Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Trashing Trayvon - Another Reason for Some People Not to Care

We're at the point of the Trayvon Martin case that we have heard before - the victim 'deserves it'...

Over the past several days hundreds of thousands of people have gone on social media, conventional media, cable news, water cooler conversation, all of us, whether we have snippets of information or who have followed the story closely, have supported the late teen-ager as the unarmed victim. George Zimmerman, the armed, self-appointed neighborhood watch captain and self-confessed shooter, has been portrayed as the man who killed this young man because he looked 'threatening'.

From the very beginning this has been viewed through the prism of race. It has evoked the deepest fears of the black community that any black man, young or old, can be viewed as 'other'. So much so, that their very lives are endangered. This is a warning in some way issued by nearly every black parent to every black son, as soon as they get old enough to go anywhere by themselves or hang with their friends. And now that the backlash has started, it actually confirms the validity of those warnings.

The warnings to young black men to pull up their pants, about how to speak to people in authority, to how to carry themselves in a 'non-threatening' manner are warnings meant to help these young men be taken seriously, but also not to be thought of as 'criminals'.

What has been interesting is to see how many black journalist, reveal their own stories of how they were warned by their parents of how to be deferential to authorities - not because its right to do so, but because they are vulnerable to injustice. Other well known black leaders who are teaching their sons, how to dress, how to speak, to be careful to make 'non-threatening' moves if confronted by the police.

Now, the 'blame the victim' contingent have appeared. Tweets of him looking more 'street' than the innocent photographs that we've seen currently. Stories of school suspension from school for 'traces' of marijuana in a plastic bag in his backpack. Other stories that are meant to show that Trayvon Martin wasn't the 'ideal' teen people for whom people throughout this country have shown such great sympathy.

But that's the way it tends to be. This is a country with a contingent of citizens who accept the concept of racism's reality, but who never seem to be able to identify racists; the admit there is poverty in America, but it can never be the result of divorce, or the death of a spouse or a parent. Homeless people are homeless because they want to live on the streets. Poor children can never be hungry because their parents can't afford food or live in substandard housing because of a negligent landlord. Students can never drop out because of an educational system staggering under the wait of standardized test mania. It has to be poor personal choices; it has to be people who have been unable to prepare for every possible misfortune; it has to be irresponsible parents and students who don't want to learn.

And now of course, Trayvon is dead because he wasn't as 'squeaky clean' as we all have been made to believe.

Here some facts: it makes no difference whether or not Trayvon was squeaky clean. He was a young man headed to his father's home after going to a convenience store. He was confronted by a man with a gun and he was unarmed. He was an unarmed black youth, racially profiled and who was left in a morgue for three days before his parents were notified.

Trayvon's killer was not arrested. He remains at large. His parents and the nation have questions and they deserve to have those questions answered through due process.

Trayvon Martin is dead...

And now Trayvon's name and his character are being attacked by those for whom its easier to believe that blacks are inherently criminal, just as it's easy for them to believe that all poor people are poor because they want to be, or all students fail because they are irresponsible children who come from irresponsible homes.

When you believe these things you don't have to feel. You don't have to care. Nothing outside your point of reference has to matter. And you don't have to be inconvenienced by the realization that the world is not as safe, or as secure as you've always dreamed it was.

And you don't have to be bothered by feeling the impetus to do anything to make this world any better.

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