What is the real story in the Trayvon Martin case?

After following the trial of George Zimmerman, I was not surprised at the verdict. Saddened, but not surprised. There are so many layers to this story.

There is the story about keeping our neighborhoods safe. It's frustrating to call 911 a hundred times and never see a police officer respond to your complaint. It's annoying when you do get a chance to talk to them after they follow up on a call and they are rude or dismissive. I cannot excuse Zimmerman for so incredibly overstepping the bounds of a neighborhood block watch, but I can understand what fueled his rage.

There is also the story of gun control. If there wasn't a gun involved maybe both parties would still be alive so that we could hear each side. The prevalence of guns makes it way too easy for something permanent to happen. Nobody saw exactly what happened and only the person left standing got to tell his side of the story.

And then there is the story of race.

Type, type, type. Delete, delete, delete.

It's hard for me to even acknowledge race in a blog post.

Last week, one of my high school kids read a book about Ruby Bridges and had a little conversation with the elementary kids about this very brave thing that Ruby did and how schools used to be "just for Blacks" or "just for Whites."

Used to be. Ahem. Well, I mean, technically. Errr. Ok, kids, so the school you go to is all Black. And your neighborhood is all Black. Your church. The busline you ride. Heck, there are two grocery stores near my house - literally across the street from each other - that are segregated. Should we talk about that?

Remember that Cheerios commercial with the interracial couple that got the racist internet trolls all fired up? Well somebody showed it to some kids and videotaped their reactions and we can all feel good because the kids think racism is stupid and probably once they grow up and all the racists die, we'll be all good. Finally. We have a non-white president. Things are getting better, right?

I want this to be the narrative. We all want this to be the narrative. We're all the same on the inside. It shouldn't really matter. Etcetera.

I am so, so White. And never it is more clear to me than when I go to work in Black communities. Stereotypes come from somewhere, you know. Some of it's sort of funny in how true it ends up being. Mayonaise. Dominoes pizza. Hiking. Microbreweries. Ironing your jeans. Super white sneakers. Fried chicken. Pottery Barn. You know which is black and which is white, don't you?

How I punish my children. What my friends' children call me. What we watch on tv. Funerals. Baby clothes.

Some silly differences, and some that run a little deeper, but these aren't the kinds of things that will keep you from being friends from someone, keep you from respecting someone. These are the kinds of things that you laugh about when you get to know each other.

But when you spend a lot of time crossing the lines that are so clearly divided in this city, you won't be able to ignore the Trayvon Martin differences. Who is allowed to walk somewhere late at night without drawing suspicion. What it's like to just try and live your life without accidentally crossing the path of both gangbangers and George Zimmermans. What you are allowed to do to protect yourself, depending on the status society has determined you deserve.

The kinds of heart-to-heart talks I'll have with my blonde-haired, blue-eyed son, versus the talks my Black friends will have with their sons.

It may be better than grown people swearing and spitting at six year old Ruby Bridges. But it's not good enough. Not by a long shot.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. It's brave to talk about race. I just watched this Cheerios thing earlier. It's striking.