“We ain’t the same color when police show up.” – MURS
Before I talk about Trayvon, let’s talk about stigma.
There was a girl in my high school who had a white mother and a black father. She hung out with the cheerleader, varsity letterman crowd. Apparently, she was very embarrassed every time her father came to school functions because she easily passed for white.
Not every case of colorism is as dramatic as “Imitation of Life.” And not every case is American. The massacres in Darfur were carried out by dark Arabs. The Dalits in India are very dark. Aborigines in Australia are treated like shit. The list goes on and on.
And being a black person in a high school where the faculty supported David Duke, I had my own issues with color. My teen years were spent mostly in Jefferson Parish, right outside of New Orleans. I did not sound like the majority of the black population when I talked. My classmates were mostly white people. I was an outcast any way you looked at it.
But, my issues were not so cut and dry. Public Enemy fueled my thoughts. I started listening to Farrakhan tapes. I read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” My issues with black folk involved mostly what I saw as self hate. Why did the Creole women get all the attention? Exactly what is “good hair” or “pretty eyes?”
But if I dig deeper into myself, I have to admit I know those issues intimately, because there was a time when I had them myself. It took effort, but I had to think my way out of them. Hip hop helped me with that. It made me self-analyze and come up with conclusions about who I was and about my skin’s societal stigma. But as a black person, I had no choice but to come to this conclusion if I wanted to see a progression in my self esteem. Other people do not necessarily have to have this epiphany.
I remember being followed around constantly in the TimeSaver corner stores in my neighborhood, around Metairie and Kenner. It got to the point that I actually WANTED to steal to prove a point. I had a homie who was half Hispanic and half white who would actually steal while I played the decoy.
One time I was hanging out with a group of white kids and we saw a Jaguar with a gold hood ornament. We decided we would take turns trying to kick it off and the person who actually kicked it off could keep it. When the owner confronted us, we took off running. For some reason I was the only one he saw. He kept yelling something about “nigger.” There were 5 or 6 of us and I was the only colored one. I wasn’t even the ring leader; I was just hanging out.
This Trayvon case is really a good time for all of us to gain some clarity about ourselves. Black folks are pissed off because a dude that was minding his own business is dead. White folks cannot seem to understand that anger. Regardless of what happened after Trayvon was followed and confronted, he is dead after he was followed and confronted. As a black person who feels I have been followed and confronted all of my life, it angers me too. “I am Trayvon” should not turn into some cliche or faddish meme, because the majority of the people who are angry have probably been profiled strictly on skin color. The shit is frustrating enough, but to have the profilee end up dead and the profiler walk? That shit is epically fucked up.
I cannot make a moment like the summation Matthew McConaughey made in “A Time To Kill” to help non-black people see Trayvon’s humanity. I cannot even make a moment to help black people see other black people’s humanity. The Aryans are right when they say we kill each other at higher rates than other races kill us. It all stems from the same problem in my opinion.
As I said earlier, I had an epiphany about race. Many black folks do not and that is an issue that is beyond my understanding. I understand why non-black people don’t. They don’t see a cost benefit from this kind of introspection. The way things are is already beneficial to them: Black celebs, athletes and one or two black friends are cool, but underneath, the belief that black folks are sub-human and sub-standard plays right into the neo-con world view.
Trayvon dressed like a thug, he smoked herb, he apparently was quick to make a decision to throw his hands — thus he deserved to die? Condescendingly calling his death a tragedy and then appending a “but, blah blah etc.” to your statement makes me wanna throw some hands my damn self.
This begs the obvious question: What if Zimmerman would have killed a blue-eyed, blonde-haired high school senior that smoked some weed but was interested in a college degree in Aeronautics? How would the FoxNews crowd react? All of a sudden, this person’s humanity might take the forefront.
Or the other obvious question: Assuming the original hypothetical question is still intact – What if Zimmerman had dark skin and some kink to his hair? Would the police be so quick to bring up the bullshit “Stand Your Ground” law? Would Zimmerman not be under the jail?
Are these questions obvious or am I just a weirdo?
I promise one of the hardest things I have ever had to do is to come to work amongst the FoxNews crowd. The effort it takes to daily inject myself in an environment that is hostile towards me behind closed doors but deceitfully jolly in my presence is something my manager cannot really measure during my annual performance evaluations.
I have my own Trayvons to raise, so I rise to the occasion of driving to work. I have to provide them with food, clothing and shelter. I have to train them to speak to cops. I have to let them know how to act to combat the stereotypes that will be placed upon them by non-black folks and inexcusably by black folks.
I have to find a way to prepare them to stand up for themselves in a culture that is quick to shoot a gun. I have to make sure they are proud of who they are and are content with the skin they are in (unlike MJ or Sammy Sosa). This is essential to me. This has to be ingrained from birth. They should never have to have an epiphany about their own humanity or worth, simply because I fear most of America will always view them as substandard human beings.