On Trayvon Martin and the Zimmerman Verdict

I couldn’t watch the George Zimmerman trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin for more than 10 minutes at a time. The pain was too acute. The trial was such a mockery of everything that we are told to believe the “justice” system is supposed to be. I couldn’t bear to listen to the “balanced” coverage discuss how it’s about race and also not about race.

To see exactly how the system is rigged was simply too much.

And yet, there was a split second last night right between the time the judge asked the jury if they had a verdict and the moment that the verdict was read that I thought that George Zimmerman would be convicted of murdering Trayvon Martin.

A split second.

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The Cruel Racism of the Real World

reg_634.QWallis.mh.022413Quvenzhané Wallis was the butt of a deeply sexist, racist inappropriate joke by whoever is tweeting for The Onion last night (which I will not link to or describe because it’s ugly).

And what upsets me so much about it is that this beautiful little nine-year-old black girl had to get a lesson in just what it means to be a black girl in a white supremacist patriarchal country at the exact time that she’s being honored for her artistry. In fact “upsets” is too bland a word for what I feel. It’s anger. A profound sadness.

But the sad, maddening truth of this moment is that it is not surprising. Black people, girls and women especially, are never safe from the random omnipotence of anti-black sentiment that infects this nation, but I had hoped that maybe this poised, thoughtful, remarkably self-possessed beautiful little girl would have this one night.

But she didn’t. The Onion tweeter took that from her. Violently. Cruelly. Unconsciously, it seems.

Welcome to America.

Three Cents an Acre

Haitian Ambassador Raymond Joseph on Pat Robertson:

I wonder how Pat feels knowing we got something from that "pact with the devil." 

It is amazing how fantastically ill-informed we are about how our country came to be what it is.  Ambassador Joseph is so dope here because he's matter-of-fact.  The dignity in the face of the kind of disgusting bigotry of men like Robertson is, in my mind, Herculean.  I honestly get incensed when I hear stuff like what Robertson said and would have a hard time being as calm and respectful and rational as Ambassador Joseph is. 

Better man than I.  Hats off to you, sir.

On Politics and the Sorry State of Affairs (or, you know, the Democrats)

(x-posted at Forbes Avenue)

I’ve been having a hard time figuring out what to say about politics of late.

Part of it is that life gets in the way and a brotha ain’t always got time to sit down and take stock of everything that is happening. And part of it is that I’m losing faith that we liberals always taking to the innanets is even effective.

But this was a big week, folks. Big education speech. Big health care speech. White folks still freakin’ out about the fact that the president got some melanin. And one of the tried and true liberal visionaries lost his job, leaving Obama with pretty much no one on the Left with which to work.

Time to say something.

But what do I say that I haven’t said already? I wrote a few months ago about my frustration with the Democrats? But I wanna take it a step further:

I do not believe there is a progressive movement in this country, which is why I think the Democrats are so ineffectual.

To wit: Brilliant reporting on how the Democrats fucked up health care from jump.

To wit:

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Collective v. Individual; Where Does Racism Lie

(cross posted at Forbes Avenue)

Skip I work for a progressive organization in Washington, D.C., with a wonderful group of human beings. We work side by side on any issue you can think of and, mostly, we get along while we do it.

Two days ago, four colleagues and I were talking about the degree to which race played in the Skip Gates arrest controversy. I and a fellow Black colleague were pretty confident, given what we know from news reports about how the incident went down, that race played a role.

My other colleagues, you can imagine, were skeptical. They argued, rightfully, that someone made a call and the cop had an obligation to follow through and secure the home. They asked "what are the standard procedures" in situations like this? Also, not surprisingly, they wanted to make it about the cop's ego, an idea that is picking up traction online, as if it couldn't then be about race as well.

Later that night, two other Black friends told me similar stories that they had with White colleagues. Everything they told me was the same as what went down in the conversation I had with my colleagues, almost down to the language.

White folks are quite comfortable with this notion that there is a pattern of racist behavior in America. They are reluctant, however, to say that any individual instance is about race. So what happened to Skip Gates wasn't racist. Neither was what happened to Shem Walker. Or Sean Bell. Or Oscar Grant. Or Officer Omar Edwards.

Every individual instance must be rationalized, but then at the end of the year when the stats are compiled we rant and rave against a pattern of behavior, against institutional racism.

Institutional racism is nothing more than a pattern of individual behavior that has become instituationalized. Redlining is just a lot of White folks deciding where non-whites can live. Poll taxes were nothing but a lot of White folks making it really hard for Black folks to vote.

They say the personal is political. Well the individual is the collective.

The goal here isn't to call the cop a "dirty racist" and write him off. What I said to my colleagues was that acknowledging that what the cop did to Skip Gates was racist, doesn't make him a bad person. This isn't "i hate niggers" racism, but it is still racism.

The goal is to let him (and other non-Black cops) that this kind of behavior is a problem. We need to have processes for training police for how to deal with different types of people. And we need processes to handle situations after they happen. We simply do not have this anywhere to the degree we should.

Behavior like this can be involuntary; a lot of White folks have tremendous guilt that they lock their doors in a "bad neighborhood" and clutch their purses in an elevator alone with a Black man. But rather than live in the guilt, we gotta acknowledge it and begin to unlearn it.

Until we do, we are going to keep seeing these individual instances and keep being surprised that the year-end statistics haven't changed.