I used to live in Florida. I graduated from a Miami high school. There was plenty of racism then. My white twenty-something French teacher once murmured, with regard to black students, “des singes”. He did not expect us to understand, but when I looked up, startled and shaken, he only said, “Tu comprends ça? Eh bien…” (“You understand that? Oh, well . . ..”) and shrugged and continued the lesson.
The French singe means “ape”. My French teacher was an open racist.
Now, it’s apparently okay for some people to believe they can proudly affirm they’re racists. Others call George Zimmerman, acquitted during his criminal trial – he has yet to face a civil court, and apparently may also face federal inquiries – “George”, while referring to the boy he killed with a bullet, Trayvon Martin, as “that boy”.
He lost his life, must you make him lose his name, as well?
Yet the juror who has spoken out about the trial has lost her literary agent – partly through the pressure of social media – and, I would guess, has also lost any hope of a lucrative book deal. Four other members of the six-person jury have come forward to say that Juror B37 does not speak for the rest of them. Stand-your-ground laws in Florida and elsewhere are receiving special scrutiny.
The NRA is staying conspicuously silent. They wanted “stand your ground”, they supported it and lobbied for it. Why isn’t the NRA saying this whole tragedy would never have occurred if Trayvon Martin had been carrying? Why isn’t the NRA calling for more gun sales to young black men, since they are obviously victims of gun violence? Why isn’t the NRA using its bizarre Second Amendment interpretation to benefit people whose skin is dark? Is it that they aren’t allowed to feel frightened, to stand their own ground?
Zimmerman used “stand your ground”. Because he carried a gun, because the wannabe cop (who was repeatedly rejected for police training) did not stay in his vehicle, his life will never be the same, and he’s beginning to realize that. The police in Sanford, Florida, can do only so much to protect him and keep him in the Sanford small-town bubble. When the jury filed in to acquit, not one of them looked his way. The law and facts as presented to them made them choose acquittal, but “not guilty” does not mean “innocent”, and they knew it.
President Obama has pointed out that the US is nowhere near a post-racial society, and that people whose skin is dark experience the everyday events of life – riding an elevator, crossing a street, shopping in a store – differently from those with pale skin. Just so do women experience life differently from men, since women deal with everyday sexism in a drip-drip-drip that resembles water torture. Two different groups that, due to their history, have two separate perceptions of the same event.
Zimmerman had three prior assault charges against him. He was ordered to take anger management courses. Which clearly did not work. Perhaps not trying him, with a jury of his peers, was due to his skin color. Perhaps it was the influence of his magistrate father and court clerk mother. Zimmerman was known to the system. He was known as “one of us”. Trayvon Martin was a dark-colored unknown.
If Martin had been 18 years old, if he had legally carried a loaded gun that night, it might have been he who, relying on “stand your ground” legislation and fearing the stalker behind him, pulled the trigger. Would the NRA rejoice in that? Would Martin have been acquitted?
Do we live in a non-sexist, post-racial society? Hell, no.