Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wardrobe Malfunctions

Trayvon Martin (from
Until a week or so ago, I had never heard of Trayvon Martin.  Trayvon was a 17 year old boy who was shot and killed by a man named George Zimmerman.  Zimmerman was part of a neighborhood watch group, and he began to follow Trayvon back to his father's house in that same neighborhood because he thought Trayvon looked 'suspicious'.  There is a 911 recording of the incident, an account by a friend of Trayvon's that was talking with him on the phone when Zimmerman was following him, and other eyewitness accounts.  Zimmerman says it was self defense, but all other evidence seems to indicate otherwise.  But, weeks after the shooting, Zimmerman still has not been investigated of any wrongdoing, much less arrested.
There has been a huge social media following of this case, and this is really my only knowledge of the incident.  I haven't watched Fox News or Jon Stewart, or listened to NPR for any reports, but if Facebook is any indication, the outrage over the lack of police follow up into this shooting is not about the die down any time soon--and it shouldn't.  I think it is sad and very telling that so much of the outrage is from people whose skin is a darker skin tone than mine is.  You see, Trayvon Martin was black, and the sad fact is that if it was a white kid who was shot by a black man in the same circumstances, the pursuit of justice would look a lot different.  People can sugar coat it or try to spin it however they want, but that is the truth.
I have been trying to articulate my thoughts about this whole situation all week, but just haven't been able to get it down in writing.  Then, today, I found this post by a man named Michael Skolnik, called 'White People, You Will Never Look Suspicious Like Trayvon Martin!', and I think he absolutely nailed it.  Normally, I would just link back up to his post, but I wanted to include the entire post here.  I don't know if anyone will ever even read this, or even agree with it, but I think it is an important enough issue that I would want my boys to know where I stand on it all if they stumble upon this one day.
Here is Mr. Skolnik's post.  You can read the original post here.
I will never look suspicious to you. Even if I have a black hoodie, a pair of jeans and white sneakers fact, that is what I wore yesterday...I still will never look suspicious. No matter how much the hoodie covers my face or how baggie my jeans are, I will never look out of place to you.  I will never watch a taxi cab pass me by to pick someone else up. I will never witness someone clutch their purse tightly against their body as they walk by me.  I won't have to worry about a police car following me for two miles, so they can "run my plates."  I will never have to pay before I eat. And I certainly will never get "stopped and frisked."  I will never look suspicious to you, because of one thing and one thing only.  The color of my skin.  I am white.
I was born white.  It was the card I was dealt.  No choice in the matter.  Just the card handed out by the dealer. I have lived my whole life privileged. Privileged to be born without a glass ceiling. Privileged to grow up in the richest country in the world.  Privileged to never look suspicious.  I have no guilt for the color of my skin or the privilege that I have.  Remember, it was just the next card that came out of the deck.  But, I have choices.  I got choices on how I play the hand I was dealt.  I got a lot of options.  The ball is in my court.  
So, today I decided to hit the ball.  Making a choice.  A choice to stand up for Trayvon Martin. 17 years old. black. innocent. murdered with a bag of skittles and a bottle of ice tea in his hands. "Suspicious." that is what the guy who killed him said he looked like cause he had on a black hoodie, a pair of jeans and white sneakers.  But, remember I had on that same outfit yesterday.  And yes my Air Force Ones were "brand-new" clean.  After all, I was raised in hip-hop...part of our dress code.  I digress.  Back to Trayvon and the gated community in Sanford, Florida, where he was visiting his father.
I got a lot of emails about Trayvon.  I have read a lot of articles.  I have seen a lot of television segments.  The message is consistent.  Most of the commentators, writers, op-ed pages agree.  Something went wrong.  Trayvon was murdered.  Racially profiled. Race. America's elephant that never seems to leave the room. But, the part that doesn't sit well with me is that all of the messengers of this message are all black too.  I mean, it was only two weeks ago when almost every white person I knew was tweeting about stopping a brutal African warlord from killing more innocent children.  And they even took thirty minutes out of their busy schedules to watch a movie about dude.  They bought t-shirts.  Some bracelets. Even tweeted at Rihanna to take a stance.  But, a 17 year old American kid is followed and then ultimately killed by a neighborhood vigilante who happens to be carrying a semi-automatic weapon and my white friends are quiet.  Eerily quiet. Not even a trending topic for the young man.
We've heard the 911 calls. We seen the 13 year old witness.  We've read the letter from the alleged killer's father.  We listened to the anger of the family's attorney.  We've felt the pain of Trayvon's mother.  For heaven's sake, for 24 hours he was a deceased John Doe at the hospital because even the police couldn't believe that maybe he LIVES in the community.   There are still some facts to figure out. There are still some questions to be answered.  But, let's be clear.  Let's be very, very clear. Before the neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, started following him against the better judgement of the 911 dispatcher.  Before any altercation.  Before any self-defense claim.  Before Travyon's cries for help were heard on the 911 tapes.  Before the bullet hit him dead in the chest.  Before all of this.  He was suspicious.  He was suspicious. suspicious. And you know, like I know, it wasn't because of the hoodie or the jeans or the sneakers.  Cause I had on that same outfit yesterday and no one called 911 saying I was just wandering around their neighborhood.  It was because of one thing and one thing only.  Trayvon is black.
So I've made the choice today to tell my white friends that the rights I take for granted are only valid if I fight to give those same rights to others.  The taxi cab. The purse. The meal. The police car. The police. These are all things I've taken for granted.  
So, I fight for Trayvon Martin.  I fight for Amadou Diallo.  I fight for Rodney King.  I fight for every young black man who looks "suspicious" to someone who thinks they have the right to take away their freedom to walk through their own neighborhood.  I fight against my own stereotypes and my own suspicions. I fight for people whose ancestors built this country, literally, and who are still treated like second class citizens.  Being quiet is not an option, for we have been too quiet for too long.
And that is it.  I read it and was nodding my head the whole time.  Then, I got to the comments section, and people were writing all kinds of mean comments about Mr. Skolnik and his article.  I guess some people will think the same thing about this post, but I really feel it is important for me to put out there.
"Being quiet is not an option, for we have been too quiet for too long".

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