In what world

Every once in a while, the lid on my box slips and I remember I’m not really living in post-racial America.  I try to keep that lid tightly clamped down, because otherwise I might find it difficult to function.  I don’t want to think about 17-year-0ld boys going out to buy a pack of Skittles and being murdered on the way home.  I don’t want to remember that justifiable fear is a black kid coming home from the 7-11 with some candy, and not a white man with a gun.

Some years ago a white man tried to have me arrested because he said I was “breaking into cars.”  I was on my way home from work and was carrying a briefcase.  Lucky for me the cop was black.

It’s not uncommon for people of color to be seen as criminals (or as a “suspect,” as George Zimmerman referred to Trayvon Martin).  But although sometimes mistaken identity is just annoying, it can just as easily be life-threatening.

Or deadly.

Then you find out what privilege really means.

Privilege means that you get to go home after shooting a black kid.  Privilege means that you didn’t get thrown down or made to lie face down while the cops disarmed you.  Privilege means that when you are finally charged, people will send hundreds of thousands of dollars to help you out.  Privilege means that people (white people) will say you were charged just because otherwise black people would riot in the streets, as if there is no good reason to riot or as if white people always do things to please black people.

Privilege means you can count on people (white people) “knowing” that the black guy did it.

Privilege means plenty of white people will speak on your behalf.  Privilege means that white people who have the job of finding out the truth will ignore the obvious, and will throw the weight of their privilege behind their opinion that you are a truthful sort of guy.  Privilege means other voices will be silenced or ridiculed or discounted or all three.

Privilege means what it feels like to lose one of your best friends in a violent act isn’t considered.  Privilege means that nothing could ever be so bad that white people couldn’t make it worse. Privilege is when you aren’t allowed to grieve and cry and rage because your son has been murdered, but instead you call for peace in your community.  Privilege is when you must mute your call for justice because justice has never been your right.   Privilege is when people without humanity refuse to see your own.

Privilege is a world in which calling a white person a “cracker” is the new racism.  And it means that a 17-year-old deserved to be shot to death.  Privilege means that because black people are just “playing the race card,” white people should win the game.

Privilege means defying all rationality when you look at the photographic evidence.  Privilege means blood defies gravity and does not drip downwards.  Privilege means that although somebody else died at your hands, the main concern is that your life is not ruined. 

Privilege means that some lives are worth more than others.  And privilege means that every idiot who quotes me the dictionary definition of racism (“The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others”) in defense of privilege never for one moment stopped to think that is exactly what I said.

5 thoughts on “In what world

  1. Great write-up, Resist. I often find myself going numb, or just covering up those little/big and very significant flaws of the dominantly white society I am living in, and try to rationalize why I am still living here when there is in fact so much danger – physical and non-physical. But very few see it that way, and I begin to think I’m surrounded by deranged or disillusioned people (who probably see me the same way). But like I was told once, ‘if everyone is crazy, then no one is crazy’.

    In my conversations with peers, elders and even youths – I find that virtually all of us have invested too much energy on pretense. So many deny or wish away the things that gnaw at us every single morning when we wake up and realize we are still here. Then justification sets in: We’re fine here, it’s better than back home, it’s safe at least, there’s no corruption (!), it’s not that bad, just ignore it, we get to work and earn money etc. In some cases this is perfectly ok to say, but it is not OK when it is a result of a very real cognitive dissonance that tries to deal with (c)overt racism and prejudice vs a ‘safer’ life.

    I will -not- retreat to the corner of my unlit room and pretend that once I leave it, the world will not in fact be anything like what you have described it here to be.

    My lids slips on sometimes, but I try my best to keep it off truth be told.

  2. @CHIMAOBI: I could relate. I try to make a conscious effort to keep the lid off myself but it seems to inevitably result in some level of marginalization by society. Countless times have I tried to kindly enlighten others about the dichotomy of racism and privilege only to hear the rebuttals of pretense and justification predicated on the denial of the underlying truth.

  3. I’m a mom, white, Canadian – and the pictures in that gallery will haunt me. My son wears hoodies all the time (he’s 27 now), regularly smokes weed, and walks places.

    And the gulf between me and young Mr. Martin’s mother, the knowing that any time my son leaves the house, he’s at risk of someone like Zimmerman deciding he doesn’t belong and then shooting him for it…I cannot imagine living with that kind of awful sick feeling. I saw that picture of that poor young man’s sneaker-clad foot sticking out from under that cover, and it just about broke me.

    We have GOT to clean up our shit, white folk. We have to stop this shit. WE, WHITE PEOPLE, have to take responsibility for stopping it. It’s immoral to expect the people whom people like us are abusing and killing to bear the weight of stopping us. Us. We make the society in which that asshole decided it made sense to shoot a young man for walking on “the wrong block”. It’s an obscenity, and we need to bear the burden of making it stop.

    Thanks for the excellent write-up, Resistance. I hope the trial, as horrific as it’s being, comes to the just conclusion, and that Trayvon’s loved ones get a feeling that justice is properly served. We can’t bring back their little boy, but we can make damn sure that others like Zimmerman know that if they do this, they will be punished.

  4. I just keep not saying things.
    I suppose it’s similar to your box.
    I spend a lot of time around white people and at work they have CNN on 24/7 – so the trial is on.

    I ask about people’s plans for the 4th, about what movies are out, about what books they’ve read/tv they’ve watched.

    I don’t want to know how they feel about this trial because I’m afraid I already do.
    So I just keep not saying things.

  5. I don’t think it’s denial so much as it is keeping everything stuffed down. Because the reality is otherwise I wouldn’t be able to function.

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