fight more challenging than anything that faces the future of our humanity.
Yet for many people like George Zimmerman, to coexist is more arduous than pulling a trigger and robbing an innocent child’s breath.
Imagining that, unfortunately, feels all too real.