Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Zimmerman Can't be Racist, Right?
The facts so far are that a neighborhood watch captain saw a young, hooded, black male looking "suspicious" in his neighborhood. He calls the cops and tells them of the suspicious person and indicates that he is going to follow this person, and the cops tell him no. Moments later Trayvon Martin is shot dead, with only a bag of skittles and Arizona Iced-T to show for. Zimmerman walks away without an arrest, claiming self defense with Florida's stand your ground law.
As a black person, these scene is all too familiar. A suspicious looking black man murdered, and the murderers getting away scott free. I can go into a ton of reasons why the self-defense claim is bogus, the stand your ground law needs to be eradicated and the shittyness of Florida State, but the thing that interests me the most about this case is the racial implications. This has brought out, once again, America's racial dirty laundry. These major racial themes have been given the spotlight in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin's death:
1. The One-Drop Rule
This classic racial classification has reared its ugly head in statements like "Well, Zimmerman can't be racist because he's Hispanic, duh!" According to Zimmerman's dad, his mother is Hispanic, therefore he's not white, nor is he half-white...he's Hispanic (emphasis on Hispanic). The one drop rule stipulates that any mixture of blood that is not white is impure, therefore a biracial person will never be considered white, nor half that, because they have tainted blood. The media and defenders of Zimmerman have a vested interest in the one drop rule because it takes race out of the equation, 'cause, well, a Hispanic guy can't be racist right?....Which leads me to my next point...
2. Racism is Only a White and Black Thing
Although racism has historically been invented and primarily perpetuated by white people, the ideology of white supremacy can be carried out by any member of any race. This is why a black person or a Hispanic person or a white person with "black friends" can feel intimated by a random black guy walking down the street, without feeling any truly racist sentiments. We are all a product of a white supremacist society, so having racial attitudes and prejudices can be a subconscious thing that pops up when the right imagery is presented (i.e. a hooded black male). People living in American society and many society's around the world have been constantly conditioned to think that black= inferior. That's why it's not weird for even blacks to be "racist" against other blacks. However, this is no excuse. Everyone has the responsibility to actively work against these preconditioned thoughts.
3. Black guys are suspicious
This is probably one of the most prevalent racial stereotypes today, hence the killing of Trayvon Martin. This sentiment leads to statements like "Oh, Trayvon got suspended for having a bag of weed? He was a thug (Emphasis on Thug) all this time so yea he deserved it. Or more poignantly, Geraldo Rivera's "hoodie" defense, stating that "the hoodie was just as responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as Zimmerman was." " Black guys are suspicious", in this case, is really an offshoot of "blame the victim." Notice, also, how the word thug gets thrown around when it comes to a black guy up to no good, but, other non-blacks are spared the label when they are up to no good. In this case, it is easier for the defense to make their argument based on this stereotype because, sadly, many people believe it (See racial conditioning above).
4. I have Black Friends
A month after the death of Trayvon Martin, many people have spoken out in defense of Zimmerman, a number of whom are black. This is supposed to prove that Zimmerman is really not racist. The not racist by association phenomenon does not work because of white supremacy conditioning. Plus, just because Zimmerman was one way with a number of black friends does not mean that he does not harbor negative feelings towards blacks in a general sense. Zimmerman may feel that his "black friends" are the exception of what overall blackness is, and not the rule.
5. White Guilt
This racial phenomenon is one of the most interesting that I have witnessed in this case. I believe that it's the reason why there is even a strong vocal opposition to those that view Zimmerman as guilty. This is because, in today's society, being a racist is THE WORST thing you can call a white person. This is best illustrated in George Bush, who claimed that the worst moment of his presidency was when Kanye West stated he "doesn't like black people" on live TV (Really Bush?? not the Iraq war, not Katrina?). Why is it the worst thing? Well it sucks to feel that your people have been responsible for doing shitty things to people all over the world for long periods of time, and it sucks even more to know that this is probably true. It sucks the most to carry that burden constantly over many generations. I'd probably want racism to go away too. This is the reason why Newt Gringich expressed faux outrage at President Obama's statement because he brought that "race thing" into conversation.
The reality is that racism does still exists and acts such as the killing of Trayvon Martin will continue to happen if we don't take a serious look at ourselves as a nation. Sadly, the history of slavery has left a definite marker not only black people in America but on people of different races, and it's the reason for white guilt today. Many people of all different races get it, unfortunately not enough people do.