In America the premise is people are colorblind. Certainly our children are is the constant refrain. I know this is not so, for as a child I saw what was not discussed. The people who did not care for and about me were white. Those who cherished my being were Black. I am a Caucasian child who saw and felt that there are differences in colors and communities. Yet, as many a toddler does; I learned not discuss the what appeared before my eyes. People say that as a country, we made incredible progress, I feel certain that we have not. Please allow me to tell the tales that most do not speak of, not even in Court.
As evidence of our injudiciousness, may I cite the evidence. Recently, we have Supreme Court rulings, or at least two of the four decisions that came down in June 2013. The transgression that relegates Affirmative Action to inaction and the Voting Rights Act to reactive reprisals for being Black are ignored in deference to the Gay Rights decrees. We celebrate what gives credence to our belief that we are in the New Age of Enlightenment. Collectively we embrace the concept; it is a new time, a new day and there is a newer and better age. In the past three weeks we have seen this play out in our Courts. Justice Roberts assured us that times have changed. Gay Rights advocates too embrace the construct. Yes, progress is possible. That is if your color or class are “right,” white, or “politically correct.” Outwardly, mine is. Inwardly, perhaps not.
I too rejoiced when this nation came together as one in 2008. Yet, that too was a perceptible façade. Sure, we can elect a Black President – dependent on the depth of his color or class standing. Did you notice that Barack Obama has a white mother, that he lived in mostly white neighborhoods, or that he went to excellent schools? These are not necessarily bad or good; they just are. And that alone makes them visible. Can any of us say that we are authentically blind to Mister Obama’s background? What of President Obama’s most recent challenger, Mitt Romney? Did you not know that he was white or amongst the super affluent? Possibly you missed the Whites For Romney facebook page or the Maureen Dowd New York Times editorial that affirms, “Mitt Romney is president of the white male America.” Being of the same race as another does not ensure a kinship. It does however establish what we see and hear. We are aware. Color is seen and heard, even when we work to not to give voice to the visible.
Perchance, early on you experienced that the esteemed and debonair legal scholar, Barack Obama spoke well. Belatedly and admittedly embarrassed, Senator Joe Biden did. Do you remember when the now Vice President said, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Of course that is not what Joe,
Trial? What trial or which? These are the words of I have often heard when I speak of the verdict. Perhaps, you missed the Zimmerman trial or only understood it from a safe distance. Understandably so. Just as when I was a tot, this nation and individuals within it traditionally forego the many opportunities to discuss race relations. President Obama did so when he ran for his current office in 2008. Only when pressed to address the crisis that enveloped his campaign, the reality race, did then senator Obama take a stand. After the one speech, the reticence returned. He, as we, mostly choose to be deaf, dumb, andwhat we characterize as blind when it comes to color. To watch the trial or read all the police reports, tune in to the testimony as it played out moment to moment would be to face the truth. In America we are color-mute. Certainly, in June 2013, the Supreme Court affirmed this when it decided to virtually repeal Affirmative Action laws and void the Voting Rights Act. Upon hearing those rulings I cried, as I do today with the Zimmerman acquittal.
I wonder of how many have shed their tears, before me. How many Black Moms, Dads, and siblings, in and out of Sanford, lost a child before he or she had a chance to truly live? We need only look at the record. The Sanford, Florida police had silenced people of color long ago. Indeed, the Sanford police have an enduring and poor history on race relations. In Sanford, Blacks have no rights. The Zimmerman case is but one of many stories, that people, for the most part are unaware of. You likely heard it to, “I have not paid close attention.”
Let us look at what perhaps is not seen by a proud to be colorblind society. The narrative began on February 26, 2012. A young teen, Trayvon Martin, barely seventeen, went to the neighborhood 7-11 store. He purchased an Arizona Tea and Skittles™. Before the unarmed youth could return home, a man, more than ten years Trayvon’s senior, George Zimmerman, chose to follow the teen. According to police records Mister Zimmerman thought the person of color and questionable class was “suspicious.” Again words are the windows to our soul or at least reveal how we feel about what we see.
The admitted killer, George Zimmerman saw an adolescent out of place in his neighborhood. [I sigh and wonder what was I when as a white child I roamed inner city neighborhood streets? No one treated me with disdain, not even close. But then I was not profiled as an “a******”, one of those who “always get away.” Those are the words of a man on a mission. These are Mister Zimmerman’s utterances in respect to Trayvon.] “George” told the police dispatcher that “this guy is up to no-good.” Ultimately, Zimmerman shot Trayvon directly in the heart. At the time, or just before the final moments of Trayvon’s life, the teen was on the telephone with his good friend Rachel Jeantel.
Rachel Jeantel was the one and only person, besides Trayvon Martin, the victim, and George Zimmerman, the self-appointed gun-toting neighborhood watch representative who was in some ways within inches of the incident. What an ideal witness and spokesperson were it not for the fact that in a faux-colorblind country, Rachel is a Black.
Nevertheless, under oath, Rachel took the stand and recounted the tale. She shared details from the conversation she had with Trayvon and spoke of the sounds she heard while on the call. As the young women testified people responded. Twitter was ablaze. Rachel Jeantel was ridiculed. Her truthful testimony rejected. Attorney Don West, asked her of her language skills. While the young woman, a longtime resident of the United States, speaks three languages fluently, English among them, from his questioning, it seems Mister West wanted to know “Do you speak American.” Startled by the strange inquiry Rachel strongly replied, yes, she speaks and understands English, very well thank you.
Yet, the judgment was in. “Rachel Jeantel a surly, unreliable witness who’s been caught telling several whoppers over the past year.” This was the public estimation. What might people have said were Rachel Jeantel white? We can only wonder and consider the words of another adolescent, an Anglo who too was tangentially involved in the case.
The Defense Attorney West’s daughter’s Instagram statement could have caused great scorn, or possibly would have if we were not so “blind.” Instead, it was a flash-in–the pan, a flicker, quickly extinguished before ever becoming a flame. Might you have seen the photograph, a glossy image of a bouncy blonde teen, her lovely light haired Mom, and her dear Dad, Defense Attorney Don West. In the photo, the three are smiling and licking their ice-cream cones. It is a beautiful picture. The caption reads “We beat stupidity celebration cones #zimmerman #defense #dadkilledit.” Well, Don West said as any father might, “As parents, we’re not always proud of the things our children do, but we love them anyway and try to move on.”
Forgiveness and understanding. Empathy is beautiful. Any of us might easily put ourselves in the place of those who are relentlessly ridiculed, ruthlessly rejected, or killed, or can we? Maybe not? Colorblind as we might profess to be, the examples are endless, we are not. Research reveals that in a telephone conversation, dialect is detected and determinations are made. Rental property might never be shown to a potential tenant if that person calls to arrange an appointment in advance. Why? Well there are restrictions in the neighborhood. These regulations are not legal; nor were policies put on paper. No, that would violate the unwritten rule. In America we do not speak of racism. We say we are colorblind when what we mean is we are color-mute! As a country we see and say that we do not. We hear, and claim to be deaf. We are dumb or merely discriminating?
I believe discrimination defines our interactions. A Stanford study, Black Linguistics. Language, Society, and Politics in Africa and the Americas, affirms that racial profiling through linguistics profiling is an American ritual. Perhaps, profiling is our religion supplanted only by supposition or omission selectively. That might best explain the many musings once the verdict was reached in the Zimmerman case. “The jurors did as they could only do, assess the facts.” However, as Lawyer Jeffrey Tobin observes, “The conclusions almost tell more about the observers than about the underlying facts.”
Even statements that reflect a irrefutable reality say more about us than the situation. “I was not there. I cannot know whether race was the reason for this horrific incident.” Really? Had you been there, were you George Zimmerman, would you dare tell yourself that you are a racist or that you profiled Trayvon Martin solely based on his color? Unlikely. After all, how many Americans proudly proclaim color-blindness? More importantly, how many of these sightless soles prove to be liars. People who believe that flesh is invisible are remarkable. These extraordinary individuals interact with another and never notice the largest organ of the human body, skin! Might these same persons miss a brilliantly colored yellow dress on a beautiful woman? Perchance. People do considering color does not matter.
Race and racism are a thing of the past. We have come along way. Today, there is no racism; there is only resentment. (“Racial resentment” is defined as the convergence of anti-black sentiments with traditional American views on hard work and individualism.)
In 2013, the old conversation changed. Prejudice has been transformed. Bigotry was replaced with antipathy. At present, we “judge” worthiness by “work ethic.” “Did he or she pull him or herself up by their bootstraps?” Was this individual or that able to get into a good college? Few ask if their children have a chance. In America the word is there is no bigotry. “Everyone can succeed if they try, and those who don’t succeed, just aren’t trying—there’s no use in crying ‘racism,’… especially considering you will not be heard. We are color-mute and it is not cute.
Indeed, as espoused by Reverend Joseph Lowery, in respect to racism, Americans have created the fifty-first [51st] state, “denial.” We live in denial of our sightedness.
And thus the reality lives. Black and Brown Americans will be denied their rights and communities such as Sanford, Florida will remain divided. Juries will reflect a restricted demographic and County’s such as Seminole, which is 78.5 percent white and 16.5 percent black will decide our fate and that of many a young Black man, Black woman, and child.
“…Violence is the central force in the lives of poor minority youth, and the rhetoric and metaphors through which it gains legitimacy extend from an ever-pervasive reality of police brutality to the modes of punishment creep that extend from their schools and the streets to their homes. Violence now is the major force for producing identities, desires and social policies. Unfortunately, for too many young people, violence has become the normal condition of their lives, the only space left where many of them can even recognize how their agency might be defined and what their future has to offer them…”
~ Henry A. Giroux
References and Resources…
- The Rising Tide of Anti-Black Racism: By Jamelle Bouie. American Prospect. February 7, 2013
- Biden’s description of Obama draws scrutiny. Cable News Network. February 9, 2007
- Clarence Thomas Suggests “Elites” Like Obama Because He’s What “They Expect From a Black Person.” By Adam Server. Mother Jones. May 3, 2013
- Romney Is President, By Maureen Dowd. The New York Times. November 12, 2012
- Actually, Mitt, even a lot of white voters didn’t want you, By Roland Martin. Cable News Network. November 15, 2012
- Mitt Romney’s Race-Based, Monochromatic Campaign Made Him a Loser, By Tom Scocca. Slate. November 7, 2012
- The Trayvon Martin Killing, Explained, By Adam Weinstein and Mark Follman. Mother Jones. March 18, 2012
- Fear of a Black President, By Ta-Nehisi Coates. The Atlantic.August 2012
- Barack Obama’s Speech on Race:. The New York Times. March 18, 2008
- Rules for neighborhood watch discussed in George Zimmerman trial. By Michael Muskal and Tina Susman. The Los Angeles Times. June 25, 2013
- Lovee her or hate her, Rachel Jeantel is a star. By Jason Johnson. Cable News Network. June 28, 2013
- Race discrimination in Rental Housing, Based on Voice Identification. Fair Housing of Marin. June 2011
- State files motion over Instagram ice cream picture posted by Don West’s daughter. George Zimmerman Murder Trial. WESH. July 13, 2013
- Black Linguistics. Language, Society, and Politics in Africa and the Americas, By J Baugh. Stanford University. 2002
- The Honest Truth About Dishonesty. What’s in a Name. By Dan Airely.
- Racal Animus And Voting, By Seth Stephens Davidowitz
- Racism vs. reality. By Richard Cohen. The Washington Post. July 15, 2013
- The Facts in the Zimmerman Trial. By Jeffrey Tobin. The New Yorker. July 16, 2013
- Study: Racial animus cost Barack Obama 4 points in both 2008 and 2012. Saint Petersburg Blog. July April 9, 2013
- How Racist Are We? Ask Google, By Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. the New York Times. June 9, 2012
- 11 Facts About Racial Discrimination. Do Something
- Henry A. Giroux. Hoodie Politics: Trayvon Martin and Racist Violence in Post-Racial America, By Henry A. Giroux. TruthOut. April 2, 2012
- Wickham: Gun violence threatens young blacks. USAToday. February 11, 2013
- Recommended Reading: Trayvon Martin Murder Trial Reactions, What Matters Today. Bill Moyers
- 6 Female Jurors Are Selected for Zimmerman Trial, By Cara Buckley. The New York Times. June 20, 2013
- Joseph Lowery. The Los Angeles Times. July 7, 196