I cannot, in fact, think of a single word with the same factual inaccuracy and potential to do great harm.
When we were out visiting other eating clubs on Saturday night, something we rarely do, KS and I saw no less than three Black-female-White-male couples dancing and making out. This prompted KS to comment on our “post-racial” society. I wanted to slap him upside the head and remind him that the caramel color of our skin serves as a legacy to the history of such interactions in our family trees and communities more broadly, but that’s too serious a conversation for the club, so I just rolled my eyes and reminded him that I’d fucked a White guy too, but that didn’t mean I thought we as a society or me as a person were “over” race.
I didn’t need a reminder as to why I don’t think we’re there yet (and have little faith, really, that we’ll ever GET there), but the news gave me one anyway, in the form of Trayvon Martin.
Trayvon Martin was a 17 year old high school junior. Trey, as he was known by family and friends, was visiting his father and stepmother in a gated community in Orlando, Florida, two weeks ago. During halftime of the basketball game he’d been watching with his father, he decided to walk to the local convenience store to pick up some snacks. On his way back to his dad’s house, he was spotted by George Zimmerman, a 28-year old White man serving as the Captain of the Neighborhood Watch in this gated community. Zimmerman found the sight of a young Black man walking alone through his neighborhood–never mind the fact that this young Black man was his neighbor’s SON–so “suspicious” and threatening that he called 911 to report the activity and jumped into his SUV to follow Trey. The 911 dispatcher told Zimmerman to stand down and let the police handle the situation from there. Zimmerman had other ideas, though. He confronted Trey, who supposedly gave Zimmerman a bloody nose during their altercation, and fatally shot him in the chest using the black Kie Tek 9 millimeter semi-automatic pistol he was carrying. The medical examiner found only Skittles, Arizona Iced Tea, and $22 in Trey’s pockets, but Zimmerman is claiming self-defense, and the authorities seem to believe him, because more than two weeks have passed, and no. charges. have. been. filed. against. Zimmerman.
I’m going to say that again. This White civilian–a Neighborhood Watch captain–thought a young Black kid “looked suspicious” as he walked down the street, so he shot him dead in the middle of the street on a Sunday evening and is getting away with it.
[Excuse me while I control my tears and rage, as I’m at work right now.]
From the Oxford English Dictionary:
Lynch (v.): The practice of inflicting summary punishment upon an offender, by a self-constituted court armed with no legal authority; it is now limited to the summary execution of one charged with some flagrant offence.
Show me one person who says this was not a modern-day lynching and I’ll show you a goddamned liar. A community watchman has no. fucking. authority. to. murder. a. teenage. boy. But the police aren’t filing charges against this man–who directly defied their orders and KILLED A MINOR. Show me one person who says race doesn’t matter anymore, and I’ll show you someone who is deaf, dumb, and blind. Trey was a KID. He was walking down the street with Skittles and iced tea. And just being in that neighborhood–where his father LIVES–was an offense worthy of taking his life. My father used to live in a gated community in Fort Lauderdale. If I were a boy–because, don’t forget, racism and sexism can never be fully separated, and Black men supposedly present more of a “threat” to White society with their very existence than do Black women–could I have been Trey Martin? The story Trayvon Martin’s mother is telling now is the same story told by Emmett Till’s mother, by the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and husbands and wives of the nearly 3,500 Black Americans who were lynched in the US between 1882 and 1968, and by the families of contemporary LGBT persons who have been killed by mob violence for their existence as non-heterosexual beings.
This is vigilante violence. This is MURDER and no one is doing anything. This is Jim Crow. This is sexualized racism and racialized sexism. The lack of response from the police and the mass media? That’s institutionalization. This is literally not being safe in one’s own body. This is oppression. This is hatred. This is why I do not fault my friend OO for telling me he needed a break from all the White people. Tell me race doesn’t matter, or that people don’t need to be afraid. I DARE you.
*drops mic, walks away*
[Meanwhile, on a smaller scale, Tumblr is threatening to take down Dumb Things White People Say for being “abusive” and “harassing,” while the vast majority of the blogs spewing White supremacist bullshit that DTWPS posts screenshots of have been defended by the Tumblr administrators as free speech. And click here to see what some White person evidently thinks I’m learning in my African-American studies classes (I don’t want this picture staring back at me for a week on my page). I’m done.]