Three Reasons For Hope
These five keys paint a bleak picture to explain the reality of racial injustice in America, a reality that legally achieves the goals of white supremacy without the embarrassment of actual white supremacists running around burning crosses. As Eugene Robinson famously wrote, when describing the realities of endless suspicion and incarceration of young black men, “I call this racism. What would you call it?”
Still, there are some reasons for hope for me as a brown American. While communities of color have long known and experienced these realities in America, what is encouraging to me now is that there seems to be a growing movement among white communities as well to engage racial problems more honestly and productively. Here are three ways I see hope for significant transformation especially with regard to white privilege and whiteness:
- Projects like www.wearenottrayvonmartin.com : This blog gathered thousands of responses from thoughtful white respondents who reflected on the many ways that their white privilege allowed them the security of not being profiled and accosted in the ways Trayvon did. Here are some striking examples:
- I am not Trayvon Martin’s Mom: My 17 year old son is white. He does stupid things, he’s a smart ass, he makes bad decisions, he’s probably smoked weed and gotten drunk, his grades are kind of bad and he’s had minor trouble with the law. He’s also alive. He can walk home at night with a hoodie and some candy and make it home safely with no problem any day of the week. If something tragic happened to him walking down the street no one would go on TV and say it was his fault because he was a “thug” and continually talk about how he looked at 12 years old verses how he looks at 17. He is fiercely loved and if someone followed him in the dark and then shot him I would not have the grace and poise that Trayvon’s mother has shown – honestly, I’d probably hunt down the guy who did it in a frothing rage. It would be me on trial, not him. You can tell that I’m not Trayvon’s mother because I haven’t been forced to swallow injustice and tragedy in my family for generations and I have not been taught to take the high road in the face of it. I don’t have to because I am white. And if she ever reads this…I am so, so sorry. I think of you every day.
- I Am Not George Zimmerman: I will not appoint myself to be a neighborhood watchman. I will not go out at night with a concealed weapon, looking for “punks.” I don’t think a Black teenager wearing a hoodie is suspicious. I do not and never will want to be a police officer. I didn’t kill Trayvon Martin. I refuse to be complicit in the United States’ white supremacist system, and I recognize that – together with my sisters and brothers – I have the power to smash it.I am a white man who has come to realize that his experience of life is drastically different from that of people of color. I can never fully understand what it’s like to be Black in America, and I will not allow this fact to excuse ignorance or disengagement with the antiracist movement. White supremacy has given me privileged access that I once took for granted, and which I now demand be extended to all people. I will never be targeted by police because of my race, and I will stand against the police and the racist institutions they serve. I will challenge these institutions the only way I can, by taking part in a mass movement. I will endeavor not to dominate the space or draw attention to myself in this movement, my participation in which is the only way to further my consciousness of race and oppression.The murder of Trayvon Martin – of a Black person every 28 hours in the US – does not make me feel guilty. It fills me with anguish and rage, which fuel my determination to stand behind my Black comrades fighting to destroy the New Jim Crow. I do not identify with George Zimmerman, but with Trayvon Martin.
- We are not Trayvon …: But we are Trayvon’s America. And right now we kind of suck. We let that “stand your ground” garbage become law. We were busy, we were just trying to get by, we were watching the Kardashians, not CNN (and who can blame us?).
I am a 40+ over-weight white woman, never gonna be stopped at night except to be given helpful directions, probably. But I don’t want to live in a country where a man with an attitude and a gun can chase down another woman’s son and shoot him and that is deemed legal.I’m not blaming the jurors, they probably followed the instructions they were given and honestly tried to do their best with the system they were given.Trayvon’s system is our system and we’d better fix it.
- Satirical critiques: These projects offer a different venue for criticism, parodying cultural racism by making white culture the target of the kinds of racist commentary frequently said about minority cultures. Through satire, these projects aim to show how “colorblind racism” works in our main media institutions and our everyday language. Examples:
- Coalitions for anti-racist work : Increasing numbers of white people are looking to join with community groups that have long been working hard for racial justice. There are many resources for white anti-racist work, such as:
- An Open Letter to White People About Trayvon Martin (by a white man).
- Seven Stages of White Identity (by a white male pastor).
- Tim Wise’s Website.
- This video: