Thinking personally about Trayvon Martin

I wrote in another post about the legalities of the Zimmerman acquittal and what might come next, but I am having a much harder time writing about Trayvon Martin.

I cannot think of anything to say that matters. The hurt goes too deep, and despair threatens like a hurricane, sun blocked out and winds whipping gales of rage.

Jelani Cobb, writing in The New Yorker, sums up what I think about the case:

Yet the problem is not that this case marks a low point in this country’s racial history—it’s that, after two centuries of common history, we’re still obligated to chart high points and low ones. To be black at times like this is to see current events on a real-time ticker, a Dow Jones average measuring the quality of one’s citizenship. Trayvon Martin’s death is an American tragedy, but it will mainly be understood as an African-American one. That it occurred in a country that elected and reëlected a black President doesn’t diminish the despair this verdict inspires, it intensifies it. The fact that such a thing can happen at a moment of unparalleled political empowerment tells us that events like these are a hard, unchanging element of our landscape.

Closer to home, Lolla Mohammed Nur agrees:

However, what is clear to those who understand America’s race problem is that the Zimmerman trial merely spotlights how black life in America is worthless and disposable. The refusal to acknowledge racial bias and stereotyping as a cause for Trayvon’s death represents a myth: the myth of “post-racial” and “colorblind” America.

When I look at Facebook, I see people who have changed their photos to black squares and others who have posted hoodies. I can’t do that. Changing my picture would feel like saying I had “done something,” but I have not.

There was an organizing meeting this afternoon, and there will be a prayer service tonight and a rally tomorrow night. Once I would have been at all three. Now — well, there’s that despair, that darkness that says nothing I do makes any difference. And there’s the NAACP petition, now on MoveOn.org, because the overwhelming response crashed the NAACP site. (I don’t even believe in petitions, but I signed it anyway.)

Other people, younger people, have better things to say and so I will repeat what they have said. That they are speaking out, that they are acting — this gives me a seed of hope in the midst of despair.

Zaidee Stavely posted a Langston Hughes poem, “Kids Who Die,” on Facebook. Click on the link for the whole poem. Here’s the final stanza:

Listen, kids who die—
Maybe, now, there will be no monument for you
Except in our hearts
Maybe your bodies’ll be lost in a swamp
Or a prison grave, or the potter’s field,
Or the rivers where you’re drowned like Leibknecht
But the day will come—
Your are sure yourselves that it is coming—
When the marching feet of the masses
Will raise for you a living monument of love,
And joy, and laughter,
And black hands and white hands clasped as one,
And a song that reaches the sky—
The song of the life triumphant
Through the kids who die.

Sheila Regan writes about getting to the roots of racism:

 At the same time, how will we ever become an anti-racist society if it’s just one segment of the population that expresses outrage when something like this happens? It takes all of us—no matter the color of our skin—to say, you know, this is something we need to deal with.

It’s not going to happen at a rally, or on a blog, or because of a Facebook post. If we want to start chipping away at white privilege and racism, it’s going to have to start in schools. Unfortunately, I think that with some exceptions, schools still don’t have strong tools for teaching young people about these issues.

Kristoffer Tigue made some suggestions on Facebook:

Today is a confusing day, after a long and conflicting nation-wide discussion on race relations in our country. Despite the anger and disagreement many of us are feeling and witnessing, I think today we can all take a step back and realize the privileges we were born into. Racism isn’t an easy topic anymore, especially since it isn’t a clear-cut picture of overt cultural discrimination. Instead, we’re left with a myriad of subtleties and advantages that can really only be seen in the statistics.

Instead of expressing my own anger in the strange circumstances that even produced something like the Trayvon Martin case in the first place, I’m going to take this opportunity to try and do something constructive. Here are some local organizations attempting to improve racial disparities in the Twin Cities, through education, community building and career training.

The small amount I’m able to donate may not make a huge difference, but I think if we all tried to contribute something, maybe we’d at least be helping to change the public discourse we live in today that enables racial profiling, disproportionate criminal sentencing and incarceration, and educational and career disparities.

http://givemn.razoo.com/story/Twincitiesrise

http://www.achievempls.org/

http://www.aalf.us/

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