I decided at seven that I wanted to play guitar and go to UCLA. So reading this article this morning broke my hear a little. I posted it on my personal Facebook page without any comment, but then a friend commented about being troubled by the poet’s statement “that being black at UCLA left him feeling ‘isolated and uncomfortable’.” My friend asked, “Is society’s message in the 21st century still, “stick to your own kind”?”
It got me thinking and so I thought I’d paraphrase my reply to him here.
I’d guess that message has diminished a little bit in the 21st century, but clearly not completely. I grew up in a very homogenous town of which I was one of a small percentage of African-Americans, and even though there was not an overarching “stick to your own kind” message, I still felt extraordinarily isolated and uncomfortable at times. If you’re the only cherry tomato in a salad of mixed greens, bell peppers, mushrooms, and shredded cheese, you’re still going to stand out. Being one of 48 out of 5700 probably feels that way whatever the rhetoric of inclusion. What’s ironic about this whole thing for me is that as a UCLA freshman back in the day, I had my first experience of feeling included in a “black community.” Later, as I’ve written about a lot, I also felt the same sense of alienation at times within that community. The truth is it’s still really hard to find a diverse community where one cultural norm doesn’t dominate (racial, religious, ideological, etc.). That’s why affirmative action is still something we need as a society, one that includes all factors, not just “race neutral” because race still is not neutral and may never be. (Nor are many of these other factors neutral, but race is one of the most instantly codified.) But that doesn’t mean we can’t all be part of a delicious salad!
Take a look at the video and read the Huffington Post article below. (And yes, I do sort of love that my doppelgänger is the only kid to start off not wearing a Bruin shirt. Ha!)
Someone carrying a sign shouted, “Justice! Peace!” I was heartened.
As it was picked up in the crowd, the familiar “No” was inserted before each word and I started to leave.
I saw a young man with a poster saying “We are all Trayvon Martin. The whole damn system is guilty.” I saw observers and agitators. We all held hands to demonstrate our oneness. The police outnumbered the protesters and came in riot gear. We’d walked right through them earlier to reach the people. We’d left the circle already when we heard an announcement that weapons would be used to disperse the crowd in ten minutes. I saw a brown young man in a uniform, holding a BB gun. I saw young women in helmets, holding billy clubs, yell at the observers. I saw men backed by the might of dozens of cars, and lights, and civic power put on gloves for the confrontation.
The last cop we saw talked to us. He said, “What are we supposed to do? They have the right to protest, but after three hours other people have the right to get home.”
Trayvon Martin was just trying to get home before he was hassled by someone with a grievance and the willingness to use destructive force.
The cop said, you’ll never have a problem if you obey orders.
Trayvon Martin is a symbol of all of our vulnerabilities, and the “whole damn system is guilty” of creating martyrs and monsters.
Yes, Justice! Yes, Peace!
As peacefully as one can, turn a situation of injustice to a moment for justice without violence or threatened aggression, without fear based tactics.
I do fear that this verdict may create more George Zimmermans, people who are so convinced of their own righteousness that they will create situations that cause them to murder in the name of “self-defense.”
But we can change that with continued humane action (even if it feels superhuman) to insure that all people are treated humanely.
Imagine a world where we put as much energy toward eliminating the use of weapons of individualized destruction as we do against weapons of mass destruction.
Let’s create our humane vision.
The only way a large man
in a pickup truck,
whom the police have asked to remain in his vehicle,
comes into harm’s way
in the proximity of
a 17 year old boy
carrying iced tea and Skittles
walking in the rain
is if the man
gets out of his truck,
confronts the boy,
with a gun
hidden in his pants
the boy could be a martial arts expert
he could be a stoner
he could be a Harry Potter fan
one thing he is definitely not:
confronting people on a neighborhood street
carrying lethal force
That is George Zimmerman
It’s astounding to me that a man who initiated a confrontation carrying concealed deadly force, which he used to kill an unarmed minor, is not guilty of, at the very least, manslaughter. And at the end of it the smiling State Attorney says this trial was never about race, yet in the same breath conceding that she believes the boy was profiled. Are we that desperate to appear post-racial? Why was the trial not about that?
No one would have died in Sanford, Florida of a gunshot wound on February 26, 2012 had George Zimmerman not profiled or carried a gun.
Trayvon Martin is dead.