I really wanted my wife to look this over before I posted it, but she’s a bit busy this week (hell, this summer), so I’ll just go with it, or it will be a moot point soon as it won’t be timely.
Before I get into the blog post proper, two things to note:
- I am not here to argue the legalities, the moralities or the details of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case, though I will repeat some of my thoughts via Twitter since the jury handed down a “not guilty” verdict for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch guy who shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin dead; the main reason for this post is to reach out to non-black people, particularly the white ones, about the issue of “what should you say?” (or not)
- To my black readers, who will probably read this too to make sure I haven’t lost my mind and am up to no-good, this is not a post in which I am trying to steal attention away from the aftermath of this case and bring it to myself. In fact, it is a post I am making only because my black wife suggested I probably should
So, how do I feel about the culmination about the Trayvon Martin case? Here’s what I said on Twitter in the 24 hours after the verdict came in, in chronological order:
- July 13: Tonight marks a great victory for those who want to ensure that black people can continue to be assaulted/killed w/o fear of repercussions
- July 13: Remember, if black person isn’t cooperating at 1st w/ your desire to “stand your ground” just keep following/harassing them until they do
- July 14: Justice only for those with whom you identify or justice geared for majority is not justice at all. It is instead a pass to allow wrongdoing
- July 14: Succinct, calm and clear–if you don’t get this, you’ll probably *never* get it RT White supremacy, meet Black rage http://www.salon.com/2013/07/14/white_supremacy_meet_black_rage/
- July 14: Supplement to previous tweet, black woman faces 20 yrs for firing *warning* shots near abusive husband, b/c denied Stand Your Ground defense
- July 14: Even when Blacks *don’t* riot, they are fucked RT Right Wingers Post Fake Race Riot Video After Zimmerman Verdict http://www.politicususa.com/2013/07/14/riot.html
- July 14: And, with that, I’m probably done posting about the Trayvon Martin verdict debacle. Will still mourn it & pray for Trayvon’s family though
- July 14: No, it’s not that the issue doesn’t matter anymore. But I’ve said piece & as wife tweeted last night, allies must sometimes just stand aside
So, now you’re probably wondering, since I said I’ve spoken my piece already, “Why, Jeff, aren’t you shutting up like you said you would, and then stepping aside to let black folks work this out and have their say?”
Well, because I’m not really here to talk about this tragedy or my own place in it, except to note that the night of the verdict, I was useless. Utterly useless. I had intended to write some fiction. Instead, after hearing about the verdict, I was done. Toast. Yes, my wife and I talked about it a bit, but I couldn’t do anything else remotely useful that night (I wasn’t much better the next morning). Couldn’t write. Couldn’t watch a movie. Couldn’t read. Couldn’t play a game on my PC or phone. No, I could only just sit, with a stabbing pain in my temple and a churning in my gut, and stare into space.
I felt useless, and I felt helpless. I have a 21-year-old black
stepson, who’s been in situations where he was a hair away from being a victim like Trayvon, without having done a thing to deserve being at risk of a beating or death. I have a nearly 8-year-old black daughter who will face her own challenges, many of them less potentially deadly than black males face, but still horrible. And no, I won’t call them biracial because society isn’t gonna…everyone who sees them in this society as it stands now will never see the white in them; only the black that their brown skin advertises (and marks them with stereotypes at times).
OK, I’ve said that. Why? Is this about me and my pain? No. My pain doesn’t matter one iota of defecation compared to the pain of Trayvon Martin’s family and the pain of black people who feel once again abandoned by the justice system.
Thing is, though, I didn’t know what to do or say, and there are probably a lot of non-black folks out there who didn’t agree with this killing or this verdict…especially white ones…who felt like crap when they heard the verdict but didn’t know what to say.
Dammit, say something.
As my wife tweeted the day after the verdict, “your silence says more than an awkward statement would” (or something like that).
You don’t need to say much. You don’t need to pontificate. You don’t need to roll out empty platitudes like “I wish I could do something.”
Stand by the black community. Let them know you are sympathetic. Maybe you can’t change society, but show that you give a crap. Retweet a link to a story about how blacks are far less likely to be able to claim “stand your ground status” and how whites are way more likely to get off for killing a black person than vice-versa. Post on Facebook that you can’t imagine the pain but your thoughts are with Trayvon Martin’s family. Even if you say only one thing and it isn’t much, say it. Even if you might risk saying the wrong thing, say something.
Because I’ve seen only a very small percentage of people in my Twitter timeline who are white and are posting anything about this verdict.
You may not mean for your silence to mean anything, but it is more likely to be perceived as “not caring” than it is to be perceived as “respectful silence.”
Don’t make it about you. Don’t make a big to-do about it. But say something to show that you actually give a shit.