Typically narcissistic blogging.

What Did Trayvon Know?

Last night, one of my dearest friends called me with some of her thoughts on Trayvon Martin. I asked her to turn it into a blog post; you can find it here. It was sometime later in the conversation that she said, “What can I do? I am one person in the Bay Area. What can I do? Write a blog post?”

I said, “Yeah, write a blog post. And you have to help raise Alex in this world.”

She was quiet for a long time.

Alex is her beautiful 2.5-year-old nephew. He’s lovely, he’s smart, he’s inquisitive. He’s Black. He’s Black in a world where a dead teenager can be put on trial for his own murder because he was a Black kid in a hoodie.

He’s Black in a world where racism is rampant (whatever the old white people on Drunk!SCOTUS seem to think), where people can be killed, imprisoned, pulled over, and denied employment or even so much as the benefit of the doubt upon walking into a store because of the color of their skin. He’s a Black boy being raised by a White mother who is acutely aware of what the outcome of the Zimmerman trial means for her son. [Note: the link is not about her and her family specifically.]

In fact, we live in a world where a man who grabbed a gun, stalked a Black kid, and then killed him was able to claim self defense. Because Black people are so scary that apparently we are always defending ourselves against them, even if all they have to fight with is a package of Skittles and a soft drink.

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I am a queer Jewish person of color (with a largely invisible physical disability, because I needed a complete set). I grew up being told that the world didn’t want me here for just about every part of who and what I am. My mother apologized more than once for the fight I didn’t fully realize, as a kid, that I had ahead of me.  My girlfriend and I plan to adopt and/or foster one day, and there is a very real possibility that some of our kids will be PoC. I turned to her last night and said, “What will we do?”

She said, in typical White-person-who-has-never-dealt-with-race-issues fashion, “We will just have to make the world better.” And I felt so powerless. Powerless to explain how two people in the Bay Area and their friends will not be able  to “fix” racism for our kids. Powerless to even begin to explain the history of racism and how scores of people, organizations, campaigns, politicians, religious figures, celebrities, etc. have been trying to fight racism for so long. About how we still need laws and explicitly stated policies to protect people of color. About how privilege is still rampant and a major issue of contention, especially for those who have it.

Later, she told me she was glad I would be there to help our kids with the “race stuff”, which I found heartbreaking. Because in that moment I became the token go-to. Thank DOG she has a brown person to explain brown things (this is also a major issue wrt the discussion of race and racism–white people still seem to need brown people to explain the issues when the issues, the resources, the information is all right there for the reading [see re: Google searches]). And yet I loved the fact that she recognized that there would be “race stuff”, and that our children would need resources. I love the fact that she wants them to have those resources.

And that’s true whether our kids are female, queer, trans, and/or people of color. These kids have to learn about how they can best navigate in a world that is still unfriendly and dangerous to them. We (as a planet full of people) aren’t teaching boys not to rape*, we are still teaching women and girls not to get raped. We aren’t teaching people not to be racist, we are teaching people not to dress threateningly on top of being Black. We aren’t teaching people not to be homophobic, we focus on places where queers should worry about coming out. We need to teach our children to navigate through that and come out stronger, to support each other even when it is scary, to know when they need help.

What did Trayvon know that night when he left the house to get some candy? Did he know that the world was a dangerous place for him? Did he know what image he needed to present as a visual apology for the color of his skin? Did he know that some deeply racist vigilante nutjob might shoot him to death because of a general distrust of Black people, a distrust that is neither limited to Zimmerman, nor Florida? Would knowing that have saved his life? Where do we find the balance between wishing desperately that Trayvon had been wearing khakis and a preppy button-down shirt and indulging in victim blaming?

What are you teaching your kids? What pieces of wisdom do you have to offer your female, queer, alternative, PoC children? Did you even know that you needed to? If your children are straight, White, and male, what do you tell them about racism, misogyny, rape, homophobia? Do you see a need to discuss these things with them? Are you letting them learn about these things on Facebook?

If so, WHY?

*I don’t mean that boys are born rapists and must be taught otherwise. I mean that boys are not given the skills they need to handle sexual situations appropriately. In fact, society puts a level of pressure on boys and men to be sexually active and dominant that can be pretty unbearable (and ensures that instances of male rape go woefully underreported).

13 responses

  1. This doesn’t address any of your important points brought up here, but one of the pictures I saw of Trayvon from that night looked like he was wearing khakis, and a medium gray hoodie, not a black one.

    July 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    • He was wearing what looked like khakis, but I’d say his hoodie was black and greyed out by the flash. I wish it didn’t matter even a little what he was wearing.

      July 14, 2013 at 3:41 pm

  2. Andrew

    >> “What did Trayvon know that night when he left the house to get some candy? Did he know that the world was a dangerous place for him”

    We failed him, absolutely. He didn’t realize that tackling and hitting someone could get him shot.

    July 14, 2013 at 4:14 pm

  3. L M

    Unfortunately the media only puts out the details that will sway opinion in order to increase racial bias – what the media is not actively advertising is that moments before he was shot, Trayvon had zimmerman in a headlock and and was attempting to beat his head on the pavement, also that trayvon was much taller at the time of incident than the photos used for most stories.

    I Am not saying the shooting was justified, I’m simply saying that the media is manipulating the information for their purpose and we should not judge without all the information that was available to the jury.

    July 15, 2013 at 10:17 am

    • Fact: Zimmerman followed Martin for no reason except that he was Black and wearing a hoodie.
      Fact: Zimmerman had a gun and at least 50lbs on Martin.
      Fact: The only person who felt justifiably threatened was Martin.
      Fact: I don’t care what Martin did to defend himself, there was no reason to shoot him.
      Fact: Zimmerman acted irrationally from start to finish and killed a boy he shouldn’t have been following.

      So you keep justifying the fact that he got off without so much as a verdict of manslaughter with “we don’t know what the jury knows”, as if what the jury knows wasn’t a matter of record. And I’ll keep calling it bullshit, because it is.

      July 15, 2013 at 10:22 am

  4. LM

    Well – the media has you in their sights…

    I believe whether the verdict was correct or not is way off from what I interpret as the point that this blogger was originally making :: if you don’t want to be treated like a duck don’t dress and talk like a duck while wading in a duck pond.

    As for your additional comments I said right in my post i was not going to support whether this was justified or not – Maybe you missed that part, but you also missed a few other items listed in PUBLIC RECORD :

    it was the job of the prosecution and the defense to make sure the Jury of 12 had the information to make their decision based on “reasonable doubt”.

    Zimmerman was on neighborhood watch patrolling looking for suspicious activity after a wave of robberies
    He saw an individual non-resident wearing cloths that were able to obscure his build and in the dark also disabled the ability to get a good look at the individual’s face.

    The 911 operator asked for “the then unknown individual’s” current location and he followed that individual in order to furnish that location to the police.

    Did Zimmerman back off when the police told him to, NO.
    Did Trayvon leave the are when zimmerman requested it – NO.
    Did trayvon have a justified reason for being inside a GATED community in which he did not reside or have friends with whom was visiting NO….
    Did ZImerman give Trayvon the opportunity to LEAVE the area YES
    Did Zimmerman feel that his life was threatened ? the JURY decided YES, I have too many additional questions not asked during the trial to agree or disagree.

    Many things were done wrong by both individuals, long before the gun was pulled and this is why charges were filed.

    The probability and statistics are in Zimmerman’s favor, before taking in to account Trayvon’s previous record with the police. Innocent law abiding citizens don’t have police records and have no need to disguise themselves from neighborhood watch patrols. I personally feel that neighborhood watch should not be allowed guns unless they have law enforcement training, so that -unjustified shootings can be prevented, but that’s my opinion and it is up to the courts and laws in each state to decide this for themselves.

    July 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    • So what you are saying is that it was okay for Zimmerman to stalk and kill a kid because he was black and wearing a hoodie. This other blogger, by the way, was not saying that. She was saying that it mirrors rape culture’s way of blaming the victim for what she was wearing. Which is, unfortunately for people like you, wrong.

      July 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    • Sam

      I apologize in advance if this is too much or FTT but damn it.. I am so tired of this LAWD Im tired…

      “…it was the job of the prosecution and the defense to make sure the Jury of 12 had the information to make their decision based on “reasonable doubt…”

      Jury of 6, not 12. and “reasonable doubt” is not what you make a decision on as a member of a jury. I think what you are referring to is the concept of proving something beyond a reasonable doubt… difficult to do if the only other witness is dead… but lets continue…

      “Zimmerman was on neighborhood watch patrolling looking for suspicious activity after a wave of robberies
      He saw an individual non-resident wearing cloths that were able to obscure his build and in the dark also disabled the ability to get a good look at the individual’s face. ”

      Actually, Zimmerman was not on neighborhood watch patrol at all that evening. Had he been “on patrol” he would have had another member of the neighborhood watch with him. A “witness” if you will. The assumption that Zimmerman is able to identify every resident of the neighborhood is laughable to the point of absurdity, but assuming for a moment that he is, If his clothing obscures his build and face, how can he discern if he is a resident or not?

      “The 911 operator asked for “the then unknown individual’s” current location and he followed that individual in order to furnish that location to the police. ”

      As the “block captain of the neighborhood watch” he had to get out of his vehicle to get a street name because he didn’t know where he was? ummmmm… ok?

      “Did Zimmerman back off when the police told him to, NO.”
      To be accurate, it wasn’t the police, it was a 911 operator which in Florida is a civilian. Still a good idea to listen when they tell you to not do something. But lets call it a wash.

      “Did Trayvon leave the are when zimmerman requested it – NO.”
      Under what authority did Zimmerman tell Trayvon to leave the area again? Actually where does it say that this even happened? I don’t recall that in the trial or the videotape of Zimmerman.

      “Did trayvon have a justified reason for being inside a GATED community in which he did not reside or have friends with whom was visiting NO….”
      Blatantly false. He was a visitor.

      “Did ZImerman give Trayvon the opportunity to LEAVE the area YES.”
      Well yassah! I shows will leave yalls neighborhood. Thank you boss, for the opportunity sah! I knows yall dont want my kind around and since the sunsdown already I aint got no business bein heah no way. Im just gon take my skittles and Ice tea and head on back to my side of the tracks. *shuffle shuffle tap dance shuffle* How about Did Zimmerman give Trayvon the opportunity to mind his own business and go home? NO.

      “Did Zimmerman feel that his life was threatened ? the JURY decided YES,” Assuming for a moment that this is true… At what point does Trayvon’s fear for his life get considered? Oh that’s right we cant ask that question because seances are not admissible in court. And lets be honest, the idea that a young black man (note that I said man not boy or teen) could possibly be afraid of Zimmerman is inconceivable. Beacause Black men are scary, not the other way around.

      “I have too many additional questions not asked during the trial to agree or disagree.”

      Then ask them and get them answered before you attempt to minimize or defend the decision or Zimmerman.

      July 17, 2013 at 7:23 pm

      • Auros

        I considered making some of the same points you are, here — especially the facts that Trayvon was entirely justified in being inside the community since he was visiting his father there, and the fact that this LM clown has no freaking idea whether Zimmerman said so much as word one to Trayvon before pulling a gun on him. It seems entirely possible to me that, from the get-go, Trayvon thought he was defending himself from somebody who might be a robber or just a lunatic. If it had been Zimmerman who ended up dead, though, you absolutely know that the cops would not have been so quick to let him go based on the “stand your ground” BS. (Which I think is actually the right way to do things. When somebody’s dead on the ground, and the person who shot them is right there in front of the cops, the cops should take the shooter into custody and collect evidence. They shouldn’t just take it on faith that it was self-defense, even if that does seem very likely to be true.)

        July 18, 2013 at 10:23 am

      • Auros

        Also, LM’s emphasis on “GATED”, as though it’s just obviously OK to wall off large swathes of public land and keep out the Undesirables, kind of pisses me off.

        When I was living in Mountain View, I was in a heavily Hispanic, somewhat downscale neighborhood. Immediately north of us — between us and the San Antonio CalTrain station — there was an area that had, until fairly recently, been an empty field. A developer got the land from the city, and built a condo complex there. As part of the process of building it they wanted to put up fences, and they had to get some rights and permissions from folks along the border. There were signed agreements with multiple residents, saying that there would be at least one gate from our neighborhood onto the street that ran along the east side of the complex. But after a few years, the folks in there decided that, to feel “safe”, they needed to be able to lock that gate after sundown, and b/c they were a heck of a lot richer and more influential than the folks in my neighborhood, they managed to persuade the city council to let them — the agreements that had been signed specified a gate, not that it actually had to be open. :-P

        It pissed me off. It meant if I was leaving for work before they deigned to open the gate, or arriving home after sundown, I had to walk all the way around, roughly doubling the distance. Just so that those assholes didn’t have to tolerate brown people on their illegitimately-privatized property.

        July 18, 2013 at 10:29 am

  5. These aren’t ducks, people. This was a kid. Also, if Zimmerman had hunted and killed an actual animal without a permit, he would have been penalized far more than he was for killing a teenage human being.

    Trayvon was on his way to his father’s condo. He wasn’t trespassing, and it wasn’t Zimmerman’s job to enforce any territory. The Florida ‘stand your ground’ law is a piece of bullshit which allowed him to start a fight and then end it.

    The 911 operator told him not to follow, and Zimmerman did. He blatantly ignored all standard advice and rules about neighborhood watch, which includes stuff like, I dunno, NOT engaging in confrontation.

    Tell me one thing that Martin did wrong, other than being a black kid. He wasn’t trespassing, he wasn’t breaking into homes or writing graffiti. He was alone, walking down the street at night.

    Tell me YOU wouldn’t stand up for yourself if some random dude started following you around at night. I know I sure would. Good thing I’m not a black teenager in Florida, otherwise that could be me shot in the back.

    July 15, 2013 at 1:22 pm

  6. Bob Martinez (an attorney, and former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida) summed it up far better than I can –

    1. The man thought the teen looked suspicious.

    2. The man called the police to report his suspicions about the teen.

    3. The man was told by the police not to chase and pursue the teen.

    4. The man decided to chase and pursue the teen anyway.

    5 . The man was carrying a loaded gun.

    6. The teen was not carrying a gun.

    7. The teen was not carrying any weapon.

    8. The teen was carrying candy.

    9. The teen was not committing any crime.

    10. The teen was not trespassing, as he was walking toward his father’s condo.

    11. The man and the teen met in a physical confrontation.

    12. The man and the teen fought, wrestled to the ground, and punches were exchanged.

    13. The man shot the teen with his gun.

    14. The man shot the teen while both were on the ground.

    15. The shot from the man’s gun killed the teen.

    16. There is no evidence that the teen was committing a crime or about to commit any crime.

    17. But for the man chasing and pursuing the teen, there would have been no physical confrontation.

    18. But for the physical confrontation, there would have been no fight.

    19. But for the fight, the man would not have shot the teen.

    20. But for the shot, the teen would be alive.

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/11/3496085/zimmerman-trial-man-carrying-loaded.html#storylink=cpy

    July 15, 2013 at 1:31 pm

  7. Auros

    FWIW, I do think that both of these blog posts do a tiny, tiny bit to make the world better. You have, over the last few years, been doing a really good job of explaining ideas about privilege and discrimination in ways that are useful to others. I’ve used your language, or just directly linked to your privilege posts, at least a few times in conversations. (Most recently, I included a link in an email to Hanna Rosin, smacking the participants of the DoubleX Gabfest for an incredibly insensitive and offensively ignorant discussion of gay marriage and non-monogamy, and pointing out that those of us who have non-mainstream sexualities — their friends, co-workers, family, even if they’re not aware because not everyone is out, even now — have to cope with the social constructions that they’re assembling, one flippant, thoughtless pronouncement at a time.)

    July 16, 2013 at 4:03 pm

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