Trying to understand the tragedy of Trayvon

Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I decided to try the new Zachary’s, which is closer to where we live than the one in Berkeley. As we waited for our Chicago style stuffed pizza, I took out my phone to check Facebook and Twitter.

I wish I hadn’t.

There was a part of me in my white privileged world that thought because the jury of six women had not come back immediately with a verdict in the Zimmerman trial that perhaps justice would be served. Justice, that is, in what is supposed to be our so-called “post-racial” world.

My white privilege has caused me to be naive in trusting that the justice system works.

When I saw on Twitter that the verdict had come back and that Zimmerman had been found “not guilty” on not only 2nd degree murder charges, but manslaughter charges as well, I felt sickened and I felt heartbroken.

This decision has crystallized something for me.

There is a reason why many people of color jump to the assumption that racism is at play when a decision is made regarding their child who is being taught by a white person.

It is because racism is something too many experience on a daily basis.

Instead of becoming defensive when I am called racist, I think it is incumbent upon me (and not the person of color) to determine why they might feel the way that they do. I have to think of every past experience that has led to this moment. As upsetting & painful as it is to be called a racist, I am certain that it is no where as upsetting to actually experience it. Every single day of your life.

(This is not to say that I think sometimes the word racist is used as a weapon and like all weapons can be misused. I will explain what I mean by this in Part 2 of this blog post.)

Even a I write this, a white, middle class woman, white as white can be, strawberry blonde freckled girl with green eyes, I worry about stumbling, fumbling as I try to express what I feel because I will never know what it feels like to be black in America.

This is what I do know.

I am the mom of two boys, whom I love fiercely. The human part that I connect with in respect to Trayon is two-fold. First, the anguish that must torment both his parents, Tracy Martin and Sybina Fulton, in recreating in their own minds (as parents are wont to do) their son’s final moments. There is no doubt in my mind that Trayvon fought for his life, he stood HIS ground, and was murdered by his attacker. He fought in the way that I know my own two boys would fight if their lives were similarly threatened. (Of course, my two white sons would never have been approached by someone like Zimmerman because they are white males and thus are not automatically suspect.) Second, over the course of my teaching career, I have taught many young African-American males, who I have thought of often during this whole horrendous, ludicrousness of “standing your ground.” (I would argue Trayvon was also standing his ground & was simply defending himself against a stranger who had no cause to stop and/or question him.)

The part of being black in America, I can empathize, but I cannot truly know on the deepest level of what it really means.

What I can understand is hatefulness and it is in this that I think have a connection.

(Part 2 tomorrow.)


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