More of the same

So for those who are interested… here’s the text of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stand-your-ground_law#Florida

I know I’ve written about this once already, and I know it’s straying a little far afield from the main purpose of this blog.  But I’m writing about it again, because I’m still angry, and because this is the only place I have to voice that anger.

I’m angry because there seem to be so many people trying so very hard to find mitigating factors to exonerate Zimmerman.  Trayvon had disciplinary problems at school.  Trayvon had been caught with a plastic baggie that may or may not have contained marijuana at some point.  Trayvon had pictures of himself online dressed “thuggishly,” with gold teeth and baggy pants, and sent tweets containing tough-guy talk.  And perhaps the favorite one – Trayvon fought back.  Heck, he might even have swung first.

And you know what?  I don’t care.  I really, really could not give less of a shit.  Because you are not allowed to kill someone because they acted up in school.  You are not allowed to kill someone because they smoked pot.  You are not allowed to kill someone because you don’t like their clothes or the way they talk.  You are not allowed to kill people, morons!!  Full stop!

As for the charges that Trayvon attacked Zimmerman first – god, I hope so.  I hope that asshole got punched in the nose at least once.  Want to know why?  Go back up there and read the wording of that law again.  Read it carefully.  Go ahead; I’ll wait.

There ain’t a damn thing in it that exonerates Zimmerman.  But it exonerates Trayvon.

Trayvon didn’t come on to Zimmerman’s property.  He didn’t  brandish a weapon and wasn’t in the process of committing a felony.  He was walking a little slowly, looking around a lot, despite the fact that it was raining – weird, sure, but hey, some folks like the rain, whatevs.  Hardly something that any rational person would consider an imminent threat to their life or safety.  Zimmerman, on the other hand, left his house to follow this kid around the neighborhood (despite having been told not to) with a gun. 

So picture this.  You’re a kid.  You’re out after dark, but you’re in a public place where you have every legal right to be.  And a large adult man with a gun has been obviously following you for some time now.  Think you’d feel threatened?  I think I would.  I think the law might agree I had every right to.

So no, I don’t know what happened during the confrontation.  But even if Trayvon did attack Zimmerman, I think you could make a really good case that he was entirely justified in doing so – based on the very same law Zimmerman is citing to excuse murder.

And there are so many people bending over backwards trying to insist that it’s not about race, we shouldn’t make it about race… and y’know, I’d really like to believe that, I’d really like to live in a world where  people don’t get shot for the color of their skin, but a) so what?  Even if it’s not about race, it’s still about murder; it just feels like the people insisting Zimmerman isn’t a racist have convinced themselves that if true, that will magically also mean he’s not a murderer, and b) …I just don’t buy it.

I don’t buy it because my husband can wear a hoodie and nobody thinks he’s suspicious.  I don’t buy it because my brother got arrested for smoking pot once, and had a few disciplinary problems in high school, yet nobody thinks he’s a thug.  I don’t buy it because I can – and do – walk around my neighborhood in the dead of night, even when it’s drizzling, walking slowly and staring absently around, and nobody confronts me, calls the cops, or thinks I’m on drugs.

And if you don’t think it’s because we’re white, then I got a bridge you might be interested in.

And I don’t buy it because of the sheer defensiveness of the response.  The angry denial that it could have anything to do with race just smacks of “methinks the lady doth protest too much.”  Why are you angry?  Why is it so important to you to prove that it’s not about race?  Could it be because deep down, you kinda know it is, and maybe you’re a little ashamed and don’t want to admit it to yourself?  Because that’s how it’s coming off.

And right now I’m… I’m angry, and grieved, but also frustrated.  Because I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know if there’s anything to do.  There are protests and vigils in Sanford, but they’re all while I’m at work – and even though I know, intellectually, that I really can’t take off any more time (not if I don’t want to get fired, that is)… it doesn’t keep me from feeling like a slack-ass who talks big but doesn’t do anything. 

And I’m frustrated because racism isn’t dead, and because the burden is on me and people who look like me to change that fact – and I don’t even know where to start.  I mean, hell, I was raised in about the least-racist environments you can think of, but I absorbed it.  I’m aware of it.  I’ve had kneejerk thoughts I’m not proud of – and if I don’t even know how to get those unconscious prejudices out of my OWN mind, how on earth can we work on getting them out of society as a whole?

I’ve got a kid to raise, or I will soon enough.  I don’t want her to grow up in a world where racism exists, even though it won’t be directed at her.  I don’t want her to absorb those unconscious stereotypes.  I sure as hell don’t want her to perpetuate them.  But I have no fucking clue what to do.

Shameful Relief

Privilege.  Privi-lege.  Private law.  One law for me, another for thee.

So I’ve been following the story of Trayvon Martin.  It’s a story that evokes a lot of emotions (outraged disbelief among them – like the article in the local paper where Zimmerman’s father categorically denied that his son followed and shot this young man, saying flat out “it’s lies.”  What, does he think the kid tripped and fell on Zimmerman’s bullets??), but the one that’s coming through the strongest, and that I’m the least proud of, is relief.  Relief that when the ricebaby enters the world… she’s going to be white.

Not that being female in this world is a cakewalk.  But I can walk around my neighborhood at night, moving slowly and staring off into the distance, and my neighbors will only assume I’ve got a lot on my mind or perhaps I’m daydreaming – not that I’m on drugs or looking for trouble.  I can rummage through my pockets or bags, and no one jumps to the conclusion that I’m looking for a weapon.  Wearing a hoodie only makes me look cute, not menacing.  If I get angry with a cop, get up in his face yelling, he might add some extra charges to a ticket… but I know damn well I’m not going to get dragged from my car, beaten, or shot.  And if, by some tragic accident, someone does hurt or kill me, I know and my family knows that the person responsible will be brought to justice.

That’s privilege.  That’s white privilege.  And it’s privilege my daughter will share.

My coworker brought his infant son in to the office the other day.  When I looked at that adorable child, all I could think was – what must it feel like to be a parent, to hold a beautiful black baby boy in your arms and then read about Trayvon in the paper, and wonder if that could be your son in 15, 16, 17 years?  To know that when your children reach a certain age, you’ll have to have a talk with them – teach them how to keep their head down, to present a non-threatening image, to not talk back and eat shit with a smile – all in the hopes that no one will ever convince themselves they have an excuse to shoot and kill your baby.

I can imagine, but I’m not going to know what that feels like.  And I’m glad.  I don’t think any parent should ever have to know what that feels like.

When we talk about privilege, there’s a tendency to act as if it’s a bad thing.  It’s not.  Privilege is good.  At least, the lege part of it is.  The law that governs me and those who look like me, the one that lets me walk down the street and not worry about someone feeling threatened enough by my very presence to murder me… it’s a good one.  It’s one that ought to apply to everyone.  So the problem lies with the privi part. 

Why is this private law private?  What can we do to make it apply to everyone?  I don’t know… but I think prosecuting Trayvon’s murderer is a good place to start.  I think the message needs to be sent that even with Florida’s “if I feel threatened by you I can shoot you” law in place, it’s not ok to decide someone is “threatening” just because he’s young, and black, and male, and out after dark.  The message needs to be sent that our children – all of our children – are free to walk down the street without fear of being gunned down.