Trayvon Martin and the specter of white supremacyPosted April 3rd, 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf
In response to a March 23 post at my Inheriting the Trade blog — “Trayvon Martin: thoughts from a white parent” — a reader posted the following comment:
It is a tragedy when anyone is murdered, but let’s be clear. There is no comparison here. Black people murdering white people is statistically rare. Black people murdering white people because of race is almost unheard of. Yet this type of ill-informed and misplaced paranoia may well have contributed to George Zimmerman’s pursuit and killing of an innocent, unarmed black youth half his own size. According to the Miami Herald, neighbors in his gated community claim Zimmerman has been fixated on crime and “focused on young, black males.”
Additionally, throughout U.S. history, the consequences for white-on-black crime have been, and continue to be, vastly different than for black-on-white crime. Among the plethora of sources of clear and conclusive evidence, Michelle Alexander’s broadly-researched, and well-documented book, The New Jim Crow presents a clear look at just how different the consequences are for black and white people in the criminal justice system today.
If a young black man had been walking around his neighborhood with a gun, encountered a white man, and said he felt threatened and shot him to death, he would be in jail; yes, even in Florida with the “Stand Your Ground” law in place. Throughout history, black-on-white crime has generally been investigated and prosecuted far more vigorously than has white-on-black crime.
Yet, I will not be surprised when George Zimmerman is arrested one day soon. I fully expect him to be prosecuted. But I also believe it will be as a result of the ongoing public outcry in this case. If Trayvon Martin’s death had not made the national radar screen, had not gone viral through Facebook and Twitter, the initial decision to not arrest or investigate Mr. Zimmerman would no doubt have been the final decision; which has so often been the case in similar situations that never make the national news.
Trayvon Martin was killed, in large part, because white male supremacy continues as the driving force in the United States of America. I encourage those who doubt my words to take the White Privilege Pop Quiz developed by Molly Secours. She posted it for anyone to share “with friends, family members and co-workers who are perhaps curious, doubtful or even insistent that such a thing as ‘white privilege’ doesn’t exist.”
I’ve participated in Coming to the Table since 2006 in order to understand and acknowledge more fully how the wounds inflicted by the historic system of American slavery (and the many forms of racism it spawned) continue to harm all of us today, and what I can do to help heal those wounds. The story of the ongoing healing journey will be published in October in Gather at the Table.
I hope the person who wrote the comment above will seriously ponder how he/she contributes either to further separation, alienation, and trauma, or to acknowledging the truth, and healing. As long as people rationalize racism, we will perpetrate the system of white supremacy that has haunted this country for centuries, and we will continue to not live up to our founding ideals of liberty, equality, and justice for all.
That is what we should not stop thinking about.
(note: this post originally appeared 4/2/2012 at Inheriting the Trade)
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