Monday, April 09, 2012

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2012, April 9: Trayvon Martin (5)

Chauncey DeVega looks at the Trayvon Martin murder and some of what it tells us about race relations and white racism in the United States today in Let's Be Honest, George Zimmerman Killed Trayvon Martin Because Black People are Scary WARN 03/25/2012. Based on what we currently know, it also appears to me that George Zimmerman very likely committed a racially-motivated murder when he killed the unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. DeVega is clearly proceeding from a similar assumption in his post. I hope that the disclosure in criminal and/or civil proceedings against Zimmerman will give a much clearer picture of what happened. Or, if the Justice Department and the Florida special prosecutor decide not to press charges, that they will explain their decision publicly in such a way that reasonable observers can understand it.

DeVega writes:

After doing all of this research, I have come to a conclusion that may be a bit upsetting to some of you: black people are scary. In fact, I have come to realize that as a black man, I am a member of a group that scares white people more than any other in America.
Note here that he is not referring only to the shooting itself, and maybe even not mainly to it, but to the response that the case provoked by Zimmerman's defenders among white conservatives.

With a mixture of sarcasm and anger, he writes:

It could be our cool pose, energy, or mere fact of existence that scares some white people. Black men are so scary, that even when wearing suits in order to mute the power of our habitus, we are subject to extra precautions and security measures by the police, as well as individuals like George Zimmerman who have nominated themselves the "protectors" of their communities. Ironically, for some white people there is nothing more terrifying than a dignified, intelligent, confident, attractive, and brilliant black man wearing a fine and tailored suit.

Given these facts, it is only reasonable to know that a hoodie would frighten White People--and those who think like them--such as George Zimmerman. In all, common sense dictates that people wearing hoods cannot help but be anything but terrifying.
Here he inserts a photo of people in hoodies:

And he continues:

Because he was 17 years old (and we cannot forget six feet tall), there are some white people who are quite upset that Trayvon Martin is being labeled as a "child" or a "boy" in the news media. Given that American society treats black children as though they are adults, this protest is both reasonable and fair. We must be empathetic and understanding here: for the white gaze, black boys (Ronald Reagan's "strapping young bucks") are always a growth spurt away from becoming a "giant negro" such as Willie Horton or a "superpredator."
And he lays out this cold and accurate observation:

One of our unique privileges in the United States is that we are forced into adulthood early; black people are spared the luxury of a purely innocent childhood. At an early age, we are made aware of the realities of race, "niggerized," and forced to understand what it means to be a problem.

These are necessary life and survival skills in America, even one that is post civil rights, and where a black man is President. This reality holds for both black girls and black boys. However, it is especially true for the latter, lest they end up dead like Trayvon Martin. [my emphasis]
He also focuses on the posture of whiny white people, of which the neo-Confederate/Lost Cause ideology is very much a part:

One of the great ironies of the post racial era, is that a white America which spent many years denying the very existence of racism against people of colr [sic], has now discovered it for themselves, as conservatives and Right-wing reactionaries boohoo and fret over "reverse discrimination" and how "white people" are "oppressed" in the year 2012. [my emphasis]
This, of course, is not new. Even before the Civil War, white Southerners were moaning and groaning about how persecuted they were. Neo-Confederacy after the war was and has always remained an ideology of white racists whining about how they are the real victims of society.

But the effects of white racism extend well beyond those who hold to a conscious white supremacist viewpoint:

Most white folks are good and decent. A notable few have been allies of people to color in our struggle to make America a more fair and inclusive country for all of its citizens. But in total, white Americans have demonstrated quite a bit of naivete and innocence about matters of race. For example, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement public opinion data suggested that most white Americans believed that black people were treated equally and fairly in America. In their eyes, there was apparently no "race problem." Decades later those numbers are little changed. [my emphasis]
In his conclusion, DeVega mockingly "performs" the position that good Christian white folks prefer to hear from African-Americans:

Given our special insight, people of color must be patient with our white brothers and sisters on these matters.

In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin killing, black people need to be especially careful of the feelings, anxieties, and fears of white folks. Many of them appear willing to work with us on this issue; we must be sure not to antagonize them, or ask too many difficult questions.

Because black Americans are the conscience of a nation, we must also ensure that George Zimmerman's rights and liberties are respected. We must always be role models on matters of justice and fairness.

The murder of Trayvon Martin has pushed the national conversation on race one step forward. White folks have been kind enough to share their deepest fears and worries about black men. As a reciprocal act, black men need to acknowledge our profound power as we imagine ourselves from the point of view offered by the white gaze.

Dress up. Smile. Grin. Show some teeth. And don't wear a hoodie. If we do these simple things, white folks and their anxieties will be soothed. Black people, and black men in particular, are privileged and blessed. We are the most envied and imitated people in the world. With this privilege comes a special burden.

Let's acknowledge how we scare and frighten white people. Once we take this step it will be possible to move forward as a country, and all of us can find peace in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin's murder.
DeVega's post came two days after President Obama's statement on the murder, which modeled sympathy and sorrow but not outrage. At least part of Devaga's post seems to be a criticism of how the President pandered to the white expectation that responsible black men don't get angry. Even at an outrage like Trayvon's murder.

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