MARCH 26TH, 2012 | 0 COMMENTS | POSTED BY JEN
I saw The Hunger Games Friday afternoon, and it was good. Just good. But the part that got to me, of course, was when Rue was killed. When it happened, the first thing I thought was, She is Trayvon Martin. She was a child. She was hunted. She was hunted by aggressors much more powerful than she. She dies from a wound to the chest. In a society that allows the murder of its own children.
Then I read the racist reactions to Rue and her character’s death, which range frompeople either being angry that a black girl was playing someone “good” and “innocent” to people being not that sad over her death now that they understood she was black, which made it clear to me that other people were also making a connection between Rue and Trayvon, however subconsciously. Only instead of that reaction being “This is a child who was hunted and killed and that’s unacceptable,” it’s “Because this character is black, I care less about her death.”
What I’ve been stewing over for the last few weeks is exactly that, that there’s a sickening bottom line in this country, and it is simply that certain people’s lives are valued less than others. I don’t know how we continue on as a society knowing this. Because a society where mothers of black boys have to worry that when their children run out for candy, they might never come back–that society is broken. A society where the Muslim mother of five children could be beaten to death in her own bed where her killer left a note that reads “go back to your country, you terrorist” is a society that demands to be fixed. Every piece of legislation that criminalizes a person’s skin color–whether with regard to immigration or homeland security or law enforcement–needs to be challenged. Every cultural message that says one race is “less than” another needs to be checked. Is it a movie we’re watching about a dystopia that doesn’t give a shit about its disenfranchised or are we living it? The line for me has become increasingly blurred.
Here are a few links I’ve leaned on to try to make sense of it all:
How do you explain the killing of Trayvon Martin to your own son? Apology to My Brown Boy, by poet and mental health advocate Bassey Ikpi [Bassey’s World]
An insightful examination by a white man of how white privilege works: Whites Should be Suspicious about Trayvon Martin’s Death, by Christian minister Bob Bixby [Pensées]
On the different rules black men have to live by: Trayvon Martin, my son, and The Black Male Code, by AP national writer on race/ethnicity Jesse Washington [AP]
Tearing up the picture of the pope 2.0: An open letter on the killing of Trayvon Martin by Sinead O’Connor [Sinead O’Connor website]
When good is never good enough: No Apologies: On The Killing of Trayvon Martin And Being “Good,” by Danielle Belton, aka The Black Snob [The Black Snob]
Feel free to add more links related to this in the comments section below. And if you haven’t done so already, please join the other 2 million+ people who have signed this change.org petition to bring George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer, to justice.
White Picket Fences, White Innocence
By Sikivu Hutchinson
Black children in America are never innocent. Innocence looks like Dick and Jane, our bright-eyed tour guides through the idyll of green lawns, lazy bike rides down hopscotched sidewalks, and the mystery meat treasure of sandboxes under blue skies that sparkle into eternity. From the 1930s into the 1960s Dick and Jane taught America how to read the American dream. Picture book primers with these two characters snaked through every schoolhouse from the Deep South to the rugged West of African American “Promised Land” reveries. Before the mainstreaming of phonics, the Dick and Jane primers were the first to provide sight reading instruction supposedly grounded in average everyday life. In their sun-kissed freckle-faced average-ness, Dick and Jane schooled America in the cultural literacy of suburbia and the holy trinity of nuclear family, heterosexual marriage, and white supremacy. Neat, well-dressed, ever-courteous, they established the template for a “normal” childhood of perfect single family homes in segregated subdivisions that would be tethered to the world’s largest interstate highway system in 1956. Father was breadwinning and boozing. Mother was homemaking and Easy-Off sniffing. Spot the family dog brooded faithfully at brother Dick’s side, primed to rip off the balls of any intruder. Government subsidized Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans and GI Bill funded college educations smoothed the pathway for Dick and Jane’s nuclear bootstrapping. Black vets and black families needn’t apply.
In her World War II era novel The Bluest Eye Toni Morrison begins almost every chapter with a bitter homage to the manufacturing of Dick and Jane. The book opens with “Here is the house. It is green and white. It has a red door. It is very pretty. Here is the family. Mother, Father, Dick, and Jane.” On the next page the words blur together, spidery and damp, underscoring the brutal contrast between idyllic Americana and the novel’s blistering story of incest, racial apartheid, misogyny, and psychic degradation in the life of a black Midwestern family.
As metaphors for American innocence Dick and Jane continue to taunt and terrorize. These are the bodies that matter, that are worthy of protection, that demand the kind of national security epitomized by America’s panting 24/7 tabloid obsession with all the missing Caylees, Jaycees, Chandras, Elizabeths, and Natalees. This is the legacy of human value and worth that so-called “white Hispanic” neighborhood watch “captain” George Zimmerman, like scores of American children of all ethnicities, was steeped in when he murdered Trayvon Martin in cold blood. It is the code that gives law enforcement license to criminalize the lives of blacks while harboring white killers. Some residents of the Sanford gated community where Martin was killed allege that Zimmerman targeted black men. Early on, his white father sought to deflect charges of racism by trotting out his Latino heritage. Yet reference to his “biracial” status hardly neutralizes claims that he subscribed to racist beliefs about black people. In the U.S., Latino racial identification has always been fluid, whereas the categorization of blacks has historically been bound by the “one drop rule”, or the rule of hypodescent. Reviewing the results of the 2010 Census the online publication Latino Decisions noted that, “the Latino population is responsible for much (74%) of (a) 6.5% increase in white population. This poses an interesting dilemma: Latino population growth is driving the national movement toward majority-minority status, but the rise in white identifying Latinos is also responsible for a renewed growth of the U.S. white population.” Indeed, the Pew Hispanic Center’s 2004 report also noted that nearly half of Latinos identified as white on the 2000 census. So when the news of the shooting first broke, Zimmerman was variously identified as white, white Hispanic (by law enforcement) and Spanish-speaking. In the eyes of the Orlando police, Zimmerman was able to occupy whiteness in a way that would never be afforded a biracial person with identifiable African heritage. This kind of ambiguity—or what feminist activist Diane Arellano has called “lesser white status”—is part of what legitimized Zimmerman’s self-defense claim.
In his role as neighborhood watch captain, Zimmerman was upholding the time-honored tradition of white homeowners’ associations that protected white communities from dark interlopers. During the era of restrictive covenants, pioneering 1940s subdivisions like Long Island’s Levittown New York ensured that black homebuyers were excluded through discriminatory clauses buttressed by the FHA, real estate brokers, private lenders, and banks. In Los Angeles, black homebuyers who overstepped these boundaries were targeted, profiled, and often run out of their new homes by the local blockbusting “welcome wagon.” These exclusionary white affirmative action policies solidified white middle class upward mobility. And their legacy can be felt in 21st century America as residential segregation continues to trump income. According to Brown University’s 2011 “Separate and Unequal” report, “affluent blacks have only marginally higher contact with whites than poor blacks” and the overwhelming majority of all whites still live in white communities (regardless of class background). Then as now, national security meant protecting white homes and white property values. Open carry and stand your ground laws merely reinforce this regime by giving white citizens carte blanche to police the “dangerous” racial other. Fifty-seven years after Emmett Till was lynched in the name of white womanhood, the murder of Trayvon Martin—a beautiful son, friend, and prospective college student—is yet another testament to the terror of white picket fence innocence.
From Black Skeptics on Free Thought Blogs.
So, in a tinychat with stfuconfederates, insert-witty-name-right-here, etc., talking about whatever. Having a generally awesome time. Hear the doorbell ring. Think to myself, “That must be positive connotation”! So I get up out of my chair, leaving my brother and his friend in my room, answer the door, and by the time I get back in my seat to resume the chat, I see that I’ve been banned from the chat. “Banned from the chat,” I think to myself, “Oh. Ha-ha. Very funny, guys.” So I take a cursory glance at the chat panel, on the off chance that somebody mentioned why I was banned, and I see two lines staring me in the face:
Then it hits me like a thousand-pound bag of sand. This is the new racism. It reminds me of my experience with rape jokes; Having a girlfriend who’s a survivor, I’ve become acutely sensitive to any mass-media representation of rape. Rape jokes: the belief that you should be forced to “take a step back and laugh” at your incredibly traumatic, life-shattering experience. This seems, to me, goes a long way towards describing the new racism. It reeks of “color-blindness”. My brother thinks it’s a great joke to call someone a “nigger”. I couldn’t be more opposed to that. If any part of what I’m saying is wrong, please tell me. Maybe my perception is distorted by my privilege. I’m sorry to anyone in the chat who was offended by what he said, (which, by my reasoning, should have been everyone) and I don’t plan on leaving my computer unlocked around him again.
Republican presidential candidate RICK SANTORUM, being all “I hate the liberal media and stuff,” on Fox & Friends.
Well when the liberal media hurts your feelings by asking you to explain your own words, there’s no salve better for those wounds than Fox “News.”