Monday, July 22, 2013

Racism? Nah.

Okay, I have felt the need to blog about this from the beginning but wanted to stay out of the fray.  Truth is, I can't anymore.  Albert Einstein once said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”  

I have friends, people I know are loving and kind, good, good people that are saying things about this Trayvon/Zimmerman trial that just doesn't seem to match up with the heart I know they have.  I believe it is because they just don't get it.  They don't get race in America.  They get the white version of race in America but truly have no idea what the experience is like for many blacks in our country.  I don't want to rehash the facts of the trial.  I don't want to get in to some heated argument about stand your ground or profiling or who is to blame.  I cannot, however, sit back and not share my heart on this.  I'm asking for open hearts to hear this.  This is not meant to be divisive.  This is just to tell a side of things you must not know. 

Racism still exists in America.  Please don't tell me it doesn't.  Do some blacks hold stereotypes and prejudices about white Americans?  Yes, sure.  BUT, racism is most affective and felt the strongest within the minority group that doesn't hold the power.   If you think that white people in America are still not the loudest voice and the dominant decision makers, you haven't seen our lawmakers or watched the news in a very long time.  I wrote about this on a personal level not long ago. I get it.  It's not on your radar.  I get it from a white perspective.  If you aren't black I get that you would believe racism isn't an issue anymore.  But I see it.  I really do.  When your family looks like mine, you notice when the issue arises.  It's like buying a car or naming a baby.  You never notice a white Honda minivan until you get one and then every parking lot seems to be filled with them.  You name your daughter Grace because you don't know a single child with that name and suddenly you are introduced to 5 in the next month.  It's on your radar.  It's part of you now.  Race is part of me.  It will always be.  I notice what you don't. 

Do you know that in America if you have a name that sounds like you might be black you have less of a chance of getting an interview from your resume than your white counterpart with the same skillset?  And if you get that job, chances are you will get paid 25% less than your white peers.   This isn't liberal propaganda.  This is fact.   Did you know that if you commit a crime, you better hope you're a white man because a black man gets on average a 20% longer sentence for a similar crime.  The big stink a few weeks back about Paula Deen using the N word and everybody wants to know what the big deal was.  I'll tell you what the big deal was: "A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart." Luke6:45.   I heard the argument it was 20 years ago....I met my husband 20 years ago.  That term wasn't acceptable then and it sure isn't now.  That was a story because racism is still alive and well.  I could stock this post full of examples I've experienced.  I could tell you about the time someone called my husband the N word when we were sitting in a restaurant in my hometown and how the sight of us made him sick.  I could tell you about the place of business that blatantly refused to wait on us, after being given numerous chances and the benefit of the doubt.  I don't make it a practice to "pull the race card" but please know that there is a reason that card can be played.  It exists.  I have to prepare my children, my boys especially for the fact that there will be a time that someone will make presumptions about them based solely on the color of their skin.  There are still unjust things happening solely on that.  An unarmed boy being shot by an armed man that pursued him hits a very real button.  Especially when your son looks like him.  Especially when your life experiences have been peppered with injustices because you are black in America.

I have two black sons.  I am married to a black man.  Their future and how they will be perceived by someone that knows nothing about them should not have to scare me.  Do you truly think that if George Zimmerman was a 28 year old black man that followed a 17 year old white kid with every other aspect of the case the same that he would have been found not guilty?  It is simply not the experience of black men in this country.  Would I love to be wrong about that?  Absolutely, but statistics show otherwise.  Experience shows otherwise.  Do I believe race played a part in why Zimmerman felt Trayvon was 'suspicious' in the first place?  Yes.  Is there a woman raising a black male child in this country that does not explicitly feel the heaviness of that responsibility?  No.

Sometimes we just need to look outside of our own experiences to see the reality of other's lives. 
86% of blacks are dissatisfied with the outcome of the Zimmerman trial.  78% of them think it raises significant issues about race that should be discussed.   That number is only 30% and 28% respectively with whites.  Do you really think that 86% of African Americans are 'playing the race card?' or could it be that their experience with race is vastly different from yours? Different from yours and true for them.   If you think that 86% of blacks are crying racism then you might want to take an introspective look at your heart and the prejudices it holds.  

This isn't about Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson or Barack Obama.  This isn't political.  A child died.  An unarmed child that was pursued by an armed adult.  Do I know what happened after that?  No. None of us do.  I do believe wholeheartedly that child would still be alive had Zimmerman not followed him with his gun.  The fact that Trayvon had been in trouble before is also mind blowing to me.  He is a teenager.  Is he the first teenager in trouble?  Does that make it acceptable that he died or more believable that he was the aggressor against Zimmerman?  I don't get it.  Could it be he was scared because some crazy armed man was following him when he was just taking a walk through a neighborhood he had every right to be in.   I keep hearing that he wasn't the angel the 'liberal media' was trying to make him out to be.  Seriously?  That has no argument here.  Truth is, his life has value.  The same value as yours and mine, regardless of his choices. Or his color.

This is about listening and giving value when someone tells you the struggles of their life.  Even if it may not be your own experience.  If I want to know what it's like to be a mother, I ask moms and validate their response.  If I want to know what it's like to be a lawyer, I ask lawyers and weigh their experiences. If I want to know what it's like to have cancer, I ask someone who has lived through it. If I want to know what it's like to be black in America I don't ask an old white man.  Why is it that we don't believe an overwhelming majority of blacks that say this is an issue?   What is it about us that makes us say, no, you're wrong, your voice has no value here?!  Am I the only one that sees a huge disconnect here?! 

I don't know George Zimmerman's heart and why he did what he did.  I do not know the choices Trayvon made that night.  I do not pretend to understand all the legal jargon about stand your ground or to be knowledgeable about all of the evidence presented at trial.  But if you think that this case does not bring up the issue of race in America and doesn't deserve the hard dialogue that accompanies that, you are mistaken.  I understand that my life experience has been very different from yours, but I would hope that you would not question the truth of my experience simply because it wasn't yours.  Let's be respectful.  Let's stop our I know all attitude and pointing fingers and listen...really listen to the hearts of an entire community that is hurting over the loss of what they see as a great injustice.   Let's trust the intentions behind the dialogue and walk in the shoes of someone that is other than us.


ANG said...

A wholehearted AMEN! These were/are my thoughts about this case and the state of racial injustice in our country. However, you expressed them more eloquently and with a clearly perspective than I ever could.

Julie said...

Thank you for opening this window of truth. We all need to be. Doing a lot more listening, especially to those who've walked in Trayvon's shoes.