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An open letter to whites about the black community and the Trayvon Martin case

14 July 2013

This morning, I woke up to this. Like many, many people within and without the black community, I followed this case intently and had (continue to have) definite opinions on them (the justice of those opinions is another matter) and, like many, I received the news not with anger or frustration but a sort of quiet sadness that is difficult to explain. I’m going to try, though, in the hopes that I can share some insight into what this case, and this verdict, mean for communities of colour in and outside the United States.

I wasn’t present when George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, so I don’t know what transpired. I cannot peer into George Zimmerman’s soul, so I don’t know what he was thinking or with what intent he followed Martin down the street. What I do know is what it’s like to be a Trayvon Martin. To be suspect. I do know what it’s like to be followed by staff in a nice clothing store; to be stopped by police for walking down the street; to endure the thousand micro-aggressions and the hundred fearful looks, the patronising astonishment coupled with quiet indignation at my education or erudition. I know, in other words, what it is to be a person of colour in a world that privileges whiteness.

Deafness

While I cannot speak for my community I am certain that I am not alone in the sense that what many of us were hoping for with this case was a degree of vindication, a recognition by the courts of a Western nation that the racism we face is a real, day-to-day reality. I want racism to end but almost as much I want to stop being told by whites that it has. I want every white person I ever complain to about the years of piling slights, the extra hours at airport security, the half-seen glances from across the bus from eyes that fearfully refuse to meet mine, to respond with compassion and credulity and not to even think about explaining them away or ‘informing’ me that racism died with Rosa Park or MLK or whatever and they would know. I want white people to stop questioning my experience of racism, to stop defending every offender as ‘just doing his job’ or ‘just doing whatever.’ I want the excuses and the explanations to stop. I know where they come from. I know you feel accussed. I know you feel that you are not racist (after all, you have that black friend and your maternal grandmother is Chinese). I know you think I’m being too sensitive or too quick to judge (after all, he didn’t call me a nigger and you didn’t notice any racism and you would know). I know that you feel like affirmative action gives me a leg up because you work just as hard and where’s your quota? I know it’s easier to pretend that racism is a thing of the past because you can get by just fine doing that so why can’t I? But here’s the thing: it’s not about you. You are not the one who is slurred, you’re not the one who is refused service, and you’re certainly not the one who is shot in the street. It’s about us. I want you to acknowlegde that fact. To recognise that I experience racism.

This case offered me some sliver of that recognition, that vindication. The tantalising prospect that a white-passing man with a white name would be found guilty of murdering an unarmed teenaged boy for no other reason than his race and his hoodie filled me with hope that my plight would no longer be so easily dismissed, hope that made the slights easier to endure for its impending fulfillment and that prejudiced me against any possibility of Zimmerman’s innocence in any trifling legal sense. That is, I think, much of why this decision has been met with so much anger. Our hopes for a world where our voices would be heard were dashed.

Sight

Karen Grigsby Bates observed today that this case has confirmed for blacks and members of many other communities of colour, that we still need to wear protective clothing. We must still, in her words, appear church-ready whenever we walk out the door. I have long described to white friends the process of dressing (or otherwise self-presenting) to ‘white’ myself. The way I dress in an academic setting, the way I speak and write, the extra-curricular activities I put on my resume as a teenager, all carefully considered to avoid any shred of ‘blackness.’ Why? Because blacks with the gall to be black, to act and speak as you have deemed ‘black,’ are rarely deemed worthy of your respect. In this world you have created for me my blackness is a handicap I must not acknowledge, a loadstone around my neck that I dare not draw attention to because then I will be the ‘activist;’ the ‘angry black guy’ who doesn’t know that MLK fixed the system, reshuffled the deck so now that everyone gets the same hand but who still needs to be Snoop Dog; or worse yet I will simply be criminal and suspect, a potential gangbanger who might be carrying so we better stop him just in case. So I must perform if I am to get ahead or even to get by. And perform I will, because I want nice clothes and good jobs and to walk down the street unhindered by the authorities. I will do so to please you and you will think it right.

On the night he was killed, Trayvon Martin was dressed in a way that does not please you. He wore his hoodie over his head. In words well-practised from the press conferences and talking heads sessions that follow every high-profile sexual assault, police officials and pundits suggested that Tayvon Martin’s choice of clothing was a factor in his death. Some cried victim blaming, apologism. Others replied ‘prudence.’ Black voices intoned both. Whoever is right, Trayvon Martin’s clothing was not protective, instead it painted a target on his back and hung around his neck a sign that read ‘threat.’ Right or not, this ruling has reminded me why I prefer to let the rain fall unhindered onto my head.

Blindness

I have seen it observed more times than I care to count today that justice is supposed to be blind. This case, they say, was not about race. It was about a boy who was killed and the man who killed him. It was about evidence. Lord, how I wish I had the privilege of their naiveté. Lady Justice may be blind but George Zimmerman is not. If he were, maybe the sight of a teenaged boy wearing a hoodie after dark would not have frightened him so severely that he decided to follow that boy with a firearm at the ready. If the police were blind, maybe they would have charged a man who shot dead a 17 year old boy before mass protests forced them. If Lady Justice removed her blindfold maybe she would have seen that her scales were weighted against Trayvon Martin from his first breath. Maybe she would have known that by refusing to see the racial dynamics of the case before her, she was blinding herself to the very substance of the case.

Race was at the core of this case and race it why it became a symbol of such great weight and meaning. To us Trayvon Martin was not just murdered, he was martyred. In death he bore witness to the racism and oppression that blacks and other people of colour experience every day. Why was Trayvon Martin threatening to George Zimmerman? For the same reason that I am threatening to the mothers who claw their children back when I smile and wave back to them on the bus, the men who watch me like hawks when I pet their dogs on the street, and the staff who follow me in their stores. Everywhere I go I am a threat, an outsider, an other. I am a threat because you see me, or at least some of me, yet somehow you do not see this. In Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman’s trial the world, for a moment, saw. For a few short seconds all eyes turned upon a racially motivated crime, upon a black boy killed for blackness itself. But now the world has turned away because the court has comfortably ruled that blackness really is threatening and you really are justified in keeping watch for it in your communities and resisting it with deadly force. We were wrong, it seems. You will not see.

You will not see his martyrdom because it is woven into the frabic of your privilege, the cloth that the world has tied around your eyes. I will see it every time I look in the mirror, because in my brown skin is the crime for which Trayvon Martin died.

Speech

I’ve added my voice to the cacophony of this verdict in the hopes of granting a little insight to those outside my community to whom our response to the case has been opaque. I’ve done so knowing it will open me up to dismissal and scorn (after all, who am I to accuse you?). I’ve brought all my eloquence to bear and had a friend copy-edit my words because I know all too well the lesson we all learned from Rachel Jeantel: that black speech is suspect and blacks who speack publically on race represent us all. In spite of that I’ve spoken only for myself, only from my own experience and perspective, because I can no more speak on behalf of blacks than you can speak on behalf of whites (not least because to some, I am not one). I pray that my words will not fall only on deaf ears and blind eyes.

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770 Comments leave one →
  1. 14 July 2013 5:32 pm

    Matthew:

    Thanks for a powerfully written and insightful piece, and for posting the link to this on Language Log.

    Two quick points.

    The first is that Trayvon wore his hoodie over his head because it had started to rain, as Rachel Jeantel explained in her April 2, 2012 interview with Bernie De la Rionda (see pp. 8-9 of that transcript, available online). So it was a purely functional act, which was then, in addition to Trayvon’s ethnicity, misinterpreted in ominous terms.

    Secondly, support for your point about “whiting” yourself protectively comes from Claude Steele’s 2011 book about Stereotype threat. The title, as you probably know, comes from his story about Brent Staples, New York Times, columnist, who used to whistle tunes from the Beatles and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to “assure” people whom he passed in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood that he was not a threat.

    Thirdly, note this from (white) linguist Rosina Lippi-Green’s 2012 book, English with an Accent: “The real trouble with Black English is not the vernal aspect system … or the rhetorical strategies … it is simply this: AAVE [African American Vernacular English] is tangible and irrefutable evidence that there is a distinct, health, functioning African American culture which is not white, and which does not want to be white.” (p. 209).

    John R.

    • 14 July 2013 8:03 pm

      John

      Thank you for your comments on the post. I was not aware that it was raining. That and your comment about Claude Steele certainly lend more weight to my claim that white-normative judgement places unreasonable onus on people of colour to appear non-threatening. This weight lies on different racial groups in different ways and ‘colouring’ or ‘racialising’ is just as important as colour or race: I suddenly become an Arab (or just ‘Muslim’) when I walk into an airport.

      Your last point was also very on point. AAVE or Ebonics represents an immense threat to majority white culture: the willfull non-conformity of a racial minority community. This living, breathing community that does not need the majority white culture denies that culture on of its greatest power: the tantalising promise of access. Ebonics is that tangible proof that some blacks don’t want to be white.

      Thanks again
      Matthew

      • 14 July 2013 8:44 pm

        And indeed, as Rachel Jeantel noted in her April 2012 interview with Bernie De La Rionda (which seems to have disappeared from the web, so I should try to repost it on my website), Trayvon also stopped under the mail shed at the apartment complex to shelter from the rain. That was where Zimmerman first spotted him, and Trayvon saw him looking at him, and talking on the phone…Note this section from the transcript (Rachel is “Dee Dee”):

        Dee Dee: When he was leaving the store, he just told me that he bought drinks…and it about to rain.
        BDLR: OK, and then what?
        Dee Dee: It about to rain..he about to get to…inside a thing. It started raining.
        BDLR: It started raining, and did he go somewhere?
        Dee Dee: Yeah. He ran to the um…mail thing.
        BDLR: Like…I’m sorry…what?
        Dee Dee: Like the mail…like a shed…
        BDLR: Like a shed…like a mail area…

      • 15 July 2013 10:09 pm

        Matthew, you are a good writer but just by reading your title you exclude the rest of this extrememly diverse country. I see you tried to acknowledge that. I am of irish and mexican descent, and I am shocked at the verdict just like many other Americans. You target “whites”, when Zimmerman is infact multicultural. The hispanics in the US have had, and are still having to deal with many forms of racism from blacks, whites, Asians, etc…Asian American’s deal with racism from blacks, whites, hispanics, etc…my point is everyone is trying to break these ridiculous color barriers. I think the media views could empathize for a nation in flux, and know that the rest of the country does not share the views of Zimmerman. I have a “white” friend (actually Greek) who was jumped in my neighborhood here in Houston for simply being a different color. I live in 3rd ward (I suspect I get along with everyone there because I look brown and I don’t keep my head down, I walk through my city the same in River Oaks or 5th Ward). We need people to start being the answer and stop perpetuating the problem. I am writing on your blog when I should be writing on CNN’s or ABC’s. They use “white v black”, and ignore the rest of this country…we are The United States of America, not black and white land.

      • 15 July 2013 10:12 pm

        “Views of Zimmerman” *allegedly. He may not be a racist, but he sure is an insecure idiot.

      • 16 July 2013 2:01 pm

        reply to Joe concerning the exclusion of diversity…

        I think it’s the history of black and white people in America for one, and the population sizes for two…

        And when speaking of the hispanic communities, the issue becomes even more complex since we are mixing ethnicity and race. But to put it simply, is still based on appearance anyway.

        But anyway, the point is if any combination of races can get it right, working together to prove the point of possibility. And with 72% of the US population, white people are the road block here.

      • Ebonics is fad slang... permalink
        4 August 2013 8:28 pm

        wrong. Ebonics just like any other slang is only an attempt to come up with fad words to replace existing words in the dictionary… the same dictionary blacks have also had input in its words. Again, ebonics is no different than any other slang/urban/fad words that fade away after they are no longer the flavor of the month. The fact that some people try to say Ebonics is actually a TRUE language are grasping at straws. If you want to raise the black flag and show what the community has provided to society, try something other than a fad language. Seriously, before you start whining, take a look at slang words used in the black community 10 years ago and tell me they are still used today? I didn’t think so. Ebonics is not a true lanuage, just a summation of fad words that lose their luster after a few months. Please don’t try to make that one of the hallmarks of the black community. Very sad.

      • westie permalink
        6 August 2013 8:46 pm

        Matthew have you read this reply to your Open Letter? “Why We Profile” http://thosewhocansee.blogspot.com/2013/08/why-we-profile.html
        It may help you make more sense of the world as it is.

      • Theresa Pugh permalink
        8 August 2013 4:37 am

        Westie, awesome work. I wonder what the percentage is on the replies to the positive posts as opposed to the “negative” or undesireable posts. One of the great things about living in the USA is still the freedom to give our opinions no matter what!

    • Michael T. Downer permalink
      16 July 2013 3:09 am

      Matthew & John,
      I agree with the vast majority of what has been stated here and Matthew I am deeply sorry for the way you have been treated, however I do disagree with Rosina Lippi-Green’s assertion about the problem with AAVE being that it is not white or wanting to be white. My problem with AAVE (and I can only speak for myself) is the same problem I have with the dialect of the English language spoken in my region by many southern, rural (read provincial) whites; it sounds unprofessional, uneducated, and in many cases can be almost unintelligible. When communicating with someone the goal is to be understood regardless of whether or not the two conversing come from the same background or culture. I have personally worked very hard since the age of thirteen in order to rid myself of this accursed accent, or at the very least to be able to “code-switch” when I am in a professional or academic setting. Let’s be honest, if I were to walk in to an academic setting speaking the way many in my extended family speak I would not be taken seriously at best, and at worst I would be laughed out of the university. Admittedly, when around my family and friends my manner of speech starts to sound more like Forrest Gump and less like someone who is seeking a graduate degree with the ultimate educational goal of a Ph.D in mind, but I slip less and less as time goes on (I feel). The way one speaks in their personal life is (to me) their own choice and no one has the right to ask them to speak differently. In an academic or professional setting the story is a bit different. One must always make sure that the thoughts they are trying to communicate are being received as intended, and as such one must take care to be articulate regardless of whether they are speaking English, French, Afrikaans, Swahili, Japanese, Hindi, Arabic, or any other language that one could imagine. That’s just my two cents on the matter.
      Respectfully,
      Michael

      • 16 July 2013 9:22 am

        Dear Michael,
        Tonight we marched in Seattle, and I took your words in my heart with me… and I wanted to share with you what I felt from it all. Tomorrow and many other marches I will march.

        One Love
        July 16, 2013 at 12:54am

        You know the melody, Preacher Marley delivered it so well

        The triumph of love existing in a world of living hell.

        The color of skin creating a rainbow of hope

        A mantra to chant when injustices make it hard to cope.

        Tonight I walked the streets of my universe listening to the pain

        The same old oppression raring its’ ugly head again

        A child is dead while the man who hunted him goes free…

        In a country committed to human rights how could it be?

        how could it be?

        As I listened to the testimonies of the angry hurt crowd
        I started chanting the mantra, too afraid to speak it out loud
        Tonight was not about creating the peace
        Tonight was not about making the violence cease
        Tonight was a stand against the oppression based on the color of skin
        Hundreds of years of slavery, will it ever truly end?
        How do we reach the beach of One Love, One Heart?
        When a child who is born of color is doomed from the very start?

        If you are white like me, do not turn away from the truth
        We have been privileged and protected in our youth
        We are not profiled by every cop that we meet
        We would not have been hunted like Treyvon, just for walking down the street.
        Tonight we were all profiled, I counted 4 vans 22 bicycle cops, and 9 police cars, and 3 unmarked( full of men )SUV’s
        For a group of 30 -40 marchers, just asking… How could it be??

        How Could it Be?

        Preacher Bob asks us to get together and feel alright
        Maybe with universal love, we can win this fight.
        As I walked home with my friends and I watched my city quiet down for sleep
        I hang out in the darkness, observing the streets.
        My heart aches as I see a child digging through the trash for food
        In this country of plenty, where is the good?

        Tawnee Lynne Cowan

      • 16 July 2013 1:43 pm

        Mr. Downer, I have no doubt in my mind that as time goes on, you will find that you can speak a language perfectly and still be misunderstood. Understanding what someone is communicating is not simply about language construction. People often put up artificial barriers in communication, i.e. what proper English sounds like or should sound like. While spoken language can be used to communicate, “understanding” originates from some place else. Mostly, it originates from the willingness to understand a person (or anything your mind focuses upon). Perhaps that sounds to simplistic? But it is so fundamental that I have no doubt you will one day realize the point of my post to you. I hope you are well and congratulations on your pending achievements.

      • 16 July 2013 2:18 pm

        Do you feel that way about the regional linguistics of non-southern, white Americans? Bostonians? Jerseyites?

      • joszef permalink
        17 July 2013 4:26 am

        Black English is a perfectly well-formed dialect with its own set of grammatical rules, which are in some cases more semantically versatile than standard English. The fact that it sounds unprofessional to you is precisely a symptom of the racism we all live with. You can speak your native dialect in a job interview and expect to have a shot at getting hired, or speak it in court and expect to get a fair hearing by jurors. Not everyone has that luxury. Just imagine what it’s like to be ridiculed for saying perfectly reasonable things because you are speaking like your parents instead of some other ethnic group.

      • Warren L. permalink
        17 July 2013 6:51 am

        Michael,

        I think Cassandra McFerson hit the nail on the head in her comment with the following statement, “Mostly, it originates from the willingness to understand a person.” There is absolutely a reluctance in America to accept a non-white, standard New England version of American English. Whether that be AAVE or California “white-boy surfer” lingo, or a thick rural southern accent. I believe that you correctly point out that these non-traditional forms of American English sound “uneducated” however that stems 100% from regional, and possibly racial, bias. There is nothing uneducated about a southern accent, or a black accent for that matter. It is just not the norm and therefore not accepted. Image in Einstein spoke with a southern accent.. nobody would have listened to him and we’d still be fighting WWII XD.

        I do feel that non-traditional accents and forms of speech are discriminated against. But it is hard to argue in favor of “Whats up brah?” or “What’s good?” as opposed to “Hello, how are you?” My main argument for using proper American English is not so much about improving understanding amongst Americans, rather to preserve our image abroad. I mean we look SOOOO stupid when non-English speaking people, speak more proper English than the average American teenager…

        Warren.

      • Alicia permalink
        17 July 2013 4:49 pm

        I’m white and I can understand the basics of AAVE just fine as a vernacular. I think it’s a legitimate dialect. But a person needs to understand American Standard English if they want any kind of control of their world or any impact outside their community. I don’t look down on AAVE really and I have zero problem with people using vernacular with their friends and family and celebrating that cultural difference. I certainly revert to an accent/vernacular when with my friends and family. But part of being educated is also knowing the language of the land, whatever it is, so you can communicate with the society at large. I know a lot of people who do this, and can switch between the dialects. If a person only knows AAVE (or ANY ethnic dialect) however, and doesn’t know basic standard English, they’re never going to be able to do a lot of things that are important to being an empowered person.. they’re never going to be write an essay to be understood by all, read information about political candidates, read a scientific journal or article, understand a contract, read English literature (including that by African-Americans), write a letter to a congressman, have a substantial conversation with somebody outside their ethnic group, the list goes on and on.. is this state of affairs really what people want to be championing? This seems ghetto-izing to me. There are also plenty of international high school students who are learning standard English in order to compete in the global economy and are happy to maximize on the opportunities that Americans minorities are missing. I work at a college and around 20% of our students are international students with an education in English, and that number is growing… Call this ‘imperialism’ if you want, but the reality is that we need a common language to do business and get an education, and that language has for historical reasons turned out to be Standard English. Americans in poor communities just aren’t getting this education. Should we also romanticize ignorance of geography, history, math and science? I would think not.

      • 23 July 2013 5:51 am

        Michael, I agree completely. Simply put (no matter who you are), if you sound like an idiot, expect to be received as one.

    • Kimdar67 permalink
      16 July 2013 4:54 pm

      I think Matthew was too kind to Mr. Rickford. I wont take this issue up point by point. Matthews’ eloquent essay speaks for itself. I will say that I think Mr. Rickford’s comments illustrated what Matthew was talking about. The need to be intellectually superior and I
      feel that much of what Mr. Rickford addressed in his comments was erroneous. I as a very proud African American who loves herself and her people and All People strongly align my self with Matthew’s comments and I feel that they were very fair. It all boils down to this America,Would we be having this debate if Trayvon Martin was white? We all know the answer to that whether you are black or white or Chinese or Hispanic. We all know the answer.

      • 16 July 2013 5:29 pm

        We don’t know the answer to the question and that furthers the philosophical divide. It also points to the only issue I have with the piece and that is the statement that he was murdered because of his race. Am I reading it incorrectly that the statement necessarily implies a level of racism on Zimmerman’s part, a perspective that is problematic based on available information? If that is our point of contention that we have problem of foundation. I believe it was Sharpton who stated during a recent interview that this killing is a call to parents of all children since this could have been any child. If in fact Zimmerman’s action were race agnostic then Martin being white renders the same outcome.

        It is very true that we, being white america, cannot have a perspective from which race plays an elemental role in how we react to an incident such as this. It further indicates a requirement to better understand the meaning of the language used when describing a event with racial under/overtones. For example, it was explained to me that “crazy ass cracker” is not necessarily a racist comment because it indicates a sentiment independent of the context of oppression. I may not agree with that perspective but it can be well argued and it is important to not dismiss a well argued position when trying to understand perspective.

        There is not sufficient evidence for me to respond to this tragedy with it being racially motivated nor can I acknowledge the truth value of the “if he was white…” statement. But for someone who has lived in a world where the appearance is that being white does exclude you, that life experience speaks volumes above what others may see not supported by facts.

        We’re still too close to a nation in which institutional racism was defended at a legislative and judicial level.

      • Justin permalink
        18 July 2013 7:13 am

        This open letter was written to ‘whites’. Think about that for a second. I, as a white person, acknowledge and condemn the baseless and inexcusable racial prejudice that people exhibit anywhere in the world, but let’s classify those people based on their prejudiced views. I don’t think it’s fair to make all white people wrong or classify prejudice as a ‘white’ thing. Perhaps this could have been an open letter to ‘racists’ or ‘prejudiced people’ or ‘narrow minded people’…but ‘whites’?

        The fight for equality should be about just that…equality. Not “Black English” or “Asian English” or “White English”. Let’s just have English, or Spanish, or Creole, or Italian, etc. and speak from the heart in whatever dialect or accent you feel akin to.

        There’s not a “White Entertainment Television” channel, or “Ivory Magazine” or “White English”. I think any of those would be segregate, exclusivist, and be rooted (at least somewhat) in racial prejudice.

        I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten looks from black people because I talk or act too “white”. They roll their eyes, laugh at me, mock me, and call me the dorky white guy in the room. But guess what…I think it’s fair to say they were rude/offensive because they were inconsiderate people, not black people. I also know black people who would firmly separate themselves from that way of treating people. It’s about who people are, not their color.

        I wish we could get this country away from bucketing people by skin color, and more accurately group people by personality, viewpoint, belief systems, or things that are actually indicative of WHO they are. Black or White doesn’t say anything at all about who someone is, how they will behave, or what they stand for. Let’s instead stand against racist, prejudiced, ignorant, inconsiderate, and unjust people.

        I guess what I’m getting at is that, while I support the right for any culture to have freedom and independence, I think the culture should identify as an identity, nationality, ethnicity, tribe, or kinship, not skin color.

        Does a letter to ‘whites’ not demonstrate the very same narrow view of the world that those ‘whites’ have shown you throughout your life? You’re thoughtful enough that I’m sure you see deeper than that.

        For what it’s worth, 99% of my white friends (including me) stand with you on your sentiments of the ruling, and I’ve swiftly deleted ignorant people from social networks who think the killing was justified.

    • 17 July 2013 3:15 am

      Please know I am a white woman and I stand behind every word! Thank you for speaking out. TRUTH

      • jam permalink
        20 July 2013 11:22 am

        but being black in america does make a difference, Will Smith says he still gets pulled over by police, because he’s a black man in a nice car.( they probably think drug dealer ) and they always appologize and let him go immediatley when they discover who he really is, now do you think Tom Hanks or Bruce springstine or even eminem goes through the same thing, I think NOT.

    • maura mcniff permalink
      17 July 2013 4:14 pm

      Thank you for your heartfelt insights. Just having read U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks about his own experience with being stopped and held suspect for no reason other than his skin color, and his need to have”the talk” with his son about dealing with these injustices, I am so appreciative that you and other people of color are voicing with eloquence the experiences that I as a white woman and mother to a white son and grandsons have no personal experience with…May these conversations and discussions hold our attention for more than the flash of publicity that past incidents have captured and help guide us in making the changes we as a society need to create the vision of a just and fair country that we have long envisioned but have not yet realized.

      Maura McNiff

    • 18 July 2013 2:24 pm

      Some Blacks don’t use Ebonics and still don’t want to be white – being White is not the standard. I don’t aspire to be White, God created all people for a much higher standard than being White. The Standard is, has always been and will always be – to be like Christ, who Himself is THE image of God.

      We are human. We should give affirmation and desire affirmation that we are human and equal image bearers with the Living God, who have every potential in Christ to equally give glory to our Creator and Redeemer.

      I don’t know if Mr. Zimmerman’s 911 call affirmed this perspective with regard to Mr. Martin. I am very aware and appreciative of Matthew Simmermon-Gomes’ narrative and have and do experience similar moments. When people give me the “evil-eye” I want to treat them exactly as I want them to treat me – lovingly.

      I pray for them and myself, especially for myself, to respect and love them in spite of prejudgments of me and seek with Christ’s strength to “overcome evil with good.” At one point I was called a “nigger” – my response, “Oh, please don’t flatter me, I am far worst than a nigger, I am a sinner, a rebel, a pervert – but let me tell you what Jesus has done about the worst part of me….” The conversation was over and the offender was reminded he had to go some where.

      This all may seem trite to some but please don’t underestimate the power of prayer and the Gospel and whatever you do, please don’t underestimate the power of Jesus Christ – His power will transform your heart, mind, life, family, neighborhood, community, city, country, culture and world – when you genuinely trust Him.

    • Joe permalink
      19 July 2013 8:04 am

      I must say this was a beautifully written article but…… if you are black , you are BLACK. you have no ties to Africa, I am Greek…. So?? am I European American? No, I am white (just saying) secondly, we all speak ENGLISH. Speaking Black? huh? Are we saying ebonics is a language or street talk such as, “Yo Son” Or “Yo N***** , that cray” is acceptable? I think not. Everyone learns English the same! So next white southern slang such as “Boy” and “Yer” is acceptable?? I think not. I know racism exists…. I am a musician, We dont see color and more so , I am a New Yorker! We were all raised together, every race…. So yes, in NY , It is hard to believe but in Fla. it is scary to be black and white! I drove through a poor black town in FLA. and had rocks thrown at my old ass car…. And what about the 50 black on black murders in Chicago?? Folks, racism exists but when all we know that is “Gangsta” (dress, mannerism , style) sounds the “Danger” alarm… I say yes… avoid it! If I see a bunch of white kids on the street being loud and screaming “Black english” yes , I avoid them… White or black! Wouldnt you avoid kids who were skin heads or wearing confederate flags????? I would.

  2. 14 July 2013 8:53 pm

    Wow. Great post.

  3. 14 July 2013 10:35 pm

    Thank you, Matthew. I’ve been struggling to get my mind around the verdict all day. Your perspective is very helpful to me personally.

  4. alma a. permalink
    14 July 2013 10:49 pm

    I remain astonished at how visceral the reactions to this were amongst the people that *I* know, how aware people (of all shades) were of what this verdict means and where it looks likely to lead, of the dangers of literally vindicating vigilantism without so much as a slap on the hand – at the volume of the roar of outrage and the number of voices raised – and yet – and yet – somehow, in Florida *this happened*. How can so many people be so outraged and so upset and so frightened at the prospect of the road ahead given this verdict, and yet somehow all that outrage still leaves room for THAT VERDICT to happen? Yes, I know the jury was “sequestered” – but holy cow, I wasn’t following the trial in the media word by word and image by image and yet I managed to get a clear enough picture of what went down – and the jury weren’t sequestered back when the maine vent happened so they had plenty of information to go on BEFORE they were even chosen – and yes, I understand “evidence” and I understand that “murder” means premeditation the case for which may or may not have been properly made (blame the LAWYERS, for that, if that’s the case) but the bare bones fact remains that there was a killing and that it was a killing that transpired for reasons of “concern” for the killer’s “safety” where such concerns trump everything else, apparently, and this is impossible to make a case against because it’s like arguing faith with someone who believes something and will not be swayed by anything that contradicts that belief. What, they couldn’t stretch to ANYTHING? He was just innocent, period? Because he THOUGHT that he MIGHT have been… *gah*. I hate the mindset this reveals. I hate it so much. And I have no idea what to do about it other than rant. Thank you for your post.

    • 15 July 2013 10:15 am

      Alma

      I think it’s best that we separate our reactions to the crime, the investigation, and the proceedings from our reactions to the verdict. Having followed the trial I cannot but agree that the prosecution had insufficient evidence to remove reasonable doubt. Given that reality the jury was right to find Zimmerman not guilty. The adversarial system is meant to protect the innocent from punishment, not ensure the punishment of the guilty, and that entails a burden of proof that can be difficult to achieve. Frustrating though it is, the right verdict was given.

      Where we ought to direct our outrage is at the laughable excuse for an investigation that followed Martin’s death, the media storm that erupted to justify it, and the systemic and institutional racism that facilitated it.

      Thank you for your comment

      • christopher permalink
        15 July 2013 3:30 pm

        Very well expressed.
        Thank you.

      • 15 July 2013 9:02 pm

        …and the justice system that requires the victim be vilified, and validates paradigmatic stereotypes that prove lethal to women and ethnic minorities.

        Fact is, evidence is not a story, it only allows stories to be created around it…like statistics. Murder 2 may have been a stretch because you have to prove a “depraved mind” and “disregard for human life”…but no white jury wants to hear that growing up in a worldview that espouses the dehumanization of a person, based on their color, may make that mindset inherent…even to them. No one is EVER racist…at least not as evidenced by their associations and genetic background. Enough legal pundits (and I generally do not appeal to authority) have said that evidence was sufficient enough for manslaughter given Zimmerman’s culpable negligence. There was evidence, two stories were created from it…and while I’m not saying that the jury eschewed rationality in favor of a story they could buy…it would behoove me not to rule it out.

      • 16 July 2013 12:04 am

        Thank you for your very thoughtful and thought-provoking post, and for this comment in particular, which really helps clarify things. I’m so sorry for this whole mess, and for the senseless loss of Trayvon Martin’s young life.

      • azcountry1 permalink
        16 July 2013 6:24 pm

        Well said.

      • Amy Hinrichs permalink
        16 July 2013 8:57 pm

        You have taught me, you have helped me “see” things I haven’t experienced. Thank you for laboring over this piece, to get it out there, to get the words just right, to bring understanding. Keep thinking, keep writing. I so appreciate your insight.

      • Jody permalink
        17 July 2013 2:55 pm

        The “right verdict” may have been given, given that Florida has a so-called “Stand Your Ground” law (however, did not Trayvon Martin have a right to stand his ground as well?). The problem I see is with that law. And the problem I see is that pathetically few people realize that “jury nullification” is a very real, and perfectly legal, option when the jurors believe that a law is unjust. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/jury+nullification

      • 17 July 2013 5:03 pm

        @Jody: As repeatedly pointed out, “Stand your Ground” was not invoked in the Zimmerman defense as it does not apply anywhere except on one’s own property or residence. Actually, if Martin had just gone on to the back porch of where he was staying and confronted Zimmerman while standing there, *Martin* would have had “Stand your ground” protection. However, for reasons I have proposed elsewhere, Martin waited to confront Zimmerman on a public pathway more than a row of town homes away from where he was staying, in a spot that would be just out of sight of the responding police officer he had seen Zimmerman calling but deliberately far enough away from his place that his father or the family of his father’s girlfriend would not hear the confrontation.

      • jerry permalink
        18 July 2013 12:49 am

        Well said, though “reasonable doubt” is nortoiously subjective. I was not in the jury box, but followed this closly and believe that the evidence presented was sufficient to over come “any reasonable doubt.” “Beyond a shadow of a doubt,” perhaps not.

  5. Jim Turner permalink
    14 July 2013 11:41 pm

    This was enormously helpful – but so so demoralizing – as I try to wrap my head around this whole rancid scenario. Being white, and looking like a corn-fed Midwesterner – which I am, I have never been subjected to this daily scrutiny. What a well-written piece. Thank you.

    • 15 July 2013 10:23 am

      I’m very glad that you found it helpful.

    • cindy permalink
      16 July 2013 12:25 am

      Like Jim, I am a corn-fed Midwesterner. I am 65 yrs. old and never felt prejudice in my family towards any other group, quite the opposite. My parents stressed inclusiveness.Your insight, however, opened up a whole new paradigm for me to ponder. I will admit that I, too, have averted my eyes around some black teenagers. I thought that was because they were acting aggressively but just maybe their skin color influenced me also? When we read about thugs who beat people on subways and city busses because of some ill-perceived disrespect it is perhaps understandable why our eyes may avert their gaze no matter what color their skin. We are afraid of doing the wrong thing, making the wrong move. Fair? No. But unfair for all involved. I appreciate reading your thoughts and will read and reread it again and share it with my teen grandchildren. I agree that this case may not have given much choice for the jury in their decision but that does not change the fact that a boy was murdered. Thank you for your heartfelt insight.

      • SKernstock permalink
        17 July 2013 6:46 pm

        No, he wasn’t “murdered”!

  6. 14 July 2013 11:50 pm

    You aren’t the first person I have encountered who has expressed these feelings. As always, I feel a terrible sadness that you look at life through this lens — even more so because your perceptions are certainly correct some percentage of the time.

    Some day, perhaps it will be the norm for people to assume the best in others, without being tainted by their prejudices, but I doubt I will live to see it.

    You have my sympathy.

    • 15 July 2013 10:38 am

      bblackmoor

      I think you should be sad not for my worldview but for the lifetime of experiences that lie behind it and the systemic racism that underlies them. You should be sad that for most of my life I believed the explainers and denied my own experiences. Don’t be sad that I know racism exists. Be sad because of racism.

      Your ‘sympathy,’ in as much as it strikes me as not a little condescending, is not needed. I too look forward to but do not expect to see a day when prejudice does not blind us to the humanity of others: when women who drink are not blamed for their sexual assaults, when ‘Muslim-looking’ people are not ‘randomly’ detained every time they pass through an airport or near an embassy, when transwomen are not assaulted or accused of being perverts for using a women’s washroom, when black teenagers are not shot in the streets for the colour of their skin. Pretending that is has come will not summon it any quicker.

      • 15 July 2013 5:43 pm

        Do you ever think that your worldview may impact your perception of events – in a way that is not objectively valid. For example, you say that you experienced a mother clawing her child back. You ever think that maybe your fly was un-zipped or your hair disheveled and it wasn’t, in fact, the color of your skin?

        Then you discuss avoiding “blackness” “because blacks with the gall to be black, to act and speak as you have deemed ‘black,’ are rarely deemed worthy of your respect.” But is blackness speaking non-standard English and dressing like rappers and gangsters or is that just the BET/Hip-Hop manufactured culture used to sell clothes and music? If so, can you see why there may be a negative association with those things.

        Why is it that other similarly brown people, like South Asians and Hispanics do not have trouble “getting along” with the rest of our melting pot without reverting to tribal race based identities? I have yet to hear of the Indian kid in a hoodie getting harassed.

        It sounds like your world-view is warped by some bad experiences and now you project that perceived hate onto the world at large. Maybe it isn’t actually there.

      • 15 July 2013 8:25 pm

        Ball, you are exactly the sort of person he talks about when he talks about deafness. Yes, it’s quite possible that his hair wasn’t perfect that day or his clothes were askew… but so what? Does that somehow make being followed in a store or refused service ok? You pick apart one example when he’s really talking about the cumulative effect.

        And then you talk about non-standard English and hip-hop clothing and music as a negative thing. Who are you to judge? To you, white culture = good and everything else = bad. Tell me, why should people have to “white” themselves to fit in? Who made you arbiter of what’s proper and what’s not? Diversity is what makes us great, and not just the diversity you can personally stomach. And just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t an important part of our culture and nation as a whole.

        And when you say that people from other cultures don’t have trouble getting along… that’s a load of crap. Your stance seems to be that if you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Guess what, it happens, in different ways, to all minorities. Just because you’re blind to it doesn’t mean it doesn’t occur.

        It’s true, everyone’s world view is shaped by their experiences. But where you see hate, I see a well-reasoned missive about what this gentleman sees around him every day. A restrained and even-handed explanation for privileged folk like us. It’s another perspective. The difference between you and me is that I don’t discount someone else’s very real experiences. You’re deaf, and blind, and using your speech to deny what’s in front of all of us.

      • Michele permalink
        16 July 2013 7:18 am

        Some years back, I was working at a store that was periodically targetted for check scams, shoplifting, and various other crimes. Also periodically, the strip mall would apparently get some evidence for something or other, but the description was almost invariably “young black male wearing sports clothes.”
        So once a young black boy (late teens or early 20s) comes into the store because he needs needles. He’s dressed business casual, and he looks as clean-cut and as “white” as anyone can, but my coworker starts asking me if I think that might be him, if maybe he’s just changed out of his sports clothes, like a disguise or something, I guess. She calls the security guard to come in and check things out. No one even pretends to be subtle about it. The guard stands right next to the register the whole time, which is also right next to the door.
        He comes to the register, looking carefully blank. I ring him up, and the guard stares at him. I don’t know what to say to make it less crappy, so I just try to make it fast.
        Anyway, I can tell you with the certainty of my objectively white eyes, there wasn’t anything wrong with his clothes, or his hair, and his fly wasn’t open. The problem was his invisible, hovering “sports clothes” that he had apparently hidden somewhere so he could sneak in and shoplift in businesswear.

      • 16 July 2013 1:05 pm

        I think and it’s clear that America as failed to it promise of freedom and equality for all races, and i believe black people are paying to support a system that does not give them protection and justice when need be are black people really Americans the Trayvon Martin case is simply one of the too many Oscar Grant Nafissatou Diallo and more… black people never have access to equity,in justice i remember last year the case the African maid against the former IMF director, at the beginning we thought justice was going to be made with the overwhelming proof staked against the White Jews man, it was to forget what America is really this high profile case as shown the world what is America a country that is still deeply involved in racism whilst for it’s political imperialist agenda, tries to give lessons to the world, since there’s no justice for those blacks who are paying taxes like everybody else, and since white America as shown she’s not wiling to live next to blacks, i think the best think to do is to have a referendum and give black people some states where they can live together and have some peace and justice on their own, and of course leave the white America by itself too; it’s seems weird for some but it the only rational solution, they will never changes they will still try to show blacks that they are worthless just like they did to the Asians they use to call yellow monkeys, but with whom because of their declining population, and material interest, have found that it was better to have Asians, and Hispanics on their side, to crush more the black America, and this case for sure will contribute to isolate more black people from other races, and i ask myself if this wasn’t done on purpose, in this case Trayvon Martin was simply a scapegoat for their dark agenda, the result of this case and other before make us feel there’s a conspiracy in America against black people it’s not just a coincidence, why in country which was so divided on this question a jury of 6 women 5 whites and one from mixed heritage found Zimmerman not guilty, this doesn’t reflect what the whole country was thinking about this case the power behind doors has done its job again that’s all i can say… any idea of this power behind doors read this article you will know who they are divide and conquer is their motto http://www.flashmagonline.net/blog/1767748-the-us-police-a-criminal-organization/

      • 16 July 2013 2:36 pm

        @ball,

        If you haven’t seen or heard other ethnic minorities self-segregating you’re not paying attention.

        Is it too much to just have some faith that what these people experience is what they experience? Why even try to discredit or discount that?

        But for your consideration, when was the last time a person’s disheveled hair attacked a small child? When you wake in the morning and your hair is disheveled do you fear your own reflection?

        Ridiculous

      • what permalink
        17 July 2013 3:04 am

        Em. Yes. If they are dressed like a criminal, it’s ok to follow them. Historically Hip Hop has had a lot of references to crime. It’s not anyone’s judgement to say that Hip-Hop culture is negative unless your point of view is that the morality of murder and hookers is subjective. The examples that Ball chose to argue against were the examples given to him.

        Simple fact: You can’t dress what is considered in a culture to be what a criminal wears and be treated respectfully. It does not matter what your race is.

        On a similar note, you can’t cut your hair into a blue mohawk as a teenager as an expression of your adolescent individualism and be treated respectfully.

      • 17 July 2013 1:13 pm

        @What

        I don’t know what culture you think automatically finds hip hop to be the music of criminals, but it is not mine. True, there are hip hop and rap songs that glorify unlawful behaviors…but the same can be said for rock n roll, heavy metal, and even country. A few songs does not an entire genre make.

        Leave aside the music for a moment, because I am more concerned about your other belief: Namely, that a guy with “hip hop”clothing or a girl with a blue mohawk is automatically denied respect, simply based on how they look. Really? Do you honestly go through life making judgments about others based on whether their personal tastes match yours exactly?

        How about me? I am a blonde haired, blue eyed, size 7 woman with no piercings or tattoos. I speak “perfect”English and dress professionally for my job. I am incredibly white, come from German stock, and have very good posture. Am I automatically deserving of respect? What if I told you I wear a silver pentacle necklace to show my Wiccan faith…am I now undeserving of basic respect due to someone’s disapproval of my religion?

        I’m just pointing out that judging someone for something they can change, like clothing, is only one jump away from judging someone for something they can’t change, like skin color or sex. Something to consider, yes?

      • what permalink
        18 July 2013 12:49 am

        @tarnishedsophia

        Yes. Whether you like it, there is a standard of dress and appearance in society. By the way you describe your appearance, it looks like you make a good effort to appear respectable. There is definitely more to a person than the way they look, but how a person dresses, especially if it’s inappropriate for a specific situation, can definitely shed some light into the personality of an individual. Dressing how you want, when you want and expecting everyone to be ok with it is a very immature way of thinking. Some people grow up and some don’t. I understand many people do not like that this is the way society operates. That’s alright, but there is a tendency for members of certain communities to dress poorly, behave poorly, neglect education, and ignore proper grammar and then somehow relate these actions to their race and essentially tell people, “If you don’t like what I’m doing, you must not like my race.” I think this is incredibly disingenuous and as long as there are white teenagers who can’t get a job because of their blue mohawks, tattoos, piercings, poor grammar, and Marilyn Manson t-shirts, there is no case that can be made that Hip-Hop style has more of a right to be tolerated because of the color of the wearer’s skin.

        You are deserving of respect if you appear to be seeking it. If you don’t make an effort, you will get what you deserve. It’s kind of like real life. You out of something what you put into it.

      • 18 July 2013 2:42 pm

        @Ball, believe me…there are many, many Indians and other “brown people” that experience that same type of oppression from whites on a daily basis. One of the most horrific examples of it was the Sikh temple near Milwaukee Wisconsin in which an armed white man entered the temple, opened fire, and killed many. You apply a critical eye to the author’s paper, but YOU need to examine your own beliefs much more critically.

      • Brian permalink
        23 July 2013 2:04 pm

        @What, You too seem to fall on the deaf and blind category. I’m confused about where exactly to begin because you’re worldview is very shallow and short sighted. You regard hip hop music as a gang affiliated genre of music. So can we say that because some Muslim extremists exist that the whole religion is based upon terrorism? Do you know about the massive drug influence electronic music has on the rave scene? Ever heard of drugs, sex and rock & roll?
        A couple things perhaps you seem to misconceive: 1. There is no “hip hop dress code.” Have you not seen rappers/hip hop artists dress as “rocksters/hipsters”….?
        2. It is not just hip hop/rap music with the negative influence, a great deal of other genres of music do this everyday.

        While the way we dress may reflect professionalism, that only pertains to events, offices and certain situations in life. I’m I meant to wear a suit while going to buy milk from the store so that I can gain respect? I’m I not supposed to wear my burka because I fear not being treated as an equal? I’m I meant to not wear a graphic t-shirt because I don’t look respectable?
        As much as you may try to put out this image that seems to be acceptable to certain people in a certain society it really doesn’t make someone who they are or where they come from. What would America be like if everyone dressed “respectable” and spoke “proper standard American English”? Diversity is not only brought by different cultures but their different dialects and ways of dressing. It’s how nature works. So just because you choose not to accept diversity, don’t blame others for not dressing up like yourself or speaking the way you do.

    • Nightblue permalink
      15 July 2013 10:45 pm

      bblackmoor:

      I would like to break it to you that despite of asking for objective views, you have obviously read this article firmly mired in your own perspective, expectations, and maybe even delusions. There are pointed differences between whining without cause and pointing out actual, existing problems. Without addressing specific points of this thoughtful article, you went straight into victim-blaming mode.

      The second half of your statement is… cringe-worthy, to put it gently. As a non-black minority, I can tell you there are plenty of stereotypes associated with my race. I am thankful they are less negative and fearful than the kind some of my friends have to endure – and I would like to tell you that I lead a happy, content life myself. This does not stop me from wanting my friends to be treated a bit more fairly. Congratulations to you on living a life mostly free of prejudices based on something you are born with, or at least having enough obliviousness to pretend these prejudices do not exist. Meanwhile, please do not put others down for not being willing to simply put on some blinders.

    • progressivism is acting under the guise of liberalism permalink
      16 July 2013 4:44 pm

      hey look after hundreds of black people killing other black people a hispanic caucasoid killed a black person let’s see if we can use this to piss off white people
      News flash: Khazars, peruvians, and africans are not white. Obama is more white than Zimmerman. Fuck off.

    • anonymous permalink
      21 July 2013 3:26 am

      True and insightful, but although true, you are also missing an opportunity to also address some serious behavioral problems. What does looting have to do with justice.
      You do have to admit that man of these responses are one sided.

      http://dailycaller.com/2012/03/27/miami-teens-ransack-loot-local-walgreens-in-trayvon-martin-protest/

  7. Keli Gaines permalink
    14 July 2013 11:55 pm

    Matthew,
    Thank you for so eloquently putting words to what many of us are thinking and feeling. I have tried to explain these realities to my white peers in the past. In this letter, you articulate it perfectly.
    Especially in times like these, it is healing to remember that we, as people of color, share this reality. It isn’t something we talk about every day, but in the passing looks and head nods, we acknowledge this parallel world where we have to “pass”.
    While we wait for “Mainstream” America to recognize that racism is still alive and well, it is a relief to have our experience validated by pieces such as yours.
    -Keli
    John- thank you for posting it.

    • 15 July 2013 11:00 am

      Keli

      I’m glad that I was able to put into words the realities we both experience. I hope in doing so I can facilitate your articulating your own experiences more concretely.

      It is my greatest hope for this piece that it does some little bit to bring that realisation about in mainstream white culture in the Western world (I’m actually Canadian and living in Britain, the racial dynamics we’re both describing don’t respect lines on maps, though). I doubt it will score many victories against systemic, institutional racism but changing a few hearts would be more than I can really ask, if not as much as I might hope.

      Matthew

      • Tara Schack permalink
        15 July 2013 8:27 pm

        Dear Matthew, thank you for sharing your heart with us. I feel honored to have read all of this. I feel in a way you were speaking for so many of us, I am a white women living in California which makes me feel like you said “what racism”? I guess I don’t get out very much. I personally have just struggled with being a woman in a “man’s” world. I spent a year in England and that is where I felt it the worst. I was raised to see no color or sexual orientation and I am so thankful for that. I am raising my children the same.
        I will never know what it is like to walk in your shoes or those of someone who is outwardly different and who has to make choices because of skin color or love interest. We supposedly live in the land of the free and an age of diversity, I really wish our justice system would get up to speed and stop keeping us so separate. I think really we are all just so scared of each other like you said. Scared of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, hurting feelings, not being PC. Or we may just be scared of each others differences, isn’t that what makes people react? Fear. I think if we all react to our fear by coming together and realizing we are all human who have the same needs, our world would be so different. The people who keep us down would have no power and justice would be real.
        Thank you again for your very moving words and feelings and I look forward to change in our world which happens because of people like you sharing your experiences.
        Sincerely Tara

  8. David Bass permalink
    15 July 2013 1:25 am

    Well written!! I totally agree with this because I am deaf. Deaf people also have experience discrimination as black people do!! Deaf people have SAME abilities as hearing people do!

    • 15 July 2013 11:06 am

      David

      Thank you. I’m afraid I am wildly unqualified to speak to the experiences of persons with physical disabilities such as deafness (I do, technically, have an ‘invisible disability’ but for whatever reason the experience of disability doesn’t seem to resonate with my own) but I have no doubt that our world is ableist as much as it is racist (though of course they would manifest in different ways). All I can really offer is solidarity for those who struggle both with disability and ableism and the promise that I will do my best to hear and see the disabled community just as I have asked whites to hear and see my own.

      I’m guessing, from the content of your post, that you are not yourself a person of colour but perhaps you can speak in some way to the intersectional experiences of persons of colour who are also disabled in some way?

      • Tyler S. permalink
        15 July 2013 3:59 pm

        If I may reply to this: I, too, am a disabled person under the guise of deafism. David is right in that our deaf community goes through similar, albeit, less visible struggles as we try and live out our lives. Often members of our community are turned away from jobs because managers can’t comprehend how to “deal” with someone who can’t speak or hear. Just this past weekend a friend of mine was very nearly detained because an officer thought he was ignoring his questions, thus infuriating him. Once he realized my friend was deaf, he suddenly voiced his sympathy without opting for a different path of communication. Sympathy is nearly as debilitating as ignorance.

        I am not black, nor will I ever completely understand racism, but I do understand the feeling of “thousand micro-aggressions” that do nothing to help the deaf community. It takes a voice like yours and many others to help educate the individuals who struggle to see past their own identities, thank you for taking the time to write this!

      • 16 July 2013 2:49 pm

        @Tyler, re: “sympathy is nearly as debilitating as ignorance.”

        I believe in both cases there is a fundamental lack of respect. And that lack is the beginning place where you become an other.

  9. 15 July 2013 1:37 am

    Matthew, I will not even attempt to match your obvious intellectual gift with words and your incredible background. As a 67 year old white woman of Irish and French Canadian heritage (a descendant of the famous Canadian, Louis Riel, who was hung for treason for helping native Americans, I want to express my appreciation for your post. I spent thirty five years teaching in public high schools and consider myself to be a great champion of the under dog. That said, I cannot even imagine what you have experienced in the so-called white world, but I am ashamed to even imagine it! The verdict made me sad as well, mainly because common sense tells me that racism can be the only reason for Mr. Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict. There is no other option. We, as Americans, have not progressed far from the Civil War in this country. Thank you, Matthew, and God bless you.

    • 15 July 2013 11:17 am

      Linda

      Thank you for your very kind words. Fights like the one against systemic, institutional racism need real allies. I would be very interested to hear about how you construct your own racial identity, given that you consider yourself white but take pride in your Métis heritage.

      I don’t think we should necessarily ascribe the verdict in this case to racism. The sad fact is that there was insufficient evidence to meet the burden of proof on the prosecution. Whether a prompt and thorough investigation by the police would have produced more evidence is impossible to say but it is in their delay and their willingness to accept Zimmerman’s story without serious question that we can point to racism playing a large role in this case, so far as the justice system itself is concerned.

      It’s off topic but kudos on your long career as a public school teacher.

    • patricia johnson permalink
      17 July 2013 9:13 pm

      So, you would agree that racism can be the only reason for Roderick Scott’s not guilty verdict? You know the black man that shot a 17 yr old white teen? Ridiculus! George Zimmerman’s Mother is as black as Obama, his Grandmother is black. He isn’t a racist!!

      • 20 November 2013 10:09 pm

        Patricia you couldn’t be more right. You have to check out “When Prosecutors Attack”… its the only book out there that breaks down the Roderick Scott case along with George Zimmerman.

  10. 15 July 2013 1:46 am

    When someone posted this on fb, my first initial thought was, ” here we go…” but I loved it. I thank you for sharing. You hit the nail on the head several time.

    • 15 July 2013 11:22 am

      An

      Yes, the title was deliberately provocative, as were most of the other things. I’m glad that you read despite your initial dubium and very glad that you enjoyed.

      • 17 July 2013 12:16 am

        You were just that, provocative but just (and we need to be provoked to change our minds). I truly felt the quiet sadness you referred to in your first paragraph. Also, the cacophony you add to is a good cacophony.

  11. John Meng, Williamsburg, VIrgnia (an old white guy.) permalink
    15 July 2013 2:01 am

    Thank you Mr. Simmermon-Gomes. Your eloquence and insight have fed me. I don’t know what to look for as this case moves forward but forward it will move. I hope that within or without the courts and fractured legal systems this case will move forward.

    • 15 July 2013 2:00 pm

      Mr Meng

      Thank you such kind words. I share your wish that the case can move forward in a positive way but I have precious little hope.

  12. 15 July 2013 3:35 am

    Outstanding post. I shared similar experiences in an article I wrote as well. I hope you achieve your purpose of educating those who do not, or choose not to understand.

    • 15 July 2013 2:01 pm

      I took a quick look but didn’t spot the post. Would you care to link?

      • 16 July 2013 2:42 pm

        My post was a Yahoo article I wrote…

        http://yhoo.it/183uuVc

      • 16 July 2013 2:49 pm

        Gary’s short article is definitely one that people, especially people who have never experienced racial profiling, should read.

      • Ann permalink
        16 July 2013 11:15 pm

        You know, I loved this article, and I realize that you experience an interaction with the world that I cannot appreciate at all as a white person. However, with respect to motivationfortheworld’s post and the comments about being with a woman in an elevator who pulls away (you say “clutching her purse, whereas I visualize her shrinking inward more completely, the purse being entirely peripheral) or someone locking the doors as you pass, I submit that just as I cannot understand what it means to live as a black person in a white world, you cannot understand what it means to live as a woman in a man’s world.

        You, perhaps, will interpret every woman shying away from you or locking her doors against you or crossing the street away from you as another micro-aggression, directed at you for the color of your skin. I, on the other hand, interpret some of these instances as exactly what you think them but many others as a completely understandable act of precaution by a woman in a world where men regularly do violence to women simply because they can. If I am alone, in a somewhat isolated place (and that can include an elevator) and a lone man comes by, I will frequently cross the street to avoid him, no matter his color. If you were the man, you would no doubt see this as another racist act, because you see the world through the eyes of male privilege as well as racial anti-privilege. As men, you don’t fear walking down the street alone, you don’t fear being in an isolated place with a strange woman – it may not even cross your minds to think of why a woman might want to avoid you, irrespective of your skin color.

        I cannot know what it is like to be black, and you cannot know what it is like to be female. In any event, I will continue to cross the street to avoid men if I feel uncomfortable, and will not apologize for it. If the man happens to be non-white and attributes it to the micro-aggressions of racism, so be it. I will not “male” myself to ensure that men do not feel uncomfortable. I simply don’t have the luxury to take those chances. I will no doubt offend any number of thoughtful and kind men who would sooner come to my aid than hurt me, but I choose not to gamble.

        And in the meantime, I will continue to live in this world of male privilege, where men do not even begin to see what women experience every day, who respond to concerns about inequality in schools, the workplace, and the home with claims of reverse discrimination, justifications like “well, the pay differential is just because male-dominated fields pay more; it’s not sexism” (uh-huh), rants about the emasculation of American culture to its detriment, and on and on. So, I cannot know what it is to be a racial minority in this country or to endure the constant pin-pricks of racism, but I do know what it is to be seen as “wrong” for not being part of the dominant group, what it is to experience blindness and deafness to my experience. And I will continue to wonder why even our own experiences in exclusion and disregard leave us still so challenged in understanding those who are excluded for other reasons.

      • Tara Schack permalink
        17 July 2013 5:47 pm

        Beautifully said.

      • 17 July 2013 10:38 pm

        Thank you, Ann, for your compassionate, articulate, and astute post. You summed up many of my own observations as a woman of color in this world. I particularly appreciate the last paragraph, which has required you to step back with self-awareness. To me, the only way to heal this and all people problems is through openness, willingness to see through another’s eyes, honesty, compassion, and responsible communication.

      • Katie permalink
        17 July 2013 10:26 pm

        This may seem long-winded, but I think it’s an important consideration to raise. Please bear with me… I’m more than a little curious why you never responded to Ann’s comment. I think it was insightful and it actually touches on something that always plagues my mind when an action (or inaction) seems to implicate some stereotypical ‘ism: namely, what is real? While I am certainly not suggesting that white privilege or racism does not exist, I think it is incredibly important to pay attention to our own biases or assumptions; the lens that color our own worldview. Many of the micro-agresssions you experience, from your perspective, may be exactly as you interpret them, but, then again, many of them may be entirely incorrect. The irony in being stereotyped or discriminated against is that, after time, the prolonged, systemic treatment gives way to a defensive worldview. In the end, it can be almost impossible to discern the cause from the effect. Ann’s inclination to cross the street, motivated by her reaction to male privilege might seem to evidence white privilege. With all of these complicated factors interacting, what is it that truly remains? My opinion is that, ultimately, it’s simply differentness; not necessarily blackness or whiteness or maleness. That is, while diversity might disproportionately affect various minority groups, the sin in the heart of men is the way we immediately differentiate rather than collaborate. We don’t celebrate our commonality; we celebrate our differences. In the same way, when we feel our most vulnerable and human, those differences are heightened. We fear our differences.

        To illustrate my entire premise, I think it’s useful to consider a privilege that isn’t always immediately identifiable: sexual orientation. As a white, educated, and feminine (according to gender stereotypes) female, strangers I encounter automatically assume that I am heterosexual. After all, I appear to conform to mainstream society’s beauty expectations, so naturally, I couldn’t be a lesbian. They would, of course, be wrong. I once worked as a server at a nationally acclaimed 5-star resort, which was secluded within an arguably prejudiced rural town. The resort property was well-isolated and separated from the town, but most visitors were nevertheless aware that the surrounding culture (and, therefore, possibly the staff) mirrored some of those same prejudices. On one particularly slow night, a couple that outwardly appeared to be very much in love (read: adorably cute) was reviewing our menu from a bench ~25 yards away. Both gentlemen also easily fit within the stereotypical portrayal of a gay man. Unlike me, even if they hadn’t been affectionate, their physical appearance would have almost immediately outed them. I suppose we could argue that I have an advantage when it comes to “majority”-passing. While I quietly smiled at how cute they were together and scribbled a request for my co-worker to seat them in my section, they assumed I was suppressing my laughter at two gay men. As men of the Stonewall generation, they walked around society with a proverbial “chip on their shoulder;” a constant fear that their gayness will always be a handicap. They immediately went to the front desk and complained of discrimination and injustice. They had a miserable experience based on an entirely fabricated encounter, which transpired in their minds solely because of their own suspiciousness of anyone they perceive as different; even, ironically, when those differences do not exist. In turn, the experience continued to encourage a similar defensiveness in future interactions.

        So, you see… I can’t help but read your commentary with a nagging feeling that your experience is impossibly one-sided. I also feel a sense of exasperation at the difficulty (perhaps, inability) to throw aside all of our own biases-even in a sincere attempt to discourse about bias. It’s a terrible cycle, really. And, I’m not suggesting that I’m immune to that. Even though I desperately try to recognize it, I can only ever see the world as a white, gay, female; and, whether real or not, my past experiences of the world and the privileges within it will continue to color my understanding of new experiences and encounters. I think it’s a reality that both frustrates and discourages us all, the perceived majority and the perceived disadvantaged. We are simultaneously offended with defensiveness and the immediate assumption that we are prejudiced and resentful of discrimination.

    • 19 July 2013 1:54 am

      To Katie- It also is interesting to me that he doesn’t seem to consider something very important about the situation with the mother and her child on the Bus( I think?). I’m fairly sure it is not unusual for mothers to be uneasy when adult males do things like smile or talk “too much” to their children. It’s a sad reality of the world we live in, but it might have been his gender that mattered more then the color of his skin in that instance.

      • 22 July 2013 5:06 am

        To Ann,

        Thank you for your perspective. I understand your point, but I do not live by a male dominated point of view (maybe it is so normal that I don’t realize it). I go out of my way to make sure that women are treated as equals. In fact, as a teacher I have been involved in empowering females so they realize that they are equal to men, even though they may not be treated this way.

        I guess I am saying that your stance toward me as a man who has male privilege is somewhat disturbing. I do understand what you said, why you said it, and how you react in certain situations. I know what is in my heart. If we were walking toward each other and you chose to cross the street just to be careful, I guess it would be better if I did not know how you feel.

        I guess this is why the experiences I wrote about cut so deeply. If only the people who choose to clutch their purse, lock their doors, and follow me in stores knew who I really am, they would have no reason to be suspicious.

        To get back to your point, in my article I chose not to include times when white males have similar reactions to me because of (what I believe is) my skin color. Here is another example for you to consider: my last name is Irish. I have been on approx. 20 job interviews in my life conducted by white men. I can tell by their facial expression that they do not expect a black man based on my name on a resume.

        In all of these cases I could be wrong, but I honesty do not think so.

        My main teaching point is empathy. I teach that empathy starts when you do not question what anyone says. Instead, you accept it as truth and go from there. So when I say that people react to me in various ways, that is where you should start. Based on what you wrote, I believe you did that. Unfortunately, lots of people don’t get that far. Thanks for your reply!

      • 22 July 2013 5:20 am

        To Katie. Thank you for your reply. I have received that reaction from people who have read my article. I challenge you to read it again. If you notice, I am the one who has accepted this behavior and altered my own. It’s not that serious. If I am right, that’s fine. if I am wrong, that’s fine too. I serve God, and He tells me to forgive and move on. My point in writing the article was simply to inform people of my experiences (real or imagined).

        So I am confused by this part of your analysis… “I can’t help but read your commentary with a nagging feeling that your experience is impossibly one-sided. I also feel a sense of exasperation at the difficulty (perhaps, inability) to throw aside all of our own biases-even in a sincere attempt to discourse about bias.”

        Thanks for your reply.

      • Katie permalink
        23 July 2013 10:00 pm

        @motivationfortheworld. I absolutely noticed that you adapted your behavior to fit your perception of events. But, this is exactly what I’m talking about. This is the type of defensive worldview that is problematic. There are a million possible reasons why someone might react to you in a certain way, and only some of them might be because of your skin color (or your gender, for that matter). While, in your case, quietly adapting is a sort of calm response. Others sometimes respond differently. And, it’s that type of violent or aggressive response to your own assumptions about why someone is locking their doors or clutching their purse that is troublesome. Because in making assumptions about another person’s assumptions (and consequent behavior towards you), we’re all running around in circles playing the same game. Even though you have plenty of examples of times when people discriminated against you in the past, by attributing those experiences to people you meet in the future, you lose all objectivity to view that person without bias. So, when I said that our commentary on our experiences is impossibly one-sided, I mean, in talking about only our perspectives we’re making assumptions about a situation that we can only see from our OWN perspective, with our own biases and views about the world. For example, you might not live by a male dominated point of view, but the woman in the elevator (who may have plenty of experiences in her mind when she was discriminated against or abused by a man) doesn’t know what kind of person you are. In the same way that you adapt based on your past experiences, she adapts by clutching her purse tighter. The bigger issue, though, is with all of those causes and effects and reactions and adaptations, how can we possibly know why that happened? We all experience the world differently and we’re caught in both sides of the same game; where we are frustrated and feel defense when others make assumptions about us, but simultaneously, we do the exact same thing to others. You wrote that the most hurtful aspect is that people who don’t know you are being suspicious of you without cause, but have you ever considered how your assumptions about their behavior reflects the same tendencies to draw conclusions about why other people acted certain ways?

        Either way, I agree that it’s unfortunate that people fear one another because of our perceived differences. You’re absolutely correct. People aren’t reacting to you fearfully (for example) because of who you are, but because of who they’re afraid you could be based on a series of assumptions about how you look. I’m not necessarily suggesting that you are wrong, but that it’s seemingly impossible for us to ever be fully objective.

        However, as a caveat, I want to say that I think these sorts of interactions aren’t appropriate among police officers. As we (essentially) recognized that we tend to make assumptions and adapt accordingly based on fear of the unknown, being suspicious and acting defensively around strangers as civilians (or even police officers) is quite different than acting offensively as police officers. Your experiences with the police violated your 4th amendment constitutional rights. I think it is fundamentally important to expose and remedy those sorts of injustices. I didn’t address that point at all because I think it is unquestionable and not particularly relevant to the ongoing thread on this (not, your) article.

  13. 15 July 2013 4:27 am

    Matthew,

    Thank you very much for sharing your perspective on the Trayvon Martin case. It’s been difficult to wrap my head around the verdict. Racism is alive and well in the U.S., albeit more implicit now in the years leading to the 1960s. I am aware of my “white privilege” and have gone to great lengths to identify it and minimize it as much as possible. It still exists in many layers and I’ve slowly uncovered them as unfortunate cases like Rodney King or Treyvon Martin explicitly cause myself and the larger public to reflect privately and publicly on racial differences.

    As a follow up, I am curious if you might share your perspectives on the best ways to mitigate what seems to me to be general human nature to discriminate against physical differences in other human beings. It is no question that racial differences are a significant problem and there are significant social and economic ramifications because of it. The same could be argued that there is a significant problem of bias toward gays and women, where legislation actively seeks to strip rights of these individuals (i.e. banning gay marriage and limiting reproductive rights). On a smaller scale, I found it interesting that you used terms deaf and blind. Both my parents are deaf and I teach in Deaf studies in a large public university. Most deaf people people have long experienced biases toward them and term their form of discrimination as “audism.”

    My point is that live by the Golden Rule and try to become a better human being. I recognize that my physical condition affords me certain advantages in certain conditions such as white privilege, male privilege, and hearing privilege, and also limits in me in other social contexts. The Treyvon Martin case makes me reflect on what I could do better as a human being, but what suggestions do you have that could make us relate better to human beings and reduce the biases that we all have.

    Wam regards,

    Peter

    • 15 July 2013 2:19 pm

      Peter

      I think that the way to address issues of discrimination, be it racist, sexist, homophobic, or ableist, is to treat it as a systemic, institutional issue, rather than a person one. Though racist views (to take the subject of this post as an example) are acted upon on an interpersonal level they are perpetuated systemically. The prejudice that urban blacks are lazy, for instance, is a symptom of decades-old inner-city ghettoisation, chronic underfunding of inner-city schools, and attendant lack of economic opportunity as much as explicitly-perpetuated conscious prejudice.

      On a personal level I truly believe that education and dialogue are the most important things we can do. Understanding the systemic causes of inequality, the blinding nature of privilege, etc, can do much to tear down the auto-justifying assumptions that feed prejudice. And I found from experience that the encounter with the humanity of the other in honest, open dialogue is the most powerful argument there is against even deeply-held personal prejudices.

      Regarding my language about deafness and blindness, I was actually attempting to play on the discursive tropes of oppressed communities having no voice, of being heard, and of Lady Justice being blind. The real-world realities of people who live with the physical disabilities I employed as images did not, I am sad to say, occur to me while I was writing. I know that some have read my language as ableist, which was not at all my intent. I hope that you did not find me to be perpetuating ableist attitudes. If so, I heartfeltly apologise.

      • Cassandra permalink
        16 July 2013 10:33 pm

        I recently finished a discussion on diversity in a course in which a black student said, “I don’t like to work in groups with black people, because black people are lazy.” And while I 100% disagree with this statement, to “fix racism” we focus on the white perspective yet we ignore the situations in which people discriminate against their own race.

        Furthermore, activists are becoming so consumed with racism towards African Americans, that some tend to ignore racism towards the majority. Coming from a black father and white mother, but being primarily raised by my father, I have experienced alienation from the black race simply because my skin color is white.

        I completed a project in which I studied the Indian culture there and I was treated poorly for being the only white person around by some people, while I was also treated wonderfully by others.

        Racism is very much an individual issue, and while I agree that education is the best way to minimize racism, we become so concerned with being correct and “diverse” that we lose sight of the big picture. When trying to employ diverse background of people, we look at ethnic background and religion, and while I agree that these different perspectives are important and offer a new perspective, we often over look that true diversity is on an individual basis. It’s not meeting a quota; it’s looking at an individual.

        My main point is that there are good black people and bad black people, good white people and bad white people, good Indian people and bad Indian people- but until we stop categorizing ourselves and stereotyping problems within certain races, racism will not be fixed. We have to stop seeing race and just start seeing an individual.

      • Cassandra permalink
        16 July 2013 10:36 pm

        **The Indian project was in London, sorry for leaving that out. I think the point was understood regardless.

  14. Bill Ainsley permalink
    15 July 2013 4:40 am

    Powerful and honest! Thanks for speaking from the heart! Very helpful to me personally too…thanks!

  15. Nina Fonoroff permalink
    15 July 2013 4:48 am

    Thank you so much for this statement, Matthew; it’s about the most clear-sighted essay I’ve read about this matter. You say what needs to be said here; thank you for bearing witness.

  16. 15 July 2013 5:07 am

    not to side with zimmerman at all, believe me. i think he’s a retard who believes he’s batman. i think no civilian should walk around with guns ever. they should be left to police and any non-police carrying should be considered the threat that they are and arrested – or shot if needed. America is broken. a country where half the people miss slavery and hate gays and (bafflingly) think it’s “communist” to have health care that doesn’t force cance patients to lose their homes; where people have some vague hatred for Russians of the Chinese or whatever bullshit it is these days, when in fact no-holds-barred capitalism has failed them; where bankers toy with people’s lives like they’re legos.

    is the hoodie a racial issue though? does it not just freak people out because it conceals one’s identity, potentially to get away with a crime?

    • 15 July 2013 2:38 pm

      The hoodie is a racial issue because it comes with racialised assumptions. I don’t think anyone would suggest that George Zimmerman would have armed himself to follow a white or East Asian teenager in a hoodie down the street. Hoodies are outside the acceptable range of clothing for blacks who wish to dress to please majority white culture, much as traditional dress from the Middle East is outside the acceptable range for Arab men. A black man in a hoodie becomes threatening in a way a white man in a hoodie does not. To my knowledge, Geraldo Rivera was the first public figure to suggest that the hoodie was to blame for Trayvon Martin’s death: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Yyqkcc-a8U

      As an aside, I really don’t think it’s helpful to slur Zimmerman with ableist language like ‘retarded.’ Liberation movements can’t make any progress if we’re willing to perpetuate prejudice against oppressed communities other than our own.

      • omgopinions permalink
        16 July 2013 1:33 am

        I think what alex is trying to say is that when a hoodie is properly donned (and the hoodie has a proper hood, long and floppy to cover the head and provide an adequate awning for the face) it obscures gender, race and age and it can freak out people of widely different backgrounds.
        I was once confronted, while wearing a hoodie like the one described, in route to a corner store by a few young gang members (this is not idle speculation, they told me afterwards they were Mickey Cobras and this was on the south side of chicago, though a different neighborhood than the one I grew up in or attended school) who were hostile and combative as they told me to take my hood off, but then very friendly and cordial when after I did and they saw I was just some random guy walking to a store. I had to laugh a bit about it, I asked them if things were really that hot in the streets at the moment, if they were warring with anybody and they said no, it was merely based on the fact that when somebody is “creeping up” wearing a hoodie when it’s not particularly cold or rainy out you never know what might “pop off”. (I haven’t thought about this in years, even recently when the hoodie fiasco in this case was transpiring).
        Zimmerman’s story (which can obviously be taken with as many grains of salt as needed) has always been that due in small part to the hoodie and in large part to Martin walking behind the homes, not in the adjacent street, sidewalk or byway, in a manner of somebody casing a house for burglary made him suspicious, spurred on by the epidemic of burglaries in that area, well before he even realized Martin was a young black male. That narrative might be a bit too convenient but that’s the one he stuck to.

      • Waynette Miles permalink
        17 July 2013 3:49 am

        There are pleanty of “white boys” who wear hoodies, so why is it a racial issue? Why does everything have to be racial when it involves something like this. I don’t really think that the majority of us white folk are prejudiced. Sure we don’t understand a lot of the things in the black culture but we aren’t black. Just like blacks don’t understand a lot about us. But a lot of the black music and the words make us wonder what you are all about and cause a lot of your so called issues. You call each other dirogatory words but when a white person uses the same word, it is a racial slur. 2 black teens killed a baby boy a few weeks ago, shot him in the face while attempting to rob the mother, there as no contraversy anywhere in the news about it. Why? A baby barely over 1 year old. Very tragic. This with Trayvon is also tragic but let’s be fair.

      • 31 July 2013 10:52 pm

        wrong. i can call my straight friends gay as a joke while still being pro-gay rights (what kind of retard isn’t?). it’s quite different from calling someone a nigger in an angry tone really meaning their race is inferior (really, what retard would think that?). you have your very respectful tone that you use in your article, but not all language is like that, and for this particular case i want to insult this murderer. i’m of the south park philosophy, and i recommend the brilliant discussion present in the episode “the F word,” where the kids are calling the harley-davidson-driving douches that come into town “fags.” adults then condemn them for being disrespecful to gay people, to which the kids reply, “who the hell is talking about gay people! we’re just angry at those fags!”

        words have power, and they may come from a certain background and become something else. language does not exist only for rational, PC conversation – it’s supposed to help us convey even our crazy rants. you can’t replicate the power of cunt. so zimmerman is a cunt then, okay? but people will always need words to insult other people, it’s just human nature. we can’t outlaw them.

        that would be gay.

  17. 15 July 2013 5:29 am

    You’ve so eloquently expressed the thoughts that I’ve been unable to express in my anger at the injustice of Florida’s courts. I’m white and grew up poor (in Florida) and I’ve experienced those small class-isms prejudices that now seem like nothing compared to what you go through daily. Thanks for taking the time to think this out and try to make sense out of stupidity.

    • 15 July 2013 2:54 pm

      Alice

      I’m afraid that classism is not a vector of prejudice or systemic social issue which I know at all well. Raised in Canada in a middle, and then upper-middle, class household, I have been lucky enough not to experience those prejudices which are directed are the economically disenfranchised. As is the way of such things, my social circles have tended to middle and upper-middle class as well. Perhaps you can speak more specifically to the experience of classism?

    • 16 July 2013 3:20 pm

      Since Alice hasn’t checked back in…

      Growing up in a small town in AR, and using the public school system, our family at times experienced this.

      One example in particular? I have two older sisters. The first is of average intelligence, while the second is considerably above. As they progressed through elementary school, the eldest sister set the bar for the younger. So despite surpassing her older sister academically, (and much the rest of her class) the younger sister was passed over for the gifted and talented program for 4 years. It wasn’t until one particular teacher recognized my sister’s potential that she was given an IQ test and admitted to the program. Once she was in the program, she learned who the other kids in the program were. It seems the school was using the gifted and talented program as a club for the children of the town’s social elite. And only being a few years younger than my sister and catching glimpses of these people later in high school…. well let’s just say the terms “gifted” and “talented” had creative and liberal usage.

  18. Kristyn permalink
    15 July 2013 5:30 am

    Thank You

  19. Crystal Avent permalink
    15 July 2013 5:44 am

    You have captured my thoughts exactly. We are hurting for Trayvon, we are hurting because we know it is most definitely about race even though we keep being told it is not. The elephant is in the room. How is it that they think we can not see it. Thank you Mr. Gomes.

    • 15 July 2013 3:04 pm

      Yes, the constant refrain that the cause isn’t or shouldn’t be about race is one of the most frustrating aspects of the whole debacle. When we raise the very real racial dynamics of the event we are told we are racialising, politicising, even ‘taking advantage’ of a tragedy to further our own politics. It’s the dominant ideology of the ‘colourblind’ or ‘post-racial’ society which deems those who point out racial injustice to be racists ourselves.

      • appy permalink
        16 July 2013 6:16 pm

        I can’t stand this rhetoric of a “post-racial” society. What people mean when they say “colorblind” is “white normative.” It’s only okay to not be white if you try really hard to pretend that you are, and for that I’m deeply sad, because everyone deserves the culture and identity of their own choosing and should never have to deny themselves or where they come from. I’m (mostly) white–some Cherokee ancestry, but I look entirely white–in rural Appalachia, where you would think people would be more sympathetic due to regional bigotry and rampant classism, and I constantly hear people complaining about “anti-white racism.” Because telling a white person that it’s not okay to shout racial slurs is somehow racism. It astonishes me how many people refuse to recognize their privilege. Deep down, they are terrified to admit that they did nothing to earn their advantages–and if they do admit that, they might have to admit that they don’t really deserve them.

        This is to say thank you for your eloquent piece and for putting into words that which I have failed to do myself.

  20. ted permalink
    15 July 2013 12:30 pm

    Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution? Sound like you are the problem to me!

    • 15 July 2013 3:05 pm

      Perhaps you would care to elaborate?

      • Maria permalink
        16 July 2013 7:08 pm

        One problem I noticed immediately is that you seem to think Zimmerman is white. As someone who is fully white, Zimmerman is mixed. You wanted to make this an issue between whites and blacks when it wasn’t one to begin with. If that’s not racism, I don’t know what is.

    • shiloh11 permalink
      16 July 2013 1:51 am

      Here we go.

  21. 15 July 2013 12:33 pm

    Thank you. We are not all deaf and blind, and I hope this opens some eyes and ears. It should.

    • 15 July 2013 3:17 pm

      Thank you, Julie. The great tide of warms responses to this post from people of all racial identities has been extremely heartening. It’s wonderful to know that some are straining to listen.

  22. Biagio permalink
    15 July 2013 12:55 pm

    I’m Italian and not so fair-skinned that I could be mistaken for, say, a German. If I were to travel to the US, I think I might endure some of your “problems” and the thought gives me the creeps. I can’t even begin to imagine what’s like to be feared or to be looked down upon like this day in day out.
    Forgive my English.

    • 15 July 2013 3:22 pm

      I actually have a friend and colleague here the University of Aberdeen researching American nativism and the struggle to class Italians, particularly darker skinned southern Italians, within the early American racial hierarchy. It’s a fascinating topic that really sheds light on what happens to our constructed understandings of race when we encounters people who don’t fit nicely within it. In particular she drew our attention to our attention to a ledger of a southern plantation owner who had four pay classes for his workers: black, white, Hispanic, and Italian.

      • Warren L. permalink
        17 July 2013 7:03 am

        This is REALLY interesting and I would love a link to view some of their research and findings!

        One thing I always find fascinating about the American racial experiment/experience (which Im sure you already know about) is how racial classifications have been amended over the years. Irish, Jewish, Italian (other Southern Europeans) were not initially considered “white” in the United States, but rather classified as a non-white, which is represented fantastically in the various pay classes you presented.

        I also find it very fascinating that white Americans (more so than their European counterparts) have found their existence threatened by non-whites in a unique way. European countries were much quicker to enact anti-slavery laws than the United States. Also equality laws (not solely on race, but also sex etc.)

        For me, the most amazing aspect of race in America, is the inclusion of previously non-white groups into the white majority. It seems that each time the white majority status is threatened in America, another previously non-white entity is added to bolster the ranks of white Americans and thusly white majority rule.

        Im curious if you have a similar understanding of our racial history? And if yes, do you believe that now as we are moving towards a non-white majority in America, that another non-white entity will be added to whiteness to help secure majority, or if white majority rule will slowly be replaced?

  23. 15 July 2013 1:15 pm

    Thank you, Matthew. I live in Connecticut now but mostly lived in NYC and Amsterdam, Holland. Grew up in Texas. Joined the NAACP at the age of 14, subscribed to Ebony Magazine at the same age. I truly prefer the company of my black friends. I trust black people over white people. For good reason, i.e. the outcome of this fiasco of a trial.

    • 15 July 2013 3:34 pm

      Rozanne

      I definitely understand the impulse to associate with those who look like us, at least intellectually. Being of mixed race and raised in a majority white community by my interracially-married parents, most of my exposure to (other) blacks (I think of myself as being both mulatto and black) was with my father’s family and local outposts of the West Indian diaspora. As a result I’ve often been seen as ‘culturally white’ and my periodic attempts to join the black communities around me have been met with mixed results. Especially interesting was moving into a residence hall with an enormous contingent of West African students, who see me as a member of their racial in-group but culturally other.

      George Zimmerman is also a person of mixed racial/ethnic ancestry. His father is white, his mother Hispanic. I don’t know what his childhood was like or how he identifies racially, though I think it’s safe to say he does not identify with people of colour as an oppressed group.

      Much as I understand your position, I fear that if we turn in upon ourselves we will lose sight of the complex realities of race.

      • 16 July 2013 6:45 pm

        Sir, I believe one of us has misunderstood this commenter. I assumed the mention of “black friends” in that context came from a white person?
        (To clarify my posting name, it is Pagan, rather than Aboriginal.)

  24. Anne permalink
    15 July 2013 1:53 pm

    Mr. Simmermon-Gomes,

    This was by far the best piece I have read that touches on just why this travesty was racist, and that there is indeed, still ingrained racism.
    I grew up in a predominately African-American community, and while I experienced some “reverse racism”, the racism I faced was far more often from other whites who would make very snide remarks, or ask, “Why do you live on THAT side of town?”.
    It has broken my heart that we are still in this place in the 21st Century with all the science and medical proof that shows most of us are of mixed background, and are all quite the same species.
    Ignorance is not bliss. I commend you on a well written article and I pray that it will wake up even just one individual to the reality of their own bias.

    Best wishes!

    • 15 July 2013 4:01 pm

      Anne

      Would that the scientific understandings of race were even a factor. No, race is about in-grouping and othering, about community, status, and power. While I don’t imagine that scientific understandings will ever be a major component of race in our world, I hope that as more people come to realise that race as we conceptualise it is a social rather than biological reality, the walls between peoples of different skin colours will begin to come down and snide remarks will cease.

      • christ permalink
        17 July 2013 6:34 pm

        There’s no such thing as race, biologically speaking. We belong to different ethnic groups, but not different races. Race didn’t really become a thing until the 18th century, especially in America. Here we wrote the declaration of independence that rightfully asserted that all men were created equally, yet we had slaves. Therefore we justified having slaves by turning black people into 3/5 of a person. The idea of race really picked up world wide with eugenics, and even more so with the Nazis.

  25. SteveDave permalink
    15 July 2013 1:57 pm

    Just thought you would like to know, Zimmerman is hispanic, not caucasian.

    • 15 July 2013 2:04 pm

      “. The tantalising prospect that a white-passing man with a white name would be found guilty …”
      He didn’t say Zimmerman was caucasian. He said he could pass for white. :)

      • Slum Jack permalink
        16 July 2013 2:01 am

        “He didn’t say Zimmerman was caucasian. He said he could pass for white.”

        Not among white people.

    • 15 July 2013 4:05 pm

      SteveDave

      As Melissa pointed out, I am ware that Zimmerman of mixed Hispanic ancestry. My point has been about the racial dynamics at play. Race is never an objective issue. This was widely understood as a matter of ‘white on black’ violence. Further, Zimmerman only needs to be not black for Martin’s blackness to really become part of the issue. It’s not as though racism can’t exist outside ‘white on black’ vectors. What I’ve tried to speak to here is the larger context of systemic, institutional racism and how that context informed the way the black community reacted to the case.

      • Aaron permalink
        15 July 2013 6:01 pm

        I’m curious about the idea “that Zimmerman only needs to be not black for Martin’s blackness to really become part of the issue”. If society perpetuates racist ideas about blacks and the dangers of the “blacks in hoodies” as part of our culture is it not possible that such ideas could become part of how blacks view other blacks? Wouldn’t that make Zimmerman’s race irrelevant? Or do you not think such cultural ideas of race become part of the how blacks view other blacks, or is such a thing not considered part of systemic, institutional racism?

      • Warren L. permalink
        17 July 2013 7:12 am

        Mr. Simmermom-Gomes:

        What you wrote in response to SteveDave should be included in your actual article, since it very eloquently describes this concept of anti-black mentality in America, and the negative stereotyping that goes along with that. Your article comes across as anti-white and as though the white man is out to get the black man. However, in this response you clarify your position to focus on the institutionalised “behind the scenes” racism that undoubtedly had a role in Trayvon’s death. I have a much better understanding of your position as a result, and now more accurately see this correlation between white rule in America and the experience of African Americans as a result.

        Thanks for clarifying.

        Warren.

    • 15 July 2013 6:22 pm

      “Hispanics” are often of European or African ancestry. Making the whole notion of the existence of a Hispanic race somewhat questionable. Then again, I find the entire construct of race questionable. But as Matthew pointed out, that’s beside the point. “Not Black” was the only thing that mattered.

  26. 15 July 2013 2:01 pm

    Dear Mr Matthew Simmerson-Gomes,
    Thank you for your thoughts and the time it takes to clearly lay them out. Here are mine:
    I am a white woman. I moved from a city to a ‘behind the times’ small beach town community. In the city sure there was racism but you knew the type to expect it from. Although I hate stereotyping, in this community, the racists were stereotypes. Here in this small beach town I had a wake up call. The racism I witnessed is so blatantly obvious and accepted it took some time to adjust to. I know racism isn’t dead. It is truly saddening. I am very sadden that Zimmerman is allowed to take the life of anyone just because he felt threatened by the clothes someone wore. Anyone can make that claim, unjustly.
    What I can tell you is there is hope. There are people who aren’t racist. I believe myself to be a good person who doesn’t judge by race. I love meeting people. I love learning of different cultures. Yes, I do believe the African American communities have there own cultures. I am a compassionate person and feel for the unjust actions that you and your community are victims of each day. (I know that doesn’t make it better.) I will not be friends with people who treat others differently based on racism or prejudice.This is not stated to put myself on a pedestal. It is true and I believe there is power in numbers. The company I keep is strongly opposed to racism and discrimination. We are discriminated against in another way. We are not of the same religious beliefs as many others. We believe in equality and justice. Your words have not fallen on deaf ears, nor blind eyes, nor muted voices.

    • 15 July 2013 4:21 pm

      Mz Williams

      I can’t tell you how gratifying, how heartening it has been to read comments like your own and those others on this post and be reminded that my community has allies. I have read the heartfelt words of so many people who share my frustrations and my hopes and who stand with me and my community against the unjust world that ended Trayvon Martin’s life. I truly believe that if we stand together, we can win.

      You mentioned, but did not specify, your religious beliefs. As a person whose faith is very important to him, I thought these words, from Matthew 5.14-16, seemed appropriate:

      You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

      • shiloh11 permalink
        16 July 2013 1:57 am

        Amen

    • SKernstock permalink
      17 July 2013 8:47 pm

      Yes! Hispanic is an American construct developed to do…what, exactly? Similarly…Asian/Pacific Islander. Not the same…but not “us”.

  27. 15 July 2013 2:22 pm

    Thank you. You have opened my eyes a little wider and roused me a bit more from my dreams. This is something that has to happen for each individual and must be reinforced over and over until it becomes a part of our shared understanding—a difficult though not impossible task. Your essay helps.

    It occurred to me as I read your words that not only are we far from being “post racial” in America, white Americans are still a long way from getting past our racial guilt. I think that it is this very thing that makes us act badly toward people of color. In order to not feel that there is something wrong with *us*, we project our guilt onto you with the feeling that you somehow “deserve” everything we’ve done to you, from slavery to Jim Crow to the “War on Drugs”. As one individual, all I can say is that I’m deeply sorry for my thoughts and actions and I will do my best in the future to be a friend and brother.

    Sincerely,

    Mark

    • 15 July 2013 4:35 pm

      Mark

      Your comment has helped to bring home that somehow I seem to have achieved all I dared to dream but not to hope for this post. Thank you so much.

      I think you’re exactly right that the increasingly-dominant assumption that our society is ‘post-racial’ or ‘colourblind’ perpetuates structural inequality. By refusing to acknowledge race one blinds oneself to its pernicious effects in the world. You also very succinctly described the just world bias, the cognitive bias whereby we rationalise evils as just because we want to live in a just world. This is also behind other sorts of victim-blaming, most notably (in today’s media) in cases of sexual assault against women who drank something stronger than milk and wore something other than a habit before their assault. It is sad realities like these, far more than avowed racists, standing in the way of a truly just world.

    • Slum Jack permalink
      16 July 2013 2:05 am

      Well, the “white guilt” is working wonderfully on you here and now.

      Just what, in particular, have you been doing wrong that you now repent?

      • 16 July 2013 11:10 pm

        Slum Jack,

        It’s easy enough to be dismissive of the idea of “white guilt” (if you will) by concentrating on our individual thoughts and actions while ignoring the cultural and historical context. Hey, how could I possibly have white guilt, dude, my people didn’t come to this country until the 1890’s, right? Sorry, not that easy. We are all complicit in maintaining a network of unspoken assumptions that have the real-world consequences that Matthew—and many others—have spoke of. If you can’t see this now, eventually you will have no choice but to acknowledge it. Change is going to happen and you might not like the results.

        Best of luck,

        Mark

      • 17 July 2013 3:51 am

        Mark-So having white skin does in fact automatically make one guilty? Even if one is very much actively working to dismantle the system you speak of (this is obviously a purely theoretical line of thought)? This is indeed a difficult idea for me to contemplate, (Not saying it’s wrong, though). I am also curious because it sounded in your original post as though you thought White Guilt was not a good thing. But in this second post, you seem to be saying something somewhat different. If this comes off as defensive or hostile, I apologize, because that is certainly not my intent. I very much want to hear more about your views on this issue.

      • Slum Jack permalink
        17 July 2013 6:34 am

        I noticed that too, HB. That guilt seems to ricochet from being a generic personal confession, short of cited infractions, to a broad racial/societal generalization bedecked with vague but ominous forebodings.

        More real detail would be interesting, which is why I asked, too.

  28. Brittany permalink
    15 July 2013 2:33 pm

    Thank you for saying everything I’ve been to frustrated to get out right (or White) enough. This is as close to perfect as I’ve seen.

    • 15 July 2013 4:39 pm

      Thank you very much, Brittany. It’s always good to hear that I found the White words. Don’t feel too bad, though, I have an unfair advantage on my mother’s side.

  29. 15 July 2013 2:46 pm

    Thank you, Matthew. I’m a white woman and know I am part of the privileged. I can see clearly (most of the time) and can see what some of my peers cannot yet see. Please keep talking and influencing. I have hopes that racism will be a thing of the past but I know it will be a long, patient road. I, too, will keep talking and influencing. It’s critical.

    • 15 July 2013 4:42 pm

      Jill

      Thank you for your words of ally-ship. I hope I can be an ally to you as well in the struggle for women’s equality.

  30. Heather permalink
    15 July 2013 2:49 pm

    Really beautiful man! Thanks

  31. jerry permalink
    15 July 2013 2:50 pm

    It’s been almost 15 years since I rec’d my phd in political philosophy, and I did not stay in acsdemia. I’d almost forgotten how good the best of popular academic writing could be You do not pull any punches (if you have, it doesn’t show),you’ve not “dumbed it down,” patronized or condesended to your reader. Yet this should be accessible to any intelligent reader. I believe myself to be very progressive. I strive to acknowledge the great privilege that my race, gender, place of birth, etc. confer upon me. But I — like all people — have a blind spot. You’ve added more grist for the mill out of which my identity is ground, more subtle and nuanced observations for my use to the extent that I help consciously create my identity, and negotiate my daily existsnce, than any single essay I’ve read in years. America has few widely respected public intellectuals anymore, in park due to academic balkanization but mostly, I think, due to our blistering anti-intellectualism. You appear to have a “gift” that might lend itself to this sort of role. I’m certain you will have a rich and rewarding academic career, but I hope you won’t stop writing for a broader audience. Thank you so much for this esssy. I look forward to more. Best regards.

  32. 15 July 2013 2:51 pm

    So beautifully written and expressed. I felt very much the same as you on this verdict, that quiet sadness. I saw it coming. I wasn’t shocked. Just hollowed out even more, which is what always happens when my cynicism is validated by the reality of things. Of course Zimmerman would be found not guilty. The prosecution just didn’t have the evidence, and they argued the case poorly from the beginning. I think they knew they didn’t have this in the bag before it even began, which gave the defense the opportunity to be as absurd as they wanted to be, what with their distasteful and disgusting “Skittles” joke, because they knew Zimmerman wouldn’t be convicted due to the basis of the effed up laws down there. This whole trial was meant more as a way to try and pacify the movement that resulted in the cops even giving this case a second look in the first place. I try to tell people it isn’t merely about Zimmerman being found not guilty. It’s about the underlying cultural issues that led to Trayvon’s murder (and it WAS murder). People who try to cast aspersions on Martin are subhuman or at the very least myopic. They conveniently forget what led to the confrontation, not only that night but over the course of hundreds of years. They refuse to look at our society and all the things that lead to things like this happening on the streets of America every single day, that lead to the hugely disproportionate black male prison populations and unemployment rates and all the other ways black men are treated as lower, fringe members of society, because I think they are afraid of implicating themselves as part of the problem. They just continue to lock their car doors when they see black man crossing the street or… in some cases, they try to be vigilantes for justice in the crime of simply being black.

    • 16 July 2013 6:20 am

      Thank you Allison M. Dickson, for your post. I truly feel you “get it” and appreciate your articulation. I appreciate everyone here who is able to open their heart to try to see what is in front of us, all of us human beings.

      Thank you, Matthew Simmermon-Gomes for the article. Thanks for your clarity and insight. It’s important for all people to be able to read what goes on in another’s head and heart as to open a door for understanding, compassion, and change if necessary.

  33. 15 July 2013 2:53 pm

    Wonderfully written. I was outraged at first, when I heard of Trayvon’s shooting, then I read further and saw all the differing witness accounts. Witness accounts can be biased as studies have shown, but it is still the best we have for now. I am sure Z followed T for WWB. I, as a woman, have been followed by some scary dudes. M may have turned and attacked out of fear for his life or rage. The wound on T goes up through his chest which means he was on top of Z. Sad that a young man is dead. I am a white woman, so I don’t have your experiences, only what I see of black men and women being trailed or stopped by security more often than whites. I notice that. Look how many black men are on death row and we know the system isn’t impartial or blind nor will it ever be, not completely.

    We have to be careful to look at all the facts in a case. The problem I have is that I am undecided as to guilt of Z and am surrounded by people on both sides either proclaiming Z’s innocence and praising him (the man is in no way praise worthy) and others are proclaiming Z’s guilt. I feel like the whole case has been used politically and there is very little genuine feeling for all the young black men dying. If it can’t be sensationalized, it isn’t worthy of attention. All these media trials almost seem like a smokescreen for what is going on behind the scenes, the erosion of civil liberties, the disproportionate number of black men on death row.

    As with all highly sensationalized media trials, I say what you do that I wasn’t present and don’t know what happened. I sometimes add to the person questioning me, ‘Were you present.’ I started doing this during the OJ trial when people were saying he was ‘guilty.’ We have this mob mentality as humans that kind of scared me. I avoid that at all costs.

    Lucy

  34. Josh permalink
    15 July 2013 3:18 pm

    As a white male, I must say that my heart is broken. I read this (through tears) and was only saddened by the reality of everything you said. There are times in my life that I feel embarrassed and ashamed of what the “white world” has done and continues to do. I know that in the grand scheme of life, this makes little difference, but I am so sorry for what you and so many others have had to endure – all because of race. Thank you for sharing, and it’s my hope that this one day ends, but I’m not very optimistic that I will live to see it.

    -Josh

  35. Bill permalink
    15 July 2013 3:44 pm

    You paint with a broad brush my friend. Open letter to “whites?” May I then write an open letter to “blacks?” For all your insight gleaned from the outcome of this case, you seem to have missed what should be glaringly obvious: change starts with the individual. I see just as many angry white people over the result as I see angry people of color. I also saw an Hispanic, Obama-voting defendant get turned by the media into a white racist.

    This whole matter was never about justice – where is your anger over death-rates in Detroit or Chicago? Or race – were you happy when OJ was let off the hook despite his skin-color? Or the fundamental reasons why Treyvon’s appearances are concerning to many people (when you have kids would you want them to wind up more like your peers at school or like Miss Jeantel?)

    No, this has, from the start, been all about the politics of division; gerrymandering at its very core.

    • 15 July 2013 4:13 pm

      You’re making a lot of assumptions. How do you know what he thinks about the Simpson case? Or how he feels about death rates in Urban Centers? You don’t. As for the title of the article, the author has explained that in this comment section. Also, how much do you actually know about Rachel Jeantel, besides what you’re assuming about her because of her testimony. Which may just go to prove the blogger’s point… Where I do agree with you is that I see people using this case for their own political agenda. But to accuse Mr. Gomes of being one of them is not born out by anything he’s said here.

      • Bill permalink
        15 July 2013 5:00 pm

        I don’t know anything about Rachel Jeantel – and I don’t care to. I know I wouldn’t want my kids hanging out with her though, or with Treyvon for that matter. I also wouldn’t want them hanging out with white people who act/behave the same way. I want them associating with people motivated to make something of themselves, not people getting kicked out of school for drugs, posting racist comments, or texting about how “gangsta” they are…

        I bring up OJ because a black man who is most-likely guilty of murder got off scott-free and there was a heck of a lot of excitement at the time that a he beat the system rather than justice having been served. I just wonder if Mr. Gomes would say whether he felt any pride in OJ walking…

        It seems to me feeling pride in OJ walking would be akin to the pride someone would feel for Zimmerman having received life in prison over a case almost all legal experts have said since day one was open and shut (which it was).

        Wishing a person of a particular race punished over wishing justice being done seems like… racism… to me

    • 15 July 2013 5:31 pm

      I’ve jumped the queue on this one so that I can weigh in on the on-doing debate and respond to your comments, Bill.

      If you wish to write an open letter to ‘”blacks”‘ you should feel free. Why the scare quotes, though? If you have a message you want to address to my community, no one can stop you.

      Regarding the OJ Simpson case: I was 6 years old in 1995. While I was vaguely aware of the trial (it was a popular topic of discussion in my family), I was not familiar with the details (I still am not) and have never formed any real opinions on it.

      About you larger suggestion: that I am a racist. I’m at a loss, really. You’re right that I never mentioned death rates in any major American city. Why would I have? I wrote this letter to try to reach out to white people and do something to explain the reactions of the black community to the Trayvon Martin case. I saw a lot of comments from within and without my racial community and I saw a lot of incomprehension from whites about why we were reacting the way we were. So I addressed myself to whites in the hopes of engendering dialogue and understanding about this complex and emotive series of events.

      Justice is very much the issue at hand but not just justice for Trayvon Martin. As I tried to make clear, this was about more than a single black boy shot dead in the streets. This was about the systemic, institutional racism; the structural inequality; the years of cries for justice falling upon deaf ears. In shooting Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman made himself the embodiment of lifetimes of injustices and aggressions, and he made Trayvon a martyr to the struggle of generations. Zimmerman’s race is absolutely at issue as much as Trayvon’s because we saw another instance of a white or white-passing person kill a black with apparent impunity. We’re angry that Trayvon died and no one answers for it. We’re angry that Trayvon was minding his own business and his murderer followed him down the street, gun at the ready, and started a confrontation for no good reason. We’re angry that walking down the street in a hoodie, at night, is grounds for being shot, so long as you’re black. And we’re angry that you’re ok with that.

      • Bill permalink
        15 July 2013 7:29 pm

        Regarding OJ, suffice to say that justice was not done, but many people in the black community were fine with that so long as a black man got away with murdering a white person.

        Fine, I get it. It was highly symbolic. I think a great deal of similar symbolism, as you mention, was put on this case even though the actual law behind it did not support the outcome many people wish had occurred.

        I do not think you’re racist – I, for one, no longer believe that word means anything substantial. We need a new word to replace the old word because it has been used to death – if an Hispanic Obama Voter is so easily morphed into a white (or white-passing) racist – what meaning can that word possibly yet retain?

        My reason behind bringing up Detroit and Chicago, is that it is in those locations where the real travesties are happening. Hundreds dead, over and over, no hope for change as the communities and the government has by and large given up on trying to fix those problems because it is “racist” to insinuate that family cohesion in the black community is woefully in disrepair. Instead of us all focusing so much time and energy on a fluke case, why not instead use the opportunity to address the hundreds of kids being gunned down around the country? And the reasons behind it…

        And yes, I do believe acting and dressing like a “gangsta” is way more than a lifestyle choice, it is an inhibiting debilitation that engenders negative stereotyping – and no amount of discourse will ever change that – Trayvon was stereotyped because he fit the stereotype – I wouldnt want a guy looking like Tupac walking down my street either – sorry.

      • Slum Jack permalink
        16 July 2013 1:39 am

        Despite your occasional and passing “disclaimer” remarks, you keep returning to this central premise:

        “We’re angry that walking down the street in a hoodie, at night, is grounds for being shot, so long as you’re black. And we’re angry that you’re ok with that.”

        You weren’t there. You don’t know what actually happened. If T. physically assaulted G. with no other “cause” than presence and words, and perhaps because T. hated him for also being “white-passing” then to pretend that the result was “only” because he was black is ridiculous.

        And you DON’T “know” what you keep asserting, yet you continue to “load” everything so much and so skewed. Even as you invoke “justice”. Bull.

        That even undoes your other major “ism” here: intellectualism.

      • 16 July 2013 3:54 pm

        I don’t think it’s legitimate to say that black people should be doing something about Detroit and Chicago in light of this case. Two weeks ago did white people care about Detroit and Chicago? Or did Detroit and Chicago become a convenient albatross turned red herring to avoid a discussion of race relations?

        Fine, lets do something about Detroit and Chicago. Step one, stop thinking this is a problem the black community has to solve and start thinking this is an American problem that Americans have to solve. As of the last census white Americans outnumber black Americans 5 to 1. For every black American that wants racial tensions to ease and become irrelevant 5 white Americans have to be on board to make that happen.

      • Sherlock Holmes permalink
        17 July 2013 8:00 am

        MSG…..having a hard time with your post in this section of comments because it makes me believe you did not even look at the case, the trial, the evidence, or the many reason’s for this being a case of self-defense.

  36. 15 July 2013 3:57 pm

    I recently wrote a Facebook Post where I noted that the verdict in this 2nd-degree-murder case, by the legal definition of 2nd-degree- murder, was not wrong, and that our American legal system, which does not allow (at east in theory) the government to haul people off to prison without proving a crime was committed (and the prosecutors in this case did not do so successfully), is far better than the alternative. I also noted that the issue of continuing racism and hatred in America, which polite (white) society prefers to ignore, is the important thing here and needs to be brought up and kept in the light of awareness and dealt with. Your article makes this case. I thank you for that, and am going to share it on Facebook where, perhaps, some of us will read it and gain some insight that may do us all some good.

  37. Lillian permalink
    15 July 2013 4:30 pm

    Thank you for this post.

  38. Tom Brinson permalink
    15 July 2013 4:48 pm

    Thank you for writing this letter and opening my eyes even further. As much as I try not to be, I am a racist. This type of open dialogue is the only way that all of us can move forward.

  39. Wendy permalink
    15 July 2013 5:18 pm

    Thank you for this post. I am a white mother of three sons. My youngest has long hair and dresses very “punk” and I have talked with him many times about how he will be judged by that. He is a great kid… His older brother is very different, short hair, dresses very conservatively. The edgy one gets stopped and followed. I see it when we go shopping together. That said, when I heard the verdict I was with my family and when I could speak I said…if it had one of our white sons he would have been found guilty – my sister in law walked away so angry that I brought up racism. Racism is alive we need to shout from the rooftops. It is in our schools, in our streets, IN OUR COURTS. I live in Florida…and Jim Crow never left.

    • Grace Salako Smith Ph.D permalink
      16 July 2013 2:19 pm

      Wow !!!! Wendy, you said it all so succinctly in your last sentence. I crave your indulgence, but I just shared your quote on my Facebook page ” Racism is alive we need to shout from the rooftops. It is in our schools, in our streets, IN OUR COURTS. I live in Florida…and Jim Crow never left”. Truth that summarizes the entire discussion.

      As long as America especially emotionally dishonest “Whites” continue to hush the voice of that reality, the racial distrust will continue to exist. I am in a unique situation – An African who perhaps suffers more slighting and insults from African Americans than Whites, I have a Double Whammy situation regarding “discrimination” because I get that of being black and then I am discriminated against by “blacks”. Nevertheless the goal should be that We ALL humans, evolve and become mature in our understanding of diversity, disability and any form of difference. There are people who have attained this high level of humanism in ALL cultures, races and ethnicities as far back in America, as the time of slavery.

      Yes “Whiteness” is privileged, that is “a well preserved antique of slavery” whose values some insecure and short sighted people desire to perpetuate. The problem with antiques is that their value depends on demand. I hope your post has challenged as many people who have participated in the distrust of any one different than them, to decide to move up to become highly evolved individuals. The more of us that deal with our own ethnic or stereotypical assumptions, the less valued short sightedness and ethnic superiority or molestation will become. I am not naïve to assume this will happen in a hurry, I know however, that NOTHING (Caps for emphasis only please), will happen until we open our hearts to confirm what is before our eyes and ears everyday – which is the truth that ‘racism is alive and well in the great US of A. It simply relocated from living overtly in the streets and public arena into reclusive depths of individual and collective recesses of cultural assumptions, attitude and actions. God Bless America.

  40. glmorrison permalink
    15 July 2013 5:45 pm

    Reblogged this on Solid Rarity: realities of living the revolution.

  41. Casey permalink
    15 July 2013 6:09 pm

    Very powerful post. Thank you for sharing your experiences in hopes to enlighten others. As a white person, I struggle to find the words to help others understand “white privilege” and my pleas often fall on deaf ears and create defensiveness. Understanding “white privilege” is an ongoing process and it begins with openness and compassion. I will be sure to forward this article so at least part, if not all, of your message will be heard. Thank you again for sharing.

  42. Rodney Shackelford, D.O., Ph.D. permalink
    15 July 2013 6:16 pm

    Good article. I’ll add this and it will not be popular. I’m white and have been mugged twice by groups of young black men. I was kicked in the head, called various racist names, and of course had everything I was carrying stolen. Very few blacks, including young black men, are muggers, but the crime is there and is real. No one will say this, but there is a reason to fear crime and crime from young balck men. Mist of the young black men I;ve knwon also fear the same type of crime.

    • Slum Jack permalink
      16 July 2013 1:15 am

      If anyone’s just plain honest about these things, right in the midst of the black communities, there is also a constant “profiling” of just who is/n’t among the “thugs” or otherwise. Who “belongs” within certain ‘hoods or not. Etc.

      It’s when other people do so, that it all becomes so “wrong”. Just so, you also will NEVER hear “the N word” more (nigh constantly) than among blacks. And, yes, in the “bad ways” too.

  43. Elizabeth MM permalink
    15 July 2013 6:23 pm

    Thanks for your post. As a white, middle class woman, I don’t always understand the “other side” although I struggle trying. I thought this was inspiring. I certainly don’t feel racism is over, but I also am not always sure what steps to take. It broke my heart when I heard about this boy, as it breaks my heart whenever I read about youth violence – minority or not. As an ESL & refugee advocate I am pretty aware of discrimination and lost justice. But I would ask that you also don’t generalize “whites” in the same way people stereotype “blacks.” I may not be a minority and I fully recognize that I don’t “know” what minorities go through, but it doesn’t mean I wish to continue society in the same way. We all struggle, many of us for the same things.

  44. David Shenkenberg permalink
    15 July 2013 6:25 pm

    I am sure that Zimmerman profiled and stalked Martin, but Zimmerman was just one guy. Not all white people are racist. White people helped elect Barack Obama and helped put black people in other positions of power. I would say that anti-black racism exists, but it is not as bad as it was by any stretch of the imagination. There are more people like Zimmerman out there, but they are outmatched and perhaps outnumbered by non-racist whites.

    The good position that black people enjoy in our society today is not irrelevant. If you lived during slavery, you would have been denied an education, and you would have been prevented from writing this article even if you could read and write. The same is true for segregation. You would be prevented from getting any kind of job other than sharecropping. A black person wouldn’t be president; that’s for sure. I am not saying that racism is over, but the situation is a million times better for black people today than it was in the past.

    Furthermore, there are anti-white racists. Martin called Zimmerman a “cracker,” if you recall. I have been called anti-white slurs. Being white does not equal immunity to racism. But, just as Zimmerman was one guy, I assume that not all black people are anti-white racists.

    • Kay permalink
      15 July 2013 8:40 pm

      The good position that black people enjoy? This step up from slavery and segregation, is what, enjoyable? A black president means that black people are doing just fine? Racism isn’t always this blatant, obvious, easily identifiable word. Its there in the not so subtle ways of saying, hey your better now than you were then so buck up and stop complaining. Anti-white racists? What is that? A huge part of racism is being in a position of power where your hatred matters. Has an Anti- white racist stopped you from obtaining a job, entering an establishment, limited your educational opportunities, made you question your self-worth based on your being white.I doubt it but I do know that there are black people who are ignorant and hateful and that just as they will spew hate to a white person they will turn around and do it to a black person. So trust me those people who you think are are anti-white, most times have a lot of anger and frustration and self hate and its sad.

      • Joe American permalink
        15 July 2013 11:53 pm

        Let’s call a spade a spade here. So many of the kids that choose a life of being a thug, a heavy drug peddler or user, or just simply lazy and living off of Government programs because they don’t want to better themselves, those are the people that everyone else resents. You know what? Half of you reading this might have thought I was referring to the poor blacks who dress like thugs. But I’m not, I’m talking about anyone of any race that meets this profile. My point is, stop referring to White/Black/Hispanic, etc. Who cares? You’re not German American, Hispanic American, African American, Italian American, etc. You’re American. Your ancestors were from those countries, you are not. If you immigrated here, but were born there, then you are xxxx-American.

        People who haven’t met what many consider to be the American dream, but haven’t because they either chose to or want to blame someone else need to wake up and realize that we have fair hiring practices in the United States. If you go and get yourself an education, you have a chance like everyone else. Again, no mention or race here. If you come from a broken family that didn’t teach you to better yourself, you likely won’t know to do that. But if you did, and still chose to not better yourself and aspire to do great things, then shame on you for blaming someone else for your lot. There is no debt owed to those of color for the sins of our fore fathers (against anyone who wasn’t white).

        It’s time to move on and take accountability for yourself. Trayvon Martin looked like he could case trouble, Zimmerman approached him with a loaded firearm. Trayvon’s death is an absolute travesty, and my heart goes out to his family, but that doesn’t discount his decisions to wear a hoodie in Florida where the average night time temperature is 50+ degrees farenheit. If you appear like someone who is going to commit a crime, then someone is going to feel threatened. I don’t think Zimmerman saw Trayvon and said, “oh look a black kid with a hoddie. I’m going to get up on him and stop him from committing a crime.” I think he assessed the situation hastily, drew his firearm to protect himself from what might have been a threatening situation, and became over zealous. He never should have fired or approached the situation the way he did, but to say he did it because he is racist is so off base, and so poorly thought out it’s offensive to the rest of civil society who abides by laws, doesn’t walk through areas at night with a hoodie to hide one’s face. The fact that Al Sharpton took Trayvon’s murder as a chance to compare it to Emmett Till is so horribly offensive to Emmett’s name it borderlines on mass psychosis.

        We need to get away from pointing figures at who is to blame when we discuss race and talk about enabling schools to educate students to their fullest extent (and in the most needed areas), building up children who are in homes that may be broken or not have parents, and showing children that they too can join society when they become and adult and reap the benefit they sow. Emmett Till’s memory is best served by ensuring we share his story with all of those children that come after us and never allow our country to return to a culture of hate and bigotry.

      • Slum Jack permalink
        16 July 2013 1:19 am

        “Has an Anti- white racist stopped you from ….I doubt it ”

        And that very doubt IS your racism. Yes, anti-white racism has hampered my employment and my safety in public places. Or doesn’t that “count” somehow?

      • 16 July 2013 7:14 pm

        This entire comment thread has made me “question my self-worth, based on my being white.”

      • 16 July 2013 7:23 pm

        But I should hasten to add, that is not necessarily a bad thing and does not imply an agreement with this comment.

    • 16 July 2013 4:19 pm

      This is a joke, right?

      Denial, followed by a passive-aggressive history lesson does not equal valid reasoning. It’s almost as if you are threatening the return of those institutions if the black community doesn’t mum up, fall in, and be happy with their lot in life.

      • Unforgiven permalink
        16 July 2013 6:40 pm

        Dude, seriously, stop spamming the hell out of this discussion thread. You sound like a self aggrandizing, bellicose, narcissist who just likes to read your own writings. Brevity is the soul of wit.

      • 17 July 2013 2:05 am

        I’ll be more than happy to consider your request.

  45. 15 July 2013 6:52 pm

    Reblogged this on Watson Weltanschauung.

  46. Dave permalink
    15 July 2013 6:53 pm

    Matthew,

    First, Thank you very much for your thoughts. Honesty poured out of your words, and that has incalculable value. I agree with most of what you said (as much as can as a white person), and I think posts above have properly praised you for many of the reasons. I also admire the way you have responded to all kinds of posts with reasoned and well-tempered responses. Debate these days often strays pretty far from that, and it is refreshing to see intellectual responsibility temper real and important emotions. With that said, I have some questions/topics to pose to you:

    1) I wonder how much of George Zimmerman’s own identity is being swept under the rug here. It is extremely difficult to gather from hugely bias presentations on both sides, what Zimmerman’s true character is. It is clear from some of the factual evidence presented in the case that race was part of ZImmerman’s choice to pursuit of Trayvon Martin. I’m not sure how much you can separate racial profiling from racism, but there is something to be said that it seems like a lot has been inferred about Zimmerman’s character from a limited (albeit incriminating) set of facts. I have friends of different races who have admitted to profiling people of their own race at times. On these grounds I agree with you that its an institutional problem (and a deeply cultural obsession with racial identification). But why then, it is so important that Zimmerman be labeled as a racist “white” person? You said above that “I don’t know what his childhood was like or how he identifies racially, though I think it’s safe to say he does not identify with people of colour as an oppressed group”. I’m not sure you can make that judgment. Perhaps George ZImmerman is normally an advocate of racial equality who got caught up in his role as a neighborhood watch member and let the institutional problem of racial profiling affect him so much that he made one of the biggest mistakes of his life. Or perhaps he really is a deeply racist person who knew he had a firearm, and didn’t care what could happen. But on what grounds to you make that judgment?

    2) Do you think its fair to say things like “For a few short seconds all eyes turned upon a racially motivated crime, upon a black boy killed for blackness itself.” While it is clear that Zimmerman had inappropriately race-based reasons for approaching Trayvon Martin, it is certainly not proven that Zimmerman’s subsequent “reasons” for shooting Martin were fundamentally race-based. IF Martin really did start the physical altercation, and really did threaten George Zimmerman’s life, its hard to say that Trayvon Martin was killed for “blackness itself.” My CONJECTURE is that this is not true, because my perception is that Zimmerman was the aggressor, and that is much more likely that he started and escalated a confrontation. However, I am worried about this being anything more than a conjecture. I am not sure if I am comfortable saying so definitely that Martin was “killed for blackness itself”. I am wondering why you are comfortable doing that, or if I have misinterpreted you in doing so?

    3) I am also struggling with the legal implications of this case. I know a huge problem is the uncertainty behind who started the physical altercation, as well as the haziness of the altercation itself. What bothers me is that Zimmerman was clearly acting inappropriately in confronting Martin at all. While the escalation of the altercation may carry more “blame”, it seems that some kind of liability is lost, as Zimmerman created the situation in which his inappropriate representation of authority led to a disastrous confrontation. The fact that he COULD have become a victim of a situation he created is strong enough to completely absolve him of any liability seems like a serious legal problem. This case sets a terrible precedent on that front, and given Zimmerman’s profiling, its compounded by the racial aspect. What are you thoughts on this?

  47. 15 July 2013 6:54 pm

    Thank you for your brutally honest voice. As a White queer, trans* male who is learning to recognize my power, privilege, and racism, I recognize in myself the ease in which I have historically been able to respond with, “Oh, this is horrible, but he’s not talking about me!” or “But look at all the hardships I’ve faced!” The truth, however, is that you are talking to me. While I may be able to relate to the feelings resulting from discrimination, as a White individual, I will never know what it is like to be targeted, criminalized, and discriminated against for the color of my skin.

    I recognize in myself the urge to be an ally around issues of racial/ethnic discrimination. I also realize that it would be easy for me to volunteer with some organization to make myself feel better. I say this would be easy because I realize that it allows me to avoid an allyship that truly scares me. What scares me is speaking up and speaking out about racism, especially in the form of microaggressions, from the mouths and hearts of other White folks. I don’t want to be rude, I don’t want to be told I’m being overly sensitive, I don’t want others to feel shamed. And yet, by saying nothing I am effectively condoning racism. No discomfort I might feel around speaking up can come close to the experiences of those who have to navigate the world as a racial or ethnic minority.

    So again thank you for speaking up and speaking out and reminding me why it is so important that I do the same every day.

  48. 15 July 2013 7:09 pm

    I would like to point to a website that has done an independent investigation of the crime scene. http://zimmermanscall.blogspot.com/

    As a white middle aged male, I was appalled at the lack of investigative abilities of the Sanford Police, which could only be explained as ineptitude, and/or indifference that a young black CHILD was laying dead, and nobody seemed to care. They conducted what I would consider a superfluous “investigation” at best. Crime scene wasn’t secured and you could see people standing around Trayvon’s body, no police recorders took pictures of Zimmerman’s face/head until hours later at the police station. The person taking the bloody pictures of Zimmerman, was Zimmerman’s own wife. He didn’t go to the hospital for possible concussion. This whole thing from the very beginning stunk of racism, or gross negligence.

    Even the prosecution seemed highly inept in the prosecution, unable or unwilling to ask questions that the above link begged to be answered. The fact that we teach our children to be cautious of their environment (even more important for a black teen), to get a good visual of the suspicious person, to run when scared, scream and yell for help and fight for your life. Why bother?

    Trayvon did, by textbook, what we teach all of our children on a daily basis. He did what he was supposed to do, and it did him no good. If we take Zimmerman for his word, (which is full of holes), then he got beat up by a 17 year old CHILD. He was so helpless and unable to control the situation in any manner. This is a person that dedicated his life to becoming a police officer, and couldn’t control a situation that involved an unarmed child.

  49. 15 July 2013 7:20 pm

    So true, Matthew. This was ALL about race, as much as they try to deny it. I have watched my fellow whites shy away when a group of black teens approach. I recently observed a black woman and her son, seated on a bench in the waiting area of a restaurant as they waited for a table, trying to make themselves as invisible as possible. Yes, Trayvon Martin was stalked and killed because he was black. I am sick over the verdict. We need more people like you to speak out as you have here and maybe, just maybe, it will open white people’s eyes to what you suffer based merely on your skin color.

  50. Robyn permalink
    15 July 2013 7:20 pm

    Hats off to you for writing a very powerful article!

  51. 15 July 2013 7:33 pm

    I am white, and you have every right to accuse me. I would never be racist overtly – I’d never yell impolite names at you or try to get you fired or not hire you. I’d never not accept you as a friend. But I am white, and with that in this society come what I have taken to calling “SIWAs” (Stupid Ingrained White Assumptions). SIWAS are the things I don’t think I think until I think them and am horrified. They’re the spawn of America’s racist heritage not in the concrete sense of lynching but in the million “little” things that happen each day that declare that people of color are Lesser. When my SIWAs bubble up, I cringe but face them, dissect them, analyze them, and hopefully learn from them so that I can be a better person. I think that many white people do not see the subtler (to whites) forms of racism for what they are. Though my SIWAs are mine, I do not know what they all are. I’m often unaware of their existence until circumstances make them bubble up. Many think that because we have a Black president, that means we’ve overcome racism. But that’s only looking at the leaves of the matter; we need to look at the roots and see just what ideas about race we are feeding society. Because it’s not just about who’s in the White House or who gets hired. It’s about the base instincts of what white people feel when they see a person of color and why they have come to feel that way. So much in society teaches racial fear though there is no threat. It’s endemic in the media. It’s in the classroom when a Black student is treated as a problem while a white student with the same issues is given a behavioral diagnosis and special help. It’s in who attracts the eyes of security in the mall. It’s in who whites approach in a parking lot if they need their car jumped. We’ve looked at racism with the macro lens. We’ve ended segregation in many areas of life but separations remain. It’s time to get out the micro lens and look at our own assumptions at a deep level.

    We’ve learned in this society that the only acceptable answer to “are you prejudiced?” is “no”. That’s true – racism isn’t acceptable – but it’s also a dialogue-stopper. Since you have to say “no”, you can’t look to see what is really going on in the depths of your own head. We don’t allow people to acknowledge that the problem exists so that it can then be solved. We don’t allow kids – of any color – to discuss what’s really going on in their heads so that they can learn from each other and their elders, and grow. If we’re going to solve this problem, we have to accept that sometimes the answer is “yes” and that that is not a conversation-stopper, but rather a signpost to tell us where we are and where separations exist so we can figure out how to move forward together.

    • Kay permalink
      15 July 2013 9:01 pm

      Wow! J, I love you! The way you just expressed yourself is just the sexiest thing ever. To know that you dont intentionally do things but are aware that they can be perceived negatively. All the little things that you just mentioned and many you didnt, they are little pin picks and when added up they create hurt and sometimes angry individuals.

    • Slum Jack permalink
      16 July 2013 1:44 am

      Shall I point out another of your SIWA’s? We don’t have a “black” president, at least not any more than we have a “white” one.

      • Grace Salako Smith Ph.D permalink
        16 July 2013 2:39 pm

        J. Thanks for your honesty and the noble quest to become a higher evolved human being. .Slum Jack, your name sheds a lot of light on the source of your comments. Thank you too, every comment enriches the conversation.

  52. 15 July 2013 7:38 pm

    So very well spoken. I am so very sorry that society and oppression still exists in such a real terroristic society. America keeps pointing the finger at terrorism being outside their own guilt, that they can not see their own mirror of who and what they are. From here on out I will wear a hoodie at night and dare them to wrongly profile me, I will have my cell phone ready, I will document and expose the double standard. You are equal to me, we have bones, we have blood, we have organs, we have flesh. Not a single one of us had a choice on skin pigment and to treat someone with oppression because of it is the biggest act of terrorism and crime against humanity that exists in our world. We heal the world by stopping all violence.

    • Grace Salako Smith Ph.D permalink
      16 July 2013 2:41 pm

      @Tawnee, thanks for confronting the double standards in America. A reality majority of us try to avoid.

  53. Alli Debrow permalink
    15 July 2013 7:53 pm

    Thank you for opening up the conversation. There are just so many angles here. What touched me was how an African American seems to need to “de-black” himself from resumes and when getting dressed. I do understand, though have never, been in your shoes directly. However, being Jewish has caused issues for me and as I raise my children. When holidays come around my children are warriors of their faith having to celebrate with great explanation to others who will not even recognize differences. When my children in school learn about the Holocaust, they are teased about it not happening, or called dirty Jew or brought to a microwave with the door open and told they should have killed all the Jews. We get looks when we are proud! We seem to have to justify why we don’t believe in Jesus. It is hard to be Jewish. Still, I am sorry that you feel this way about this recent events. My son prayed for Trayvon’s justice, not because he was black, but because he was a 17 year old kid who was stalked by a vigilante who never identified himself and took a child’s life. What am I saying here? Justice has been served, unfortunately we need to work SO hard to prevent this from happening again. My children do not see color never have and never will. Please understand that there are others who are trapped walking through the halls and on the streets. G-d bless you for bringing up the discussion,

  54. 15 July 2013 7:57 pm

    On saturday before the verdict was released i did a Youtube video asking fro people to start a discussion on this topic,I turned off my computer thinking i would come back to maybe a few comments worth taking up. Then i saw the verdict on T.V , and thought maybe it would be more than a few.sadly when i woke up and checked other than a recommendation to read “the wait staff” mostly i had racists trying to justify their beliefs.not a lot of conversation there.*sigh* Thank you for this blog post, this is more of what i had hoped for.I will be sharing this.

  55. 15 July 2013 7:57 pm

    Hi Matthew,

    Thank you for your post; it really got me thinking. I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability in writing a letter such as this. The only point I’d like to add, and I’m not sure how eloquently it will come across, is that there are factions between the “white” community as well. When you label this letter to the white community, I take it you are referring to the stereotypically white community– the community that, according to Wikipedia is “extremely self-involved, uneducated about people other than themselves, and are unable to understand the complicated ways in which people who are not white survive.” Being a white female myself, I have never felt connected to this faction of white culture. From my experience, white people who are more “right-brained” and focused on art, community and culture are ostracized from the stereotypical status quo “left-brained” white culture that is full of traditionalists and “logical” thinkers. All of my white friends who subscribe to this alternative culture have always had issues with and have faced alienation from the stereotypical white culture– especially when advocating progressive issues.

    I love your letter but I have to think of it as being addressed to this general stereotypical white culture at large. There is a whole other faction of the white community that really is working towards eradicating inequality and who experience micro-aggressions because of this “otherness” all of the time. I only wanted to make the point because I don’t think it is often discussed. What are your thoughts?

  56. 15 July 2013 8:08 pm

    As a white Deaf woman, I appreciate your article. Oppression is way too familiar with my people and in my community.

  57. 15 July 2013 8:27 pm

    i appreciate your linking of everyday struggles without comparing them. too often i hear the argument(s) “black and gay aren’t the same” “racism and sexism aren’t the same”. its as if they can’t be talked about in the same context as oppression, plain and simple oppression. the more voices out there linking the struggles instead of dividing the sooner we will all be better off.
    thanks for trying to put some sense into a very illogical world.

  58. Zorro permalink
    15 July 2013 8:28 pm

    You and a lot of other people are making a huge assumption here: that race was the reason in this verdict. I just want to point out that we do not know that.

    The determination of what exactly happened that day, and the determination of how those events should be treated under the law, was one to be made by the jury. One jury member was black, remember. The jury heard all the evidence; we have not. We have heard what the media is pleased to tell us. The jury determined that the State did not meet its (very heavy) burden, that of proving that the accused was guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. We do not know what factors went into that decision.

    Our legal system is what it is. It is the best attempt of a lot of talented people of all races and both genders to arrive at justice. This system often fails. If you have a suggestion for a better system you will find many eager listeners. In the meantime your unsupported and unsupportable claim that race was the deciding factor in this case is not helpful.

    • 16 July 2013 6:17 am

      “It is the best attempt of a lot of talented people of all races and both genders to arrive at justice.” I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to disagree. The justice system is overwhelmingly comprised of white people in influential positions. You’re right, we do not know for sure that race was the reason in this verdict; but Matthew is pointing out what the verdict means for black Americans. It’s a reminder of black males being profiled, targeted, and killed by non-black people. It’s a reminder of the realities we as black people must face. Whether or not the verdict had to do with race, the fact of the matter is, GZ not being guilty has rendered discontent among black folks and only reminds us of what it means to be black in America.

  59. Donna permalink
    15 July 2013 8:29 pm

    You cast many shades of light on a very disheartening and tragic event. Your eloquence and fair-minded perspective of the post and subsequent replies do not minimize the loss and sadness but make the resolution of this trial *somewhat* palatable. My hope is that you will continue to be a force and actor for change and peace.

  60. My 2 cents permalink
    15 July 2013 8:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I guess I just want you to know that, while i am a white female, i was was saddened and outraged too. No. Racism is not gone. If that is you in the picture, i do not think i would feel the least bit threatened by you if I passed you in the street. You look like a sweet young, educated and handsome man. Yes. I know this is racist too. If you looked “more black” would i have taken you less seriously? I hope not. But I am willing to admit it is possible. I fight it every chance i get. It usually only lasts a split second. It should’t be this way. My society is in me. I hate it. I must stay vigilant to extricate it and so must all of us of a pale enough skin color. Trayvon IS a martyr. So I wil continue to do the only thing i knw to do and stay vigilant and try to recognize it in myself and others. And keep hoping that it will get better because it seriously sucks. It is a waste of everyone’s time. We the people, all of the people, deserve better.

  61. JustaThought permalink
    15 July 2013 8:56 pm

    Interesting that you see Zimmerman as “white or white-passing”. I’m white and I never saw him that way and neither did any other white person I know. As soon as I saw him I scoffed and figured this is just another color on color violence and I don’t care. I don’t care because I spent a large chunk of my youth in a predominately black area and I witnessed for myself the way certain groups of people of color (especially blacks and hispanics) behave. Drugs, crime, violence. Tons of gun violence. People beating and killing each other right out in the street; shooting at people, houses and vehicles; beating/raping women and children; arson while people are inside or setting people on fire in their cars or in the street; beating dogs; breaking into their neighbors’ houses and cleaning them out; robbing people in the street at gunpoint etc. This wasn’t something that the media put in my mind, it was the daily/nightly experience right outside my front door. I got out of there to a predominately white town. The only time you see that kind of behavior here is from people coming in from outside and there is almost always a black or hispanic involved. It’s too bad we can’t put up a fence and keep you all out. I’ve got no problem with how people dress or how they talk. It’s the violent behavior that puts me over the edge. Maybe I’m a racist for that and if so then so be it because nobody can deny what I saw with my own eyes for years on end. I’d be happy to never ever see another black again in my life. I think Zimmerman should have got some punishment. The fact that he went free just encourages this color on color violence to continue. Yes it is about race, but nothing about whites, that’s for certain.

    • Elizabeth MM permalink
      15 July 2013 9:11 pm

      I agree that I didn’t see Zimmerman as “white” but that’s where the sanity and logic in your response ends. What you’re describing is poverty. Not race. And although there’s a huge difference, the two often go hand in hand because of prejudice and discrimination. Being white and middle class, most of the “non-white” friends and colleagues I have also middle class and we share very similar values. However, I work in the fields of poverty and social justice and these same atrocities happen in white neighborhoods as well as those of “color.” You should do a little soul searching into your beliefs. They would help you and might help those you consider below you.

      • Slum Jack permalink
        16 July 2013 1:57 am

        I’ve had similar experiences to your own, JustA. But, you see, as “whites” we are therefore disqualified from either knowing, or even being able to be a source of knowledge, about what is/n’t “racist” or even reality. We must be told all about that, by others.

        Elizabeth correctly points out that, to yet another extent, such squalor is about “class”. I agree. Yet, let’s talk ratios, proportions and nature of phenomena, too. Like which unfortunate features also become adopted as part and parcel of the respective “community” and “ethnic” lore, language and colloquial ways. That’s when it usually gets difficult.

        Or when we go to yet other “lower class” and impoverished communities like, say, the China towns. And check the ratios and comparative features there.

      • 17 March 2014 4:37 pm

        Be honest, Elizabeth-you see far,far less of this in any “white” area, regardless of economic standing.

    • Lili permalink
      16 July 2013 6:38 am

      I’ve lived in predominantly white neighborhoods myself where these atrocities you mention have also occurred and were committed by all sorts of people, including caucasians. To basically say only non-whites are capable of violence based on your ridiculously limited scope is being ignorant and not a little self-righteous. It’s precisely your kind of thinking that brought about other significantly heinous crimes where entire swathes of peoples and cultures were destroyed, by people including (and sometimes especially) your “exalted” whites. I agree with previous poster, Elizabeth, that your unfortunate experience of other cultures was likely influenced by means and education. NOT color.

      And you also just proved the writer’s point that racism is alive and well and perpetuated by people who don’t think before they speak or do, and who choose to blame others using convenient epithets like “color on color violence” rather than taking responsibility for their actions and their community’s. Maybe, if you interacted with more people of different races, you’d think twice about not caring, or maybe (most likely) not.

      To Matthew: I am not black, but I deeply empathize with the disappointment that you and many of my friends of all races have felt with what seems to be a lack of conversation and recognition of the underlying (or overt) racism that existed in this case. I’m not unfamiliar with victim-blaming, so the justification for Travyon’s death cuts really close and brings back the feeling of helplessness when I am blamed for someone hurting me because of my gender/race or what I did or did not do (i.e. be inconspicuous, make myself less of anything). For anyone’s freedom to continue to be limited because of the color of their skin or what they are wearing or how they speak, etc. is depressing. I’m thankful that you eloquently shared your thoughts on this situation to allow those who are willing to listen to even more deeply understand the work that still needs to be done to make it possible for people everywhere to truly be free and equal.

  62. David Renaud permalink
    15 July 2013 9:15 pm

    Matthew,

    Thank you for your thoughts. I was linked to this page on G+, where I’ve searched your name, found you, and just added you to my circles. I like G+ for making it so easy to be exposed and enlightened, on a daily basis, to a myriad of perspectives and new knowledge.

    What struck me about your commentary, and then in some of the comments and your replies to them, has to do with having to “whiting” yourself to succeed in the world. and the fact that Ebonics exists means that some blacks want to remain black, in culture and language. That is, if I interpreted what I read correctly.

    I am a white male, born and raised in a close in suburb of Detroit, lives now in a 99% white small city in northern Wisconsin. I may be cynical but believe that inner city communities are oppressed, that yes, there may be ways out and to succeed if you want, but racism and poverty are for real and make it just that much harder to succeed. that is plain reality.

    but I have a hard time connecting “whiting” to what I call being a professional. I am firmly against the notion that to be accepted into this country a person should have to learn English. I support the retention of culture and identity. I recognize that we are not equal; not even close. But I am also experienced in the world or engineering and business, and regardless of a person’s nationality, race, culture, whatever, there are certain standards and expectations that have to be met if you are to be successful.

    For my own enlightenment and understanding, I am curious about how you interpret my observations, and how it applies to the black community, in particular to those who prefer to remain black in identity and culture, knowing that it separates them from what they see as the white world.

    as for the Zimmerman case, like you, I can’t say for sure what took place that night, or what Zimmerman, or Martin really felt or feels. I think the most profound thing that I have read about the whole thing was the comment, that I think that I saw on Facebook, that the person wished that they lived in a world where Zimmerman would have offered Martin a ride on a rainy night instead of confronting him.

    I will not make the claim that we can have that world, because the forces of the status quo are powerful. but I will say that people who believe in truth and justice can never quit working towards a better world.

    peace, David Renaud

    • 15 July 2013 9:29 pm

      Excellent questions!

    • Slum Jack permalink
      16 July 2013 1:04 am

      The very term “African American” is, itself, not only a paradoxical idea but an implicitly alienating moniker. And a dubious choice. Are you a European-American?

      For that matter, many genuine Africans often do NOT “identify” with American “black culture” any more than anyone else, even at most basic levels, too. There are too many arbitrary elements that are NOT “racial” features at all. Nor truly African ways. And let’s keep in mind that slavery (if also among black peoples) are part of the African past, as well.

      So to attempt to fuse a rather particular and unique *sociocultural* phenomena as being somehow supposedly an inherent “racial” nature or “identity” – especially as posed adversarially “against” an accusatory counter-effigy which is hopelessly “white washed” and over-generalized otherwise – is as questionable as all else, *especially* when flown under any banner of hoped “solutions” or “improvements” or even “blame”.

  63. Joseph Rogers permalink
    15 July 2013 9:22 pm

    Great article. I can’t image what black folks go through. I am white and know that this whole thing scares the crap out of me and makes me want to stay far away from Florida.

    • Slum Jack permalink
      16 July 2013 12:26 am

      Not too long ago, I lived in a “black community” for a couple of years that is regarded by many (including quite a few residents there) as also being a “ghetto”. I’ve also lived in many other communities through many years, including “white trash”, “redneck crackers”, etc.

      I can assure you that you can hardly find a more racist place than a black community ghetto, nor a more highly “profiling” place (of various kinds), or a more dangerous place for black youth.

      To pretend that “whites” simply don’t know what racism even is, nor experience it directly too, is not only wrong but as offensive as any other form of racism.

  64. Gerard permalink
    15 July 2013 9:31 pm

    Powerfully written. Very insightful. And as that was a stated goal, you succeeded.

    I do not deny that you endure still, those glances of suspicion, or abject fear – from some people. That is evidence not of your “blackness” but rather of their ignorance. My bi-racial cousins endure the same unwarranted treatment. We, as a society, cannot turn a blind eye to the existence of this kind of racism.

    But you yourself said very clearly, that you don’t know what happened, you don’t know what the motives nor what was in Zimmerman’s soul….therefore, your hope of a conviction to make a statement doesn’t make sense, it was ill-placed.

    • 15 July 2013 9:43 pm

      Gerard

      Blackness, like all race is socially constructed. I, like your cousins, am biracial. I identify as a mulatto and as a member of the black community. My ‘blackness’ is imposed upon me whether I identify with it or not, however.

      I think you misunderstood my statements about hope, though. I wasn’t hoping for a conviction. I was hoping for recognition and vindication of my experiences of racism. The conviction would have been the vehicle of that hope. Certainly my thoughts on the verdict are complex and while I agree that the right verdict was given in terms of Florida law, I think that the law under which Zimmerman was acquitted is hopelessly broken. What I wanted for the courts to recognise that racist social structures do violence to my community day-in-and-day-out and for that to lend legitimacy to my experiences of structural racism. I isn’t about statements, it’s about justice.

      • 16 July 2013 4:44 am

        I think it is important (with obvious problems) to note that groups exist by exclusion, usually with an exonym, or by inclusion. A classical example would be the *biblical* use of “Hebrew” exclusively by characters who did not identify as such vs. the use of tribal or northern (Israelite) / southern (Jewish/Judahite). This sounds hopelessly academic, but it really isn’t.

        I know you know this [and... then I just noticed the classical, plus Iberian background, none of this need be said to anyone who knows what La Convivencia is]; you do it implicitly (blackness as imposed; mullato, black community as assertive),

        But it’s not always obvious to people who don’t live or study lives where those two demarcations don’t neatly line up, and when it’s not driven home when they aren’t reminded of it by senses of not belonging.

        But between that inexperience and the overtones of ivory tower academicism, it’s a little unfair to expect it to come across popularly. And it does no service to quelling soft or systemic racism and prejudice to treat people who won’t grasp a nuanced point – one which doesn’t even occur to many of the people in the excluded minority – to treat them as if they personally let slip the dogs of Selma. I does no respect to those marchers either. To be sure, some – already posting here – will post about a complaining black man while others will question that blackness – but you weren’t going to reach them anyway, not today, not in a blog post, some day, maybe, but not today.

        I want to write more, but I’m so tired from things personal and public, of invective and sorrow, of thought and pulse. I think I’ve managed to piss off everyone of just about every political bent and ethnic origin in recent days because of my fury over the “free Marissa Alexander” postings. And then this, that I might have the temerity to speak on identity when it involves blackness; well I have the chance to do that privately with some very bright (and formally educated – no platitudes here) people, some of whom don’t really have much of an option of sounding whiter, it’s not something I do publicly.

        Sometimes, maybe most, it really is an issue of sensitivity – e.g. not my job or right to inject myself into group politics where I don’t share an equivalent stake – but sometimes I wonder if it’s fear and I do us both a disservice. Perhaps your tone sounds familiar and comforts enough to speak publicly, albeit in your house, on your site. Perhaps I’m too tired to worry or know any better.

        And while my thoughts or willingness to speak doesn’t specifically vary on reception – only on knowledge and thought, though tempered by sensitivity (not tact per se) – my ability to write does. If curious, I’ll share them privately. I’m just all over the place (i.e. the Internet) writing public and private, and it would infuriate not to respond to any valid point.

        I’m pretty easy to reach. Either way.

        I know where a post like this might go for you. Those thoughts don’t alleviate a bit of sorrow; miner’s canaries don’t survive, but it’s nice to think that people who know that still risk fate. Maybe on the basis of that I justify this; that willingness constitutes a group. At the very least, it’s a nice thought.

        I largely, but don’t entirely agree with your assessment, but I am entirely encouraged and appreciative that you publish it.

        Sigh, look how much I wrote. I didn’t mean to; I promise. Sorry about that.

  65. Getty permalink
    15 July 2013 9:51 pm

    Great piece, thanks!

  66. 15 July 2013 9:54 pm

    This blog post absolutely champs! Thank you!!!

  67. Megan permalink
    15 July 2013 9:58 pm

    Thank you for writing this. My two teenaged sons will read it , along with the diverse and insightful comments and your responses to them.
    I wish we lived in a world where the person given the gun and the job of watching the neighborhood, was taught in his training how to communicate. Offer him a ride? Maybe not. Ask him if he is ok?or needs help? Yes. Have a dialogue. Make eye contact. See the individual.

  68. Kim permalink
    15 July 2013 10:00 pm

    You know what; I don’t care about black people. Not even remotely. All I see is another black person making excuses. Keep this in mind, there is not a single place in the bloody world where your kind has ever gone and been successful. Not counting rape and selling drugs.

    Prejudices are born from actions.

    And now you want to make a case about a Latino defending himself. How about protesting equally the next time some black people kill a white family or gang rape some white girl.

    • Don permalink
      15 July 2013 11:26 pm

      You know what? The majority of white people are disgusted by you.

    • Megan permalink
      16 July 2013 12:07 am

      You are whats wrong with the world.

    • Slum Jack permalink
      16 July 2013 12:43 am

      The piece is written to and for “the choir”. You are not a member of that choir. In fact, you *are* racist according to your reactive comments here, which is not so much any confirming evidence for the rant, but more evidences what that kind of rant provokes, in fact.

      And I think that does a good job of showing a more probable impact of the author having unfortunately gone to such undue self-contradictory extremes in conducting such a choir medley and what it likely actually sounds like to audiences outside the choir.

      • Lili permalink
        16 July 2013 9:46 pm

        It’s really interesting how strongly you feel about this article, enough to basically respond to everyone on this board. Might be better to start a whole new article yourself and start a choral hymn of your own. I think what the author has done–to perpetuate your choral metaphor–isn’t so much find tones that are exactly similar (which would a boring choir indeed), but rather bring out the differences and nuances of an important song that’s been sung for a long time. I don’t think that’s unfortunate at all. But like all music, everyone has their own tastes, and maybe this one isn’t yours.

        I do think this article has become a place for discussion and open debate. It’s definitely opened my eyes to multiple perspectives, not least of which is yours. I’m sorry you feel oppressed by the open-mindedness of the people on this board and that you feel you’re in the minority and put in a box as a “racist” because you disagree with the writer’s view. It feels horrible to be stereo-typed, right? It feels horrible to have to revise your behavior and beliefs to fit a certain ideal of what “good” is. My husband and I sometimes joke about how him being the “poor tall white man” and how no one ever cuts him any slack because he’s white and male. And yet, all jokes are half meant. Do you feel that way, too? Like the walls are closing in around you. That it’s you against this crazy world of people who strangely accept that we all have faults in creating dissonance in this world.

        I hope your feelings right now, that heaviness in your chest that is driving you to say all these things on here, grow into empathy for others who’ve had to live with that as well, though they may be different from you in more ways than the color of your skin. I hope it fuels understanding instead of anger and fear which only further the bitterness that you seem to need to release in this space. Read and understand. Don’t just look for a perspective that you can easily judge and contradict to support your views. You are more alike than you think.

        Unless you’re a troll, in which case, that’s your basic existence.

      • Slum Jack permalink
        17 July 2013 6:30 am

        Lili, your reply to me isn’t reliable.

        I’m not angry at all. The original piece is written “to” me, as to others. I’d be glad to engage any replies to me, especially according to any specific points made.

        Have you lived within the black community? The one that our host/writer is explaining to us, for us? I have and do. And in the U.S. as well. I’ve also been on staff at a black community newspaper.

        I realize it would be handy for you to dismiss me as merely “angry” and particularly anything specific I’ve said thereby. Or suspect “troll”. Anything but possibly valid, relevant or pertinent.

        There is no feeling of heaviness in my chest. Nor fear. Must be yours. I didn’t say I feel oppressed, either. You did.

        Just before spotting this from you, I had just engaged a lively and productive discussion about all this with a black friend of mine. Loudly, in public at a cafe. He’s since linked to it on his FB page, too.

        Again, the core subject (of departure) is the Martin/Zimmerman incident and legal case. Along with, supposedly, a proffered explaining to “whites” what “the black community” thinks/feels about this, supposedly. And then the topic keeps trying to *become* “racism”. White’s racism, mainly.

        I’m sorry, what were you talking about?

    • 16 July 2013 1:03 am

      Perhaps if you read some history, you would discover that Africans had great civilizations.

      • Slum Jack permalink
        16 July 2013 2:30 am

        The “greatest” arguably being the Egyptians? With a veritable empire built by their slaves!

    • Margie Griggs Crabtree permalink
      16 July 2013 2:06 am

      Thank you for your heart-felt words, I appreciate hearing your side of this matter and the insight you have shared. I don’t think of myself as a racist, I was brought up by black women who were kind and loving to me when my mother worked (which was most of the time) there are many in the black community that I admire, you are one of them. My feelings about the Zimmerman trial/outcome is totally different than yours. Lets go back to birth – why, when they can’t afford, or feed, do unmarried black women continue to birth babies? Many times not even married. From a working class white person, we wonder why we have to continue paying for these children. Once a child is born to an unmarried woman the odds are stacked against them, they don’t[ stand a chance and the more babies that come, the less attention and teaching she can and provide to her children. So they grow up in the projects without hope of ever doing better for themselves and existing on welfare.

      Some have grabbed the golden ring – those are the ones that I really enjoy seeing!

      Maybe you can answer these questions for me: is it really the white folks that make you feel as you expressed or is it the black men, jobless, hanging out on street corners, doing nothing to improve themselves? The blacks, from my perspective need to change their social behavior. Wearing pants that show your crack & underwear, won’t cut it. The unemployed aren’t caused by white people-none can say they haven’t had a chance. With so many programs focused on improving their status.

      In the case of Zimmerman, I don’t feel as you do – maybe because I’m white. There had been 7 breakins in his neighborhood, Zimmerman saw him wondering around in the rain (this is not exactly normal to the folks who lived there) I really don’t believe George knew his color when he began to watch – then Trayvon began playing games with George, hiding and circling between the buildings. Trayvon was into fighting and thought he would jump George. By the way, Trayvon was in to smoking joints, kicked out of school and had previously been caught with burglary tools.The events that happened that evening were unfortunate but I do not believe it was race related.

      I so hope that you do well in this world, I would love to sit & talk frankly with you – you certainly got your message through to me. God bless you and all blacks who work so hard to make a better life for themselves.

      • Grace Salako Smith Ph.D permalink
        16 July 2013 3:30 pm

        Working in the Juvenile Justice system maybe I can help you Kim understand. You mentioned that you were virtually raised by “black women” while your mother worked. How much did your mother pay these “black women”? was it enough for them to take adequate care of their families? I trow not. To be able to earn above minimum wage, some people turn to selling drugs. If there are drug buyers in the neighborhood, violence and crime will escalate. If the outside of your neighborhood is not safe, ‘sex” maybe your only recreation.
        Secondly, you wonder why these women or other single black women continue to have children they cannot take care of? When you make minimum wage, you cannot afford insurance and again you may not have insurance if you do not have a job. Yes, family planning and other such benefits are mostly available to people who can afford it or have insurance..

        Next, based on the institutionalized racism stemming from assumptions like yours, if a kid is caught stealing a cookie he enters into the juvenile system. they violate probation, they come back, by the third time they will most likely have a felony. Even if they graduate high school, nobody wants to give you a job if you have gone to “Juvy”. Having few options left, these kids return to stealing, burglary or drug dealing. While having more time than work on their hands, they are busy “knocking up” the young girls in the neighborhood. When “drug dealing dad ” is caught and goes to prison, young mama is left a single parent with barely raised kids. When kids raise themselves, they think its cool to have a kid because their friend has one. Thus begins and continues the circle of poverty which sustains the “economic drain” you so strongly disdain.

        Until the root cause which is poverty is dealt will the unintended consequences in social breakdown will not disappear. If 90% of the males where you grow up have been to prison, going to prison to a child will not be a big deal. They grow up resigned to that being the norm. They have never seen different. I know a very hard working “black” lady who has 8 children all by the same man, a ‘black guy who’s never been to prison. As a Catholic, she does not believe in family planning. This lady gets some Section 8 voucher help with housing subsidy and works everyday. She puts her kids to sleep and goes off to work with UPS overnight. Their father is in a monogamous relationship with their mother but is forbidden from sleeping in the house by Section 8 rules. So even though he can watch the kids and is willing to marry their mother, she will lose her voucher if they get married.

        While I agree that many factors in the scenarios I have presented may appear simplistic as they can be changed or were avoidable by making different choices, once a mistake has been due to a wrong choice, it is very difficult to break the natural circle formed by the path of least resistance. If we do not care enough to search and understand the intangible nuances of a particular problem, we sound arrogant and insensitive if we confidently condemn its existence. Our condemnation or contempt appears arrogant because we do not care to find out why the problem exists, nor are we sincerely looking for ways to deal with and eliminate the problem. Most of us are just content to use the presence of a problem as a moral and conscience insulating basis to justify our bias and oppression.
        I apologize for being so “verbose”.

    • shiloh11 permalink
      16 July 2013 2:25 am

      Kim: You are an unkind and inconsiderate dolt that has no clue of society and its intricate works. I am glad that you have shown your true colours.

    • Manuel de OB permalink
      16 July 2013 4:09 am

      Kim, prejudices are born from the education we receive. If it was because of actions… we the whites should be the ones to receive more prejudices than anyone in this earth as wherever we have gone in different times of history we have harassed, exploited, raped, abused, extinguished etc those societies that “received” us, It happened in America (referring to it as a full continent not just the USA, this includes central and south america), we have done it in Asia, we have done it in Oceania, it happened in Africa in colonial times (and here was the worst part as we broke away full societies, families etc in order to enslave them and send them to “new worlds” in such terrific terms for them to suffer generations of exacerbated abuse.
      So… of what kind of success are you speaking about? because if its the success in destroying those things that we saw, and feeling some kind of shame for those things that human being is able to do… well, you are damn right!
      Sorry but have to add that your words (and I quote here) “Not counting rape and selling drugs.” are just a clear sign of the ignorance that creates prejudices, of the numb mind that does not want to see, I do recommend you to travel around the world and open your eyes, and more than anything, learn some history and MAN yourself up.

      • Kim permalink
        17 July 2013 11:22 am

        Ah, yes the education argument. Makes sense from a crowd that lives by words such as white-passing and white privilege. Well I have a bachelor and I am starting my Master. And being European I cannot say the American education system have ever impress all that much.

        And while it is certainly true that a lot of social sciences do tend to focus on matters such as ethnic studies and gender studies and other topics that are irrelevant for me, it should be kept in mind that such studies are from the very start founded on an ideological premise and in most cases critical thoughts are unwanted.

        I would hazard I have traveled more than most of you, it’s rather easy in Europe. You know what most countries have in common these days. Black criminals, rape are always the favorite, followed by drugs.

        And sins of our ancestors, has nothing to do with me. I own nothing to anyone. Someone would have done first, it’s in our nature.

    • S.Matt permalink
      16 July 2013 4:32 am

      Wow, wow, wow. Thank you, Kim, for illustrating exactly what the author was talking about. I’m guilty of racism in my own life, no point in denying it. This is a racial and racist society, and we’re all brought up under the same roof. But you can learn something when you recognize the racism in your actions, try to glean something from your thoughts. You can start by understanding that everything you think of another person, group, race, continent, etc. is really a commentary on your own life. Because in the end, YOU are the only person you really know. That’s what makes this article so great. The author knows his limits and though he believes his experience overlaps with others, he makes no hard claims that it does.

  69. 15 July 2013 10:01 pm

    Matthew,
    I do not think that you are being at all overly sensitive. You are simply stating facts that many in the white community wish to ignore. As a disabled person (Tourette’s Syndrome) I have some understanding of the feeling of being different, of being stared at and of being judged in ways that are both difficult to explain and incredibly frustrating. Nevertheless I would never be subjected to the kind of vicious prejudice from which Trayvon Martin was ultimately murdered. I am horrified by what I consider to be a poor job by the prosecution. I am horrified by the horse race mentality which the media adopted in covering this case and as one who does not watch television it was so completely peculiar to witness this as I was watching while I waited to board a plane. Mostly however I am horrified by my own American society which has so willingly thrown basic decency and respect for the truth out the window in favor of an onslaught of advertising, nonsensical flag-waving and obsession with what can be bought as opposed to what can be learned and how we can grow together as a community of people and citizens. Nor do I absolve President Obama who, unfairly or not, carries an even greater responsibility to proceed with justice in mind but who, based upon his atrocious record on civil liberties and drone warfare, simply perpetuates a culture of violence and willful turning away from the truth such that a man like George Zimmerman can laughably claim that he in fact was the victim. It is in times such as these that I think about the leadership of individuals like Dr. Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, Leonard Bernstein, Howard Zinn and Naomi Wolf. Mostly however I know that we will never achieve social justice and basic equality so long as we believe that politicians can and will change our society for the better. History has proven that most of the time the truly important and genuine leaders are not the ones seeking the power and ego gratification of elected office. It is up to each of us in how we dare to grow and change and how we teach our children to build a better society and one in which a verdict such as we have just seen would seem, to the vast majority, highly irrational, unthinkable and indecent. We have work to do.

    • SKernstock permalink
      17 July 2013 11:53 pm

      No, Ms Dickensen, it was NOT murder! And…subhuman? Really? And…disporportionate, too? Compared to…what? The population, as a whole? Or, perhaps, just the black population? An awful lot of childish, emotional, irrational and ill informed comments on this

  70. minnow permalink
    15 July 2013 10:04 pm

    Thank you. I hope you don’t mind if I link this to a post I wrote. If it is a problem let me know.

  71. Rage Against the Light permalink
    15 July 2013 10:06 pm

    So all white people are racist? Every white person boards up their homes when a black person passes by. What’s your stance on the Joshua Chellew case? Of have you not heard/read about it?

    And you do know that George Zimmerman self-identifies as a Hispanic, right? If you’re going to call him white, then there should be no problem in calling President Obama white.

    • Gabrielle permalink
      15 July 2013 10:21 pm

      He said “white passing”. I’m sure that is a concept you have no clue of. More’s the pity!

    • laura permalink
      15 July 2013 10:37 pm

      Just to let you know biologically there are only 3 races Black, white ,and asian
      Hisptanic is an ethnicity and ethnicity is based on cultural differences not actual biological differences so in fact Obama is white, he is black ,but sadly all he is judged by is his more prominent features we should embrace every part ourselves not just one or the other

    • martaze permalink
      15 July 2013 11:53 pm

      FACT: Zimmerman is not from Spain, he is from Peru. Therefore he is NOT Hispanic, he is Latino. Hispanics are almost always white.

      The are many type of Latinos– black brown and white, depending on their racial mix.

      Zimmerman appears to be a white Latino.

      I am a white Latina. And to my eyes, Zimmerman was a racist wanna-be-cop who shot an unarmed kid because he was racist. Fortunately, his dream of being a cop died the instant he killed Trayvon. And, in that, there is a bit of justice

      • 16 July 2013 8:10 pm

        The posts have been illuminating in many ways.Thank you all for your words.
        As far as the decision is concerned it is true that the jurors may have been exposed to info before they were chosen to be on the jury. Additionally, the juror who has a contract to write a book, is married to an atty. Is it possible she never discussed the events at home?
        In her interview with Anderson Cooper she did say that in the end the jury’s decision came down to the “law” regarding the definition of “manslaughter”.In my opinion the jury was afraid of finding him guilty for all of the same old reasons.
        I am very sorry for our loss of Trayvon Martin and don’t like to think GZ’s life was given back to him in exchange.

    • Slum Jack permalink
      16 July 2013 12:14 am

      Exactly.

    • 16 July 2013 1:13 am

      Also – if you identified anywhere in this blog that he stated ALL WHITES I would appreciate a direct quoting of such.

      Zimmerman only identified as “Hispanic” when it was obvious and it was discussed. Even then it was “downplayed” and called “White Hispanic”. If you don’t know…you can’t remember…to attempt to understand.

      http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2013/07/12/george-zimmerman-family-deliberately-downplayed-his-latino-roots/

    • eginger permalink
      16 July 2013 1:23 am

      People are prejudiced. If you act on that prejudice then you are being racist, sexist, any-ist. Our brains have what are called schemas and we use these to quickly classify things we visually see on a daily basis, anything from a chair to a person. However, we also have the skill of critical thinking that determines whether we act on that prejudice or realize it’s just that, a prejudice. Most white people become hyper-aware when certain looking black people enter their presence…society has taught us to do that. The part that is in your control is whether you give credence to that teaching and act on that prejudice or realize that society has misled you.

    • Te'ana permalink
      16 July 2013 2:28 am

      Rage Against the Light,
      Matthew is definitely not saying that all White people are racist. One interpretation I took from this piece is that White people are unaware of racism, unaware of how their status as a White citizen gives them (oftentimes unseen or unnoticed) advantages specifically because they are White, and this pervasive reluctance to admit that racial microaggressions occur daily.

      The Joshua Chellew case has nothing to do with the Trayvon Martin case. What exactly is your point here?

      Your comment about “calling President Obama white” really shows your ignorance.

      I really suggest that before you get all defensive about White privilege and twist what Matthew is saying, you take the time to learn about present-day racism and White Privilege. I have personally found “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” by Peggy McIntosh and Tim Wise’s work to be really helpful in understanding White Privilege and racism.

    • Manuel de OB permalink
      16 July 2013 4:27 am

      Hispanic refers to a culture background not a race or ethnic group at all. Hispanics are considered in terms of color as whites.
      Hope it helps to clarify your mind :)

    • 16 July 2013 5:00 am

      Rage, if I may speak for Matthew, that was not what he was saying. Of course not every white person reacts the way you suggested, but you and I both know (assuming you, like myself, are white), I’m sorry to say, that feeling you get when a black male passes by. I hate that I have had it, I hope that you do too.

    • 16 July 2013 6:11 am

      “So all white people are racist?” Please stop making this about you. He is not saying that. Again, you are minimizing the problems black people face. In the piece, Matthew says Zimmerman passes as white, as in, the shade of his skin passes as white, not what he self-identifies himself as.

    • Joy permalink
      16 July 2013 7:41 am

      You missed the point of this entire post. Nowhere in this piece were “all white people” called racist. The writer was attempting to get people to see why folks of color are saddened and disappointed with how the Zimmerman trial came down.

      Never mind.

      To Matthew Simmermon-Gomes:
      Very well written. This speaks to exactly how I feel. This verdict made me want to hold my two young sons close to me forever.

  72. 15 July 2013 10:18 pm

    Hi Matthew

    To me, the most interesting part of the whole ordeal is the media’s role in whipping up a “racial bonfire.”

    I thought you might be interested to check this out: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2013/07/13/Media-Zimmerman-Coverage-Rap-Sheet. I wouldn’t contradict anything you say about racism or your own experience, but is there any evidence (at all) that Zimmerman was motivated by racial prejudice? The FBI didn’t think so (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/07/12/155918/more-evidence-released-in-trayvon.html#.UeQOfGTEaqW), which isn’t the end of the story, but I don’t see any evidence from any other sources either, only supposition.

    thanks

    • 16 July 2013 8:31 pm

      Matthew Gioia,
      I agree with you that the media used their usual incendiary tactics to their own purpose; however, I venture this opinion for your consideration.
      It seems to me the court and it’s officer’s tactics were aimed at dismissing the possibility of racism being recognized as central to the crime. This was exhibited from the flimsy investigation to the selection of a jury to various directions from the bench.
      This was a fairly short trial (compare to other media-attended trials e.g Jody Arias,Casey Anthony and only 16 hours deliberation)
      I think Trayvon Martin deserved more -I think as citizens governed by this system we also deserve more.
      I don’t believe in Santa Claus or the FBI.
      Thanks for the opportunity to respond.

  73. Gabrielle permalink
    15 July 2013 10:20 pm

    Very well said. You’ve made many things much more clear than others, especially those on both sides throwing out vitriolic bollocks. (like RageAgainstTheLight)

    Thank you for so eloquently expressing your side of things. I am learning to walk much gentler in life, thanks in part, to people like you.

  74. Stacey permalink
    15 July 2013 10:21 pm

    This piece is thoughtful, poignant and well written. Thank you for taking the time to do it and for acknowledging various sides of the issue while staying centered on the important reality of race in America. I have one question, and with a preface. I understand that white supremacy reigned in this case from go, and that it was the victim who was on trial due to his race, but my question is: Why is no one is talking about Zimmerman being Latino? This does not change his wrong and that he same black as threatening, but it’s an important reality note that he is not white, he’s brown. His maternal name is Gutiérrez. How would this have altered reaction or shifted emphasis were his name, like yours, George Zimmerman Gutierrez? I understand that he played the “white card” regardless of his roots and that that is the important part, but it’s interesting to me that there isn’t more, or any, dialogue about him being a Latino. Your thoughts?

  75. Reggie Rock permalink
    15 July 2013 10:23 pm

    If only Zimmerman had any history of racial animosity whatsoever. If only the racial angle wasn’t invented whole cloth by a race baiting media and outrage obsessed public.

  76. 15 July 2013 10:24 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I think its really enlightening for those of us who don’t encounter prejudice on a daily basis to understand what it is like for people who do. And the worst thing I (we) could do is to tell you that your experience isn’t valid. My personal feelings while reading this I think could be best described as “brokenhearted,” primarily because no person should have to be subject to that treatment. But also because, as a person who tries her hardest to vehemently reject racist action and attitude, its hurtful for someone to basically say that no matter how hard I would try, I’d never win that battle because I grew up in a privileged white community. Maybe I shouldn’t internalize it, but then what type of person would I be if I didn’t care that someone assumed me to be inherently prejudiced? It just seems like there’s no winning for anyone in this situation, and I don’t think there’s any reason it should be so hopeless.

  77. laura permalink
    15 July 2013 10:33 pm

    Hi Matthew

    thank you for you honest thoughts and experiences. I “understand” as much as a white woman in America can understand. I grew up in the south where I was witness to racism that was abundant and out there not only on the white side but as well as the side of color. I hate that people try and pretend that racism is over that it is gone because the truth is and the question i have been asking is if Trayvon Martin was white would Zimmerman have even started following him, would Zimmerman have even noticed the youth. I don’t know alot but here are some of my beliefs

    We as Americans have a right to protect ourselves, but it is not self defense when you seek out someone on the street

    It is not okay for a MAN to approach a BOY on the street

    And Zimmerman may not have been guilty as the court sees it of murder but he should pay for taking a life

    It is not easy being a person of color but it is not easy being a white person either we need to learn to embrace our differences and embrace what makes us similar. We do not need to try and hide what makes us different we need to learn from one another and better our selves.

  78. MsRowdyRedhead permalink
    15 July 2013 10:34 pm

    Thank you for your post, Matthew.
    This makes my heart hurt.
    It saddens me that so many of my friends of various races and political persuasions have jumped so fast to judge one party or the other, and more-so that the press jumped SO VERY fast to ascribe racial motives to this story. They do not write about the thousands who are killed each year or the rot that is eating away at our youth. They chose this story to further the rift between races, and that is unforgivable. There should be no rift. We all bleed the same. There are rich, poor and middle income in all races.. weak and strong, healthy and ill, spiritual and not.. all these things ignore the skin.. why is it we cannot??
    As for me, at my table all of good heart are welcome…

    About the hoodie, I believe you can thank Hollywood for that connection, for every time we see someone about to perform a criminal act, no matter the race, they pull a hood up or a mask on to hide their identity.

  79. 15 July 2013 10:43 pm

    This is a very good article. Thank you. It’s something I’ll for sure be assigning my students. :)

  80. Sam permalink
    15 July 2013 10:48 pm

    Awesome piece. Thank you for putting my feeling into words.

  81. Chad permalink
    15 July 2013 10:56 pm

    Matthew,
    Thank you for writing this. I’m taken back by the emotions in the writing and personally this writing touches my heart. I grew up one of very few white kids in a poor predominately black neighborhood, not that this gives me any leverage to speak on what it is to be black in America but it does give me an insight into a world that very few white Americans know anything about. Racism exists. Not that this is a recognition to vindicate your point of view because I’ve seen its ugliness first hand with childhood friends all the way up to college and even modern day experiences. Personally I’ve experienced racism from other races growing up just because my friends were black and sadly enough my wife has experienced it in an era that people think racism doesn’t exist anymore. That is the problem that we face today, the belief racism doesn’t exist, because racism is something that most white Americans don’t want to recognize and sometimes black Americans cling to. It separates who we are as a people because our perceptions of what racism means is different to each of us. i see things differently than most as I’m sure most who will read this see things differently from me. People have always been people to me. Not a race.

    I’ll be honest. I’ve struggled with the lashing out after the verdict of the trial. Part of me is angry that it takes something like this to make people get motivated to be socially aware of what is going on in our country on an everyday occurrence, maybe not to this extent, but its there in some form or another. The other half of me is sad because in a world where so much information is shared the media has managed to open a wound that is not easily closed. I, like you, want vindication from those in higher positions that these problems exist. I want recognition that in America not everyone gets to live the suburban lifestyle and that hatred does exist between people here.

  82. NCMJ permalink
    15 July 2013 10:58 pm

    @ Rage Against the Light- So much defensiveness. The all or nothing cognitive distortion-to be exact. You should take a moment and allow your capacity for insight to really recognize why you are harvesting so much anger and what it would mean to you if you could acknowledge the unfair treatment of others based on race/culture/ethnicity. It’s not about you, it’s not about blame its about the acknowledgment of the very real presence of racism in your society.

    Nonetheless, I am still shocked and amazed that Americans are shocked and astonished. How can your justice system fail the people it was never meant to protect? I suppose your mistakes are portals to discovery..We’ll see where you are in another 50 years..

    My condolences..

  83. Pat permalink
    15 July 2013 10:58 pm

    Great Article! I just have one question. So I firmly believe that Zimmerman obviously followedMartin bc he saw him as “out of place,” however, I do think the Media reaction was damning to Zimmerman from the beginnings, and with the line exception of FOX News, the vast majority of pundits and analysts were all looking for a conviction. My question is, was race heightened by the media and made into a bigger issue than it was? As we know in the US hundreds are killed every week by firearms.. Why did the media cling to this one? Hundreds of whites kill whites and vice versus with blacks.. Yet we rarely focus on those problems. I think Zimmerman should have gotten manslaughter, yet folks make this out to be akin to emit till.. Which I disagree with wholeheartedly..

    • Margie Griggs Crabtree permalink
      17 July 2013 1:15 am

      How could there have been a conviction? There was no evidence to convict.

  84. Shelley permalink
    15 July 2013 11:01 pm

    I read in your comments the grotesqueness that is our colonial-inspired, white male hegemony. While you have alluded to the issue of race, it is also the issue faced by all people of “difference” …… those who by dint of the coincidence of birth, find themselves outside that normality constructed (largely) through the supremacy accorded by right of conquest, religious and/or military.

    I often think how Hitler and his henchmen might be smiling in their graves or where-ever they now look out upon the living. Their 1000 year Reich is not dead at all, but lives on in the attitudes, subliminal and overt, of this hegemony widely regarded as normality.

  85. 15 July 2013 11:06 pm

    I too loved your article in the basics of racism,however basing it off this case is irresponsible to say the least because as others have stated, Zimmerman is not what is classified as white at all. Stating letters to whites, already shows a bit of racism on your part. You have categorized a group of people as you claim “whites” have done to the “black” community.

    I dislike it when anyone makes a bulk statement to cover a group of people as if it’s all inclusive.

    Perhaps rename your article explaining the “black” community to educate everyone reading it.

  86. 15 July 2013 11:09 pm

    Dude, we’ve already seen this. You’re so late. I don’t know though if to say the white privilege thing can really be an angle to get whites to look at the situation.

  87. Lynda permalink
    15 July 2013 11:13 pm

    One of the most powerful posts that I have read in an incredibly long time. It is powerful because it speaks the truth and the truth of it makes me sad. And the fact that so many people of our country fail to grasp this truth is heart wrenching. Thank you!

  88. Don permalink
    15 July 2013 11:16 pm

    Wow. I try to imagine what it’s like but in so doing can only just imagine. You made me feel it. Or almost. I’d have to live it to REALLY feel it as you well know. But you did it as well as can be.

  89. 15 July 2013 11:19 pm

    awesome, Matthew, just simply awesome :) bravo to you!

  90. Kane permalink
    15 July 2013 11:32 pm

    Wow! Great, great piece! I am a coloured (Aboriginal) person who is born and raised in Australia – your words are very relevant in the Australian context as well! Keep on keeping on, it’s powerful!

  91. martaze permalink
    15 July 2013 11:44 pm

    It’s like if I were of the Bear Clan and you were from the Tiger Clan, and we passed near each other, we’d have to be afraid and prepared to fight to the death. We haven’t progressed that far from the cave. How limiting to our experiences.
    I wouldn’t go to a concert in my “jamies”, so yes, we all have to give thought to what we wear and when. However, it’s sad that in 2013, a decent, literate person like you seem to be ALSO has to worry that what you wear doesn’t appear threatening.

  92. 15 July 2013 11:48 pm

    I came to your article through a Facebook posting and if there were a “Dis-Like” button on FB I would have been tempted to use it.

    From reading the open letter, I am given the impression that you were expressing your own disappointment to the outcome of the trial based on hopes that it would support a wish that was not borne out by the evidence presented.

    I must state that I have not been carefully following the case from its beginning and have only become aware of it as it was reaching its conclusion. I also think that it is very important to state that I wasn’t even aware of the race of either of the defendant nor the victim until they were described in what I read. (I saw nothing on TV about this.) To me, from the evidence which I saw presented, I would have not come to any other conclusion other than what the jury decided.

    I cannot argue with you about your experiences of discrimination nor your feelings about them, but to use the outcome of this trial as a focal point to justify any sense of injustice or ill-treatment, which you seem to be doing, seems to me to be a grave error. I do believe there are some serious problems with the American justice system, and various laws, but the conclusion reached in this trial –based on the evidence which I read about– is not one of them. I also agree that there are many deep rooted racial prejudices which we must all strive to identify and overcome.

    There is little doubt that this trial has brought out a lot of sentiment which black Americans feel, and often justly, but if people were harbouring the hope that Martin’s killer would be hanged, drawn and quartered simply because, as you put it “brown skin is the crime for which Trayvon Martin died,” they weren’t being very realistic. Even if we all agree that there is a tremendous amount of bias against any group we cannot expect others to be punished without more justification than the biases which might seem to favour those others.

  93. Megab permalink
    16 July 2013 12:06 am

    I am in awe, if only we could all be on this level of thinking. But that’s the problem isn’t it? Not enough people actually thinking. Just like the person who responded above me. If you actually take the time to read you would realize he isn’t pointing to every white person and saying they are racist. Its about seeing things from another person’s point of view and walking in their shoes. I think what you wrote is amazing. I wish there was a better word for it but amazing will have to do. :)

    • 16 July 2013 8:46 pm

      Megab, your thoughts were mine,There is so much complexity in this story that I would hope respondents might have read enough to understand this. Personally, I deeply appreciate the posts by those who have. I kept my comments limited to insights I haven’t seen addressed. And, yes, the level of thinking, for the most part has been exemplary.

  94. 16 July 2013 12:07 am

    Beautifully written! Thank you!

  95. Michael permalink
    16 July 2013 12:08 am

    Stop being a bitch…. But me saying that is wrong….yea where is my free collage… I’m white so I go to collage for free? I’d call that privileged, I’m from a hood in Atlanta where most of today’s mainstream rappers come from… Racism is not only subjected to blacks….I got cracker, white boy (said as if it made me inferior), jumped, fights almost daily…robbed ect… All because I was white… And lets be real…. The culture of inner city blacks is filled with thugs and gangsters…it’s evident in every car driving threw my neck of the woods…. Beating, fuck that bitch, knuckle up hoe, fuck the police, fuck bitches, ect…. Ever get jumped by white people yelling fuck that nigger up…. Well substitute nigger for cracker…. Cause I have…. So yea stop with the whining…. All they did to you (whites) was refuse you service….or give mean stares or not look at all…..once again privileged…… In 513 days since the travon Martin shooting….11106 black males have been murdered by other black males….in 2010 FBI statistics per capita there were 7x more murders by blacks than whites… I personally think its a subliminal attempt to not take responsibility for what your community is evolving too…. The morals that stem from the music…to occupations that are held… You do know we have a black president right….. And there are black doctors….so what’s the excuse for the rest of the fuck ups who when break the law….get locked up…. Ohh they were black…he’s harassing me cause I’m black….it’s cause I’m black… What about the Jewish population…. Or Muslim…. So get off your high horse woe is me and mine cry baby attitude…. Yea…we had slavery… But Arabs beat Europeans to that by 700 years… The blacks who live in America have it made… And freedom is not free unfourntunatly…. They payed for it with slavery…. And are still getting hand outs to compensate for the wrong doings that happened hundreds of years ago…. Wanna change stereotypes…..start with ya culture first…. Gotta change the way we think…the way we act….tupac… Judge a man not based on the color of his skin, but his character…mlk.. Pretend life is a script…. If you were the leading role….would you want to be viewed as a gangster or good guy….

  96. Slum Jack permalink
    16 July 2013 12:13 am

    I’m sorry, but to whom is that rant written? And just “who” is all that “about”?

    Talk about “profiling”. AND “racism”.

    That’s exactly how it happens. And keeps happening. In ALL directions.

  97. Michael permalink
    16 July 2013 12:35 am

    And by the way….my sons mixed with black white and Colombian….not much lighter than you…. So don’t take my comments as racist…I don’t have that one black friend….. My blood flows threw a child who will be viewed as black,orhispanic,def not white…. And I don’t want him using excuses for a bad day and blaming it on his skin color….. I don’t want him to be able to get a scholarship cause of his color… Why feed a man when you can teach him to fish? And he can feed himself for the rest of his life….

  98. 16 July 2013 12:46 am

    All powerful stuff! It’s almost too much to take in at one sitting…Heres my question though…So how do we fix it? How do we make it better? Maybe a dumb or ignorant question, but what are the steps we take to change it…?? Or is it in all of us, on a primal level to hate and be afraid of a different tribe??

  99. Allegrita permalink
    16 July 2013 12:49 am

    Dear Mr. Simmermon-Gomes,

    Thank you for this beautifully written and powerful statement. My husband and son endure the same kind of scrutiny and fearful response from strangers, every day. And I am treated differently by those same strangers, depending on whether I am with my family of color, or with white friends. (I’m white.) It’s not an overreaction; it’s a fact of daily life.

    My heart is broken for Trayvon Martin’s family. His killing gave me a chill to my very soul, because what happened to him could so easily have happened to my son, especially when he was that age. I can’t help but put myself in the Martins’ shoes. We should ALL put ourselves in their shoes and feel their despair, because it’s only through sharing those feelings with others that we can begin to overcome the unconscious racism that permeates our society.

    I understand what you mean about hoping that this case would open people’s eyes to the fundamental racism that causes people like Mr. Zimmerman to look on a black teenager with fear, for no other reason than that he’s black. I, too, expected the verdict to come down the way it did, for the reasons you gave. But I was still deeply disheartened.

    Please don’t lose hope. Things are slowly getting better. I’m old enough to have experienced the changes that have occurred over decades. The problem is still huge, and as with all change, it’s not uniform–and when we seem to make advances, the pendulum too often swings back the other way. But I think people like you are doing a great deal to help the change take place.

  100. 16 July 2013 12:49 am

    Good article about judgments being made based on one’s skin color. We have a long way to go. Not only in this country is it looked down upon the darker you are. Even within ethic groups does a stigmatism exist for those who are darker.

    Remember we are not born to hate, only taught. In the Z vs. T case we see how a Peruvian kid growing up in this country can cecum to the hate that he was taught. Even if it was self defense, he still used hateful language based on T’s skin color.

    As we all intermix with different shades it will eventually be hard to tell one’s ethnic background. However, I hope people stop teaching hate before that becomes a reality.

  101. Jeff permalink
    16 July 2013 12:55 am

    We will never know if, and to what extent, racial profiling played in this shooting. To me, the case came down to the picture of GZ with his nose broken. It was obvious he took a beating, and there is your reasonable doubt. Looking at the case objectively, I I wouldn’t have been able to cast a guilty vote either. Only after hearing GZ say if he could go back to that night ,he would not do anything differently, did I stop caring what happened to him. Two parents had to bury their child over a confrontation that did not have to, and should not have occurred. …NOW…to address the issue of race. People are always going to profile, to pretend otherwise is foolish. We make assumptions in a split second upon seeing/hearing someone. That’s human nature. We, as a community, need to improve our profile. We need to stop embracing this thug, drug-dealing, gun toting, misogynistic, ebonics, its cool to be stupid culture. If you want to call that “being white”, that’s the problem. It’s not being white, it’s called educated.

  102. Frank permalink
    16 July 2013 12:59 am

    I am white or so you would categorize me, but I am not a racist. (SURE, you say!) Really! I grew up in a cosmopolitan, racially diverse neighborhood where there were no minorities, only people, because there was not a “majority” race or ethnicity. We all accepted one another because I guess we didn’t know any better.
    I too have been subjected to racism and ostracized because of my naïveté. I was shunned by both whites and blacks. And this was at a supposed “Christian” college. And I guess I have “whitened” over my sixty years, unfortunately.
    You said you were not there when Treyvon died and you could not know with certainty what was in Zimmerman’s mind, yet you use words like “murder.”
    You make the exact same mistake you ascribe to whites: you paint all whites with the same broad brush, defining every one based on your experience with a few. Or, are you guilty of parroting the common mantra?
    I cannot pretend to know the experience of every black person, but I do know that hate speech polarizes and creates hostility. I am against preferential hiring practices for any reason. You cannot make up for past wrongs with present day inequities. Hiring, job placement, salary, promotion should be merit based PERIOD. Maybe I’m idealistic, but my philosophy of life has always been, “I’d rather aim at the moon and miss, than to aim at the gutter and hit.”

  103. 16 July 2013 1:10 am

    Matthew: Thank you so much for your eloquent, insightful, and nuanced essay. I’m still spitting mad and near despair about what can be done. I feel like it’s so easy to latch on to sound-byte-style problems, since the real issues are so complex and thorny. It’s good to read something that sheds such clear light.

  104. 16 July 2013 1:10 am

    Thank you for your comments and your perfect attempt/action of explaining “life” for a man of color…for…”the rest of their life”.

    Constantly looking over your shoulder. Afraid if you are in mixed company that SOMETHING…ANYTHING is going to be blamed on you. Hearing sirens and almost wetting your pants for fear of death.

    It cannot be understood by someone who is not “of color” – even the fallacy of “reverse racism” is not to be equated to THIS.

  105. Mike permalink
    16 July 2013 1:12 am

    My views on the Zimmerman “Not Guilty” verdict:

    I have no idea what kind of person Trayvon was in his personal life. I suspect the place he grew up was nothing like Sanford. I don’t know if his home neighborhood ever HAD a neighborhood watch. Trayvon acted NORMAL for HIS neighborhood. If somebody’s following you there (In Miami), they MIGHT BE a stalker. And your chances are good that their only intent is to do you harm.

    I don’t know Z. either, but he has an established track record of watching over his neighborhood and regularly seeking the assistance of law enforcement. There are no character witnesses that the prosecution was able to produce that say that George is anything but a decent guy. If he had a history of racism or acts of unprovoked violence it would have turned up in the trial.

    Trayvon reacted to the situation the ONLY WAY HE KNEW HOW—- that being said, he acted WRONG. It was inappropriate for the setting. That’s a gated community where people don’t regularly bludgeon complete strangers. They know each other AND their neighborhood watch personnel. It doesn’t MATTER if George followed Trayvon. He was allowed to, and Trayvon was allowed to tell him to STOP, or CONVERSELY, Trayvon COULD have called the cops HIMSELF. He had a cell phone.

    They need not ever have exchanged blows.

    Neighborhood watch laws should be modified to mandate that the watches be visually identifiable with a lit car sign, a logo’d ball cap and a logo’d vest. They must carry a flashlight and air horn at all times when on watch. They must keep a list of who’s on duty (to only be viewable by city, state or federal law enforcement ONLY in the investigation of a known crime, or as reported by the watches. They must register with the community with signed permission by the neighbors covered.

    This is a “basic” idea.

    In my personal view, it was a confluence of inevitability and nobody is truly at fault. That’s my take on it, anyway. But a life was still lost , and it’s still sad no matter how you slice it.

    • Mark Bajkowski permalink
      16 July 2013 3:57 pm

      You bring up a good point. Here is how they try to do it in Orlando: http://www.cityoforlando.net/police/citizen_info/neighborhood_watch.htm

      “Do not approach, follow or make any contact with suspicious persons or vehicles.” is a safe guideline but completely useless if not enforceable. Two questions remain: 1) What are the actual Neighborhood Watch’s guidelines applicable to G. Zimmerman (apart from a suggestion by the 911 operator), if any?; 2) How come the Neighborhood Watch Programs which, by default, may deal with potentially dangerous situations are not, by default, regulated by local or State governments?

  106. 16 July 2013 1:16 am

    Beautifully written, sane, thoughtful. Thank you.

  107. 16 July 2013 1:23 am

    It angers me that every issue becomes a race issue. This is one out of many stories that could be discussed where a white/black/hispanic/asian boy/girl was wrongfully harmed. (There are plenty of other instances where the proverial “show was on the other foot”) And it has become a symbol of the black plight in America — against a self-identifying Hispanic? Trayvon wore a hoodie when he was in 7 Eleven, even at a register with someone handling money. Was it raining inside, too? Does uncovering your face and head when dealing with money, at night time, in a public convenience store mean “selling out to the white man”, or “whitening up”? No, I wasn’t there that night either, but a very typical and predictable rhetoric emerged as soon as this incident occurred; so many black folks had their minds made up that Trayvon was innocent! It became their story of how black people are mistreated and how the judicial system wants to incarcerate all of them. Don’t get me wrong, there have been injustices committed against blacks in this country for 500 years — I do get it, and acknowledge it — but at some point, if there is ever going to be any real healing in this society where racial issues are concerned, you might not want to pull the race card every time one of “your own” gets in trouble; in addition you might want to question any behavior that seems suspicious to others and take responsibility in your community. Really? Trayvon was only wearing a hoodie because it was raining outside? Take another look at the 7 Eleven video. Am I the only person taking into account the actual evidence and the “stand your ground” law that, like-it-or-not, happens to be the law there? It seems like the only black man I know who looked at this case objectively is a prosecuting attorney with whom I went to high school. Evidence, people! It’s not about black vs white-sounding-hispanic.

  108. Tee permalink
    16 July 2013 1:25 am

    I am so thankful for this post. With gratitude, love, & compassion…. please, keep writing about the things that matter to you.

  109. peter Brown permalink
    16 July 2013 1:29 am

    Same old same old. White on black, the new lynch law of Florida has just been blessed by the courts. The same period they repealed voter registration legislation they will be celebrating MLK’s I have a dream speech. The two Martins now have a common purpose and the Trayvon Martin movement should bind us all together in a renewed I had Dreams campaign.
    Jim crow met George Zimmerman and he liked what he saw.

  110. jay permalink
    16 July 2013 1:32 am

    First off everyone George Zimmerman is not white, he is Hispanic. All the racist wish he was white so they can further their racist remarks. He had a jury of women who heard all the facts and lead to the not Guilty verdict. The FBI did a case evaluation to determine if there was any racial profiling and determined that race was not a factor in this case.
    Crazy that you can kill a kid during a fist fight. The law should be reevaluated and soon but this is not a white on black issue until you make it that way

  111. 16 July 2013 1:38 am

    Beautiful piece. I’m a 110 pound white mom with a tendency to smile, and I’m well aware of how much I’ve gotten away with because of that. I live in a mixed neighborhood and was food shopping Sunday morning at a nearby market that has mostly black staff and customers. I couldn’t help but wonder how those shoppers and clerks had gotten out of bed Sunday morning and how they could still be greeting me cordially. Since Saturday night I’ve had to resist an impulse to apologize to every black friend and stranger. Tho I spend a lot of time fighting for social justice, I’m still sorry for what this country is. “O let America be America again – The land that never has been yet – And yet must be.” -Langston Hughes.

  112. Dave permalink
    16 July 2013 1:43 am

    If Trayvon had his hood up, how did Zimmerman know his race? Somebody looks at Trayvon wrong and he thinks he has the right to pummel this guy and beat his head into the sidewalk? Where did he learn to hate white people which he obviously did, enough to go out and beat this guy Zimmerman to a pulp Just for keeping an eye on him around his own neighborhood which had been victimized quite a few times apparently? I truly feel for Traybon and his parents and I am absolutely not a racist. Cards would be completely the same even if the colors were changed. I do feel for you and the intense scrutiny many colored people are subjected to but that doesn’t give them a right to pounce on a non racist person who has Done nothing legally or morally wrong.

  113. Jim permalink
    16 July 2013 1:44 am

    I wanted to comment on this after reading your statement. My background, I was born into an upper class jewish family, my mother was single. In Michigan at the time racism was white towards black and my family taught me not to use nasty words when referring to people who were different in any way. At 11 my father returned and married my mother, he was low class and very verbal about his racism towards others. By 13 he had beat me so many time I had left home and had nowhere to go so, I was homeless. A friend of mine who happened to be black let his father know what was going on and his father, Abbot, came and got me and I lived with them until I was almost 18 and joined the military. I am currently working on my Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy.

    As for racism in the Zimmerman case, I think you are mistaken. Zimmerman could not pass for white. The news has been pushing to make this case about racism. They even went so far as to place a claim that the jury was six white women. You don’t find that odd that they would avoid mentioning that a Black/Spanish woman was a member of this jury? While I will not argue this case. I will say when OJ murdered his wife and her friend and was let go, it was kind of strange if everyone is always out to get the black guy.

    Where I live in Southern Florida Racism is not tolerated by the masses although it does happen. I think when you speak of racism you need to understand anyone of any color can be racist. If you can not judge an individual based on that individual alone then you are a racist. I have to ask, how many white friends do you have how many Spanish? Do you hang out with them regularly or are they more of aquantancesso you can claim not to be prejudice? My advice to you is focus on bettering yourself so you can enjoy life and stop focusing on how everyone is out to get you. If a person worries about what other people are thinking of them this shows in body language and is picked up. Take the initiative if someone looks at you strange, offer them a pleasant hello and open a dialog. If you do not like the way people see you, it is your job to show them who you are. Just sayin.

  114. 16 July 2013 1:51 am

    This is a wonderful article. I’ll be reblogging.

  115. 16 July 2013 1:53 am

    Reblogged this on Married Girl in a Weird World and commented:
    This is a great article on thoughts about the Zimmerman trial.

  116. Mary permalink
    16 July 2013 1:53 am

    Thank you for this post. I am thankful that you shared your perspective, and I appreciate being reminded of what day-to-day life is like for someone who does not look like me.

    I don’t suppose anyone knows precisely how to demolish personal racial prejudices and biases, but I wish there were a truly safe place to engage in dialogues about racism–I think that would help. I am glad that blogs and social media offer a place where those who experience racism (and sexism, ableism, etc.) can speak out. I think about my own biases and prejudices regarding race, class, and gender every day when I choose who to sit next to during my racially and socioeconomically diverse bus commute. But I feel like I can’t talk openly about these things, because I am white and I am not perfect in my efforts not to judge others, and I am ashamed. I am unwilling to come forward and offer up my prejudices to an open dialogue that might help me learn to dismantle them, for fear of exposing my shame and making myself a pariah. I assume I am not the only person (whether white or not) who feels similarly stifled in his/her efforts to self-correct, but I can’t imagine forming a support group for “ashamed folks who judge, bent on reform.” Until such time comes, I feel very grateful to have people like you, willing to share their stories and provide gentle correction and eye-opening.

    • Kay permalink
      18 July 2013 8:31 am

      Mary, Someone needs to start an open discussion. In a safe, supportive environment, meaning judgement free adults only.I would love to have someone “bent on reform” ask the things they are afraid to say.How else can we collectively grow?

  117. 16 July 2013 1:56 am

    As a white person, I just want to say. I hear you.

    I have a question. As a white person, what can I do to help and support the black community in their struggle with these circumstances?

    As an individual, I do try to look within and be as honest with myself as possible. I try to remain pertinacious in recognizing and admitting to, as an earlier poster said, SIWAs. I try not to live in denial by telling myself that I’m “above” that or not susceptible to the same societal prejudices and pressures that everyone else is. As I get older, I think I’m getting much better at it, but I hope to remain ever vigilant as I just don’t want to be that kind of person.

    I also always try to “say something” when I’m around white people who might say things in an all white group that they’d NEVER say in literal mixed company. I feel it’s important to call people out on stuff like that ESPECIALLY when they think they’re “protected” from having to be what they seem to think is “politically correct”. I think it’s important to say something just in order to let those people know “WE SEE YOU. You may be fooling OTHER people, but I KNOW”.

    But, is there anything else I should/could be doing?

  118. Diana permalink
    16 July 2013 1:58 am

    Thank you for such a well rounded and thought out piece. As a mother of a son who just turned 20, i have been following this case very closely since it occurred. I live in the city (not a gated community) and yes there are some strange folks out after dark. My son is often out after dark and he likes to were hoodies. If he is cold or it is damp he puts the hood up. We are “classified” as white but as i said we live in a very diverse part of the city and my son just finished his freshman year at a HBCU. This has broken my heart. Regardless of any racial issues, a young man was out minding his own business and ends up shot and killed…for what? Because he looked suspicious? Because of how he was dressed? I saw the pictures and he was dressed like my son would dress. Because he was tall? He may have been tall but he was lanky and if he did fight back with Zimmerman, it would have been the adrenaline from fear pushing him (i.e. fight or flight). Sorry for the rambling but my heart goes out to Trayvon’s family and i have lump in my throat that has not gone away since the verdict. A mother should never have to fear that her child may not come back home after a short trip to a convenience store. Ever.

  119. Jen permalink
    16 July 2013 2:01 am

    Matthew,
    Thank you for your insightful words. As a white female, I know that I cannot fully understand your experience… or Treyyvon’s. I can only empathize and do my best to stand up to injustice. I am a teacher and I worry about the little boys in my class. I live in a city where the leading cause of death for young males is gunshot, and those victims are almost 6 times more likely to be African American than white. That is a scary, sad statistic. Much of the violence in my city is Black on Black. Again, I’m not attempting to claim that I understand the circumstances that would lead people to kill other people. But I do know that something has to change. People (ALL people) need to start seeing dark skinned men as human beings. You are not monsters. Your lives are not worthless. You matter… you are important. Even if you are wearing a hoodie. Even if you are walking at night. Your life is worth something and it should be protected.

    Just my thoughts.
    Jen

  120. Laurie permalink
    16 July 2013 2:13 am

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to write this and share this. Beautiful and so important to share.

  121. redviper permalink
    16 July 2013 2:13 am

    Whites are a minority In many big cities in North America, and minorities don’t always have privileges imo. Power and money is what matters , not so much the color of your skin. People have problems with their identity, not their color. Work hard, do what is right, and you might even end up being the president.

  122. Te'ana permalink
    16 July 2013 2:31 am

    Matthew,
    I really, really enjoyed this piece – so insightful! Thank you so much for sharing!
    Te’ana

  123. Lisa permalink
    16 July 2013 2:36 am

    Matthew thank you for your open letter. I found it to be healing and I will share it every chance I can. You are making a positive difference and I encourage you to continue.

  124. 16 July 2013 2:40 am

    Matthew, your essay is powerful. I’m a 56 year old white woman, and I see myself in what you say. I want to believe that racism is generally a part of the past. I have been trying for several minutes to say this eloquently, but can’t figure it out, so here it is in plain speak. I realize I can’t know anything about how black people experience racism because I’m white. Duh. I’m past being afraid of people who are “different” from me, be they poor, tattooed, bikers, different language, culture, religion, etc. I’m an RN, so I see everyone eventually.

    How can I help? What can I do?

    Ann

  125. Crystal permalink
    16 July 2013 2:55 am

    I realize that it will be easy to categorize my comments under the label “Deafness”. However, I am very confused. I followed the trial, and judging on what I saw during the coverage—had I been on the jury I would have found Zimmerman “not guilty”, as well. The case (as it was presented) simply did not meet probable cause. This country has a system that protects us. It seems to me that people were looking for a Guilty verdict to make the social statement that racism is wrong. I don’t understand why they are looking for the justice system to make a social statement—that is not its job. Its job is to set forth clear guidelines for the trials of its citizenry. I would be frightened to know that public opinion could affect how I would be treated in court. In this case, public opinion may well be correct, but – I believe – that history (both recent and older) is filled with examples where the “group mind” was not in the right place.
    I don’t understand why someone would be upset that they have to strive for a certain “mainstream-ness” when it comes to social or professional interactions. Many characterized the American mainstream as “white” and lamented on how it is unwilling to embrace other cultures or perspectives. I have Asperger’s, so I spend a lot of time watching the people around me as if life is an episode of National Geographic. I almost never understand exactly what is going on. However, I know that I have to meet someone’s eyes when I’m speaking, or they are going to think I’m shifty or lying. I know that I have to say good-bye when I finish speaking to someone, or they are going to think that I am rude. I know that I have to put on pants-with-a-button when I meet with clients (I develop curriculum), or they will think I am not professional—although, my clothing has nothing to do with my ability to do the job they want to hire me for. These are all “white” rules…but they are the rules. It is up to me whether or not I want to follow the rules; I could proclaim that arbitrary social mores are stupid. I’m an adult; I enjoy working (and having a nice car and food), and I enjoy having social interactions and friends. So, I follow the “rules”.
    I took your point to be that racism is wrong and has personally affected you. Your examples clearly highlight how you have personally been touched by others’ perceptions. I’m sorry that you are faced with this.

  126. Lesley Fisher permalink
    16 July 2013 3:09 am

    Thank you for what you wrote. When I claimed to be “colorblind” (as I so ardently did growing up as a Southern white girl), I denied both your experiences and the privileges I was afforded everyday. When ever I insisted that racism was over or said things like “Well I didn’t make anyone a slave”, it was always because I felt blamed. I was afraid to accept my privilege. I ignored the fact that, even as a poor white girl, my skin still allowed me the assumption of being part of the group. Everyone assumed I must belong, had the money to pay, and certainly wasn’t going to cause trouble. No one thought it was a novelty that I had brains.

    So many responses to this post so clearly come from a place of defensiveness. It’s something I know well and makes me appreciate your willingness to open yourself to the criticism you anticipated.

    What you said that was most profound was the desire to disguise yourself in “the process of dressing (or otherwise self-presenting) to ‘white’ myself”. I will be thinking about this a lot as I prepare for my school year. Am I trying to make my black and Latino males be more white? This is a question I will be reflecting on a lot. I talk so openly about race, class, and privilege in my classroom but I need to really think critically about what my goals are for my students. Am I trying to encourage learning and growth or just make them more like me? My desires come from a place of wanting them to be accepted but shouldn’t I spend more time making the world more accepting of my students rather than teaching them to play the game?

  127. 16 July 2013 3:11 am

    First I’m going to say that I’m not an expert in this trial. I read a few articles about it, but I didn’t follow it. In fact, I only came upon this blog post because it seems to have gone viral over Facebook. The title intrigued me because I genuinely like hearing the perspectives of others (regardless of their color). What I was disappointed to find here was bigotry toward the very people that you accuse of being bigots toward you and other colored people. I’m sorry that you’ve seen so much bigotry in your lifetime, but please don’t assume that I’ve never experienced the same because of my color.

    I’m white and I have experienced racism directed at me by colored people, and also by white people who assumed that I was Hispanic. I’ve been called derogatory names, treated unkindly (to say the least) by colored people, and I’ve even experienced a death threat due to my color alone (I got lost in the “wrong neighborhood”). I’ve had other women (of color) pull their children away from me suspiciously as well, and I am not a creepy person. In spite of this, I’m not angry at colored people, and I refuse to treat them differently than I would treat anyone else. In fact, the best compliment I’ve ever been given was from a girl in boot camp with me who said I was the most chill white person she’s ever met. She was my best friend through that tough time, and in my particular division, I was a minority.

    I was also a bit upset when you made fun of the people who talk about their Chinese grandparents or their black friends. Why? If you think it’s possible to “white” yourself through social osmosis, then shouldn’t it also be possible for white people to empathize with their friends of color and learn from their experiences? My grandmother was largely raised by a black family in the 1930’s (California), while my grandfather was welcomed into the family of Mexican migrant workers (Quebec). Their stories and the racism they experienced along with those families has shaped my opinions and my worldview, and that’s something your assumptions can’t take away from me. Speaking of taking things away from people, I agree with Rage Against the Light that you’ve effectively robbed Zimmerman of the culture he identifies himself with in order to prove your point about how cruel and blind white people are to the struggles of the coloreds.

    I think the thing about this thread that makes me the most sad, though, is the fact that my comment will come after Kim’s, and I will be judged by her words as well. Please know that not all white people are ignorant, short-sighted, racist, foul-tempered idiots like her. Kim, if you’re reading this, I hope that someday you’ll be able to see people for their personhood and not for their color. In fact, I wish this for everyone. I want to live in a time when people stop blaming each other or feeling the need to defend themselves based on racial issues. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

  128. Eve permalink
    16 July 2013 3:16 am

    While I am unable to communicate as eloquently as some, I would like to recommend reading “Bronx Masquerade” by Nikki Grimes. This is a novel that my students in the 7th grade read to learn about the various stereotypes and the problems caused by racism. I teach in a low income area that has primarily black, Hispanic, and white students. This novel has helped my students to understand the difficulties that every group contends with on a daily basis.

  129. Brittan permalink
    16 July 2013 3:31 am

    I’ve been trying to come up with a good way to articulate how I feel about this tragic situation but you have taken my thoughts my emotions and have formed an amazing post. I really appreciate you sharing this. Thank you.

  130. Tom Thompson permalink
    16 July 2013 3:32 am

    Did Trayvon have freshly skinned, beat-up knuckles, and did a little pansy getting his ass beat shoot him? If your answer to both is yes, then that’s why Zimmerman has and will continue to walk on any and all charges. I don’t think it’s a good thing someone was killed, but I hope the people of Florida would be equally outraged OR fine with any future legally carrying Trayvons shooting any future Zimmermans that surprise them in the dark.

  131. 16 July 2013 3:35 am

    Firstly, thank you so much for such an eloquent piece. Secondly, thank you for your thoughtful, highly-engaged replies to so many of these comments. Whether it was your hoped-for intent or not, you have clearly provided a space for a diverse variety of people to be exposed to a range of views and to be in dialogue together. What a profoundly important community service to provide! Again, thank you.

    I am increasingly aware of the reflexive rejection by people of privilege to being threatened with or actually labeled as any form of “ist”: racist, sexist, ageist, etc. Our culture has at least absorbed the idea that “isms” are bad/wrong deeply enough for folks to know that these are undesirable, shameful attitudes and behaviors to exhibit. In short, this is one of the things we treat as genuinely sinful and the reactivity to being so named evidences this.

    As you so wisely note in one of your comments, it can be important to identify racism as a systemic illness rather than as a judgmental label to attach to individuals. Yes, this does take the heat off and allows many to more easily hear what is being said without getting stuck in denial and defensiveness. But, I don’t want to let myself and others who join me in the beneficial experience of whiteness off the hook too easily. I believe that it is incumbent upon those who desire not only to not be labeled (or to actually BE) racist and who dream of dismantling systems of injustice such as racism to understand and name our privileges, be they race, gender, class, education, ability, sexual orientation, age, immigration status, etc.

    In Christian tradition, healing and transformation begins with confession… acknowledging our sin. By naming our privileges, we better understand that others are NOT so privileged and thus denied the mutual blessings intended by our Creator. As important as this first step is, the second step of repentance is even more necessary. To repent is to “turn around” and to change everything: thinking, feeling, doing, being. Reconciliation is dependent upon such soul-baring work.

    I wonder… and perhaps even dare to hope… that the intensity of response we are witnessing and participating in indicates that the culture of privilege is being revealed in ways that will lead us through confession and propel us into genuine repentance which paves the way for the construction of a community which might some day be named “beloved”.

    Yours in Gratitude and Hope,
    Rev. Margaret Gillikin
    1st United Methodist Church
    Salida, Colorado

  132. 16 July 2013 3:40 am

    This is very, very good. I’m speaking from across the chasm to say that I’m struggling to see things outside the lens of my own experience. It’s for very selfish reasons. I just want to understand, maybe to get a glimpse some day to see what the world is like through eyes that see the world as an unwelcoming place.

    And then maybe the next step–which looks hard–is to take the actions *I* can take to make a difference.

    Thanks for being open about your thoughts and experiences.

  133. Jerrica Long permalink
    16 July 2013 3:43 am

    Thank you for saying everything I wanted to say but didn’t know how to put into words.. thank you for writing this…

  134. Mark Bajkowski permalink
    16 July 2013 3:47 am

    Your post, reflecting your sincere feelings and a sad realization that Justice and Law are not always ethically equal, must be fully respected. However, in my own opinion, your post contains certain generalizations which almost automatically put the factor of race in the foreground of this tragedy.

    For the sake of balanced view please acknowledge that other dynamic may exist that could greatly “gray out” the black/white context of this event. There is some prior indication that George might be not a ruthless racist who hunts black teens and that Trayvon, being a teen, might be not be most rational participant in an encounter with a 10-year older man whose intentions might be, at best, suspicious or, at worse, life-threatening to Trayvon. I have a feeling that sequential overreaction, or mishandling, or maybe some common stupidity, on part of George, then Trayvon and then George, each for his own imperfect reasons, ultimately ended in the worse outcome possible.

    The best generalization, I can offer, is that we all are responsible for this sad event because our society repeatably conditions each of us that the race is a predominant manifestation of prejudicial treatment while, what psychologists know well, the race can be just one factor in our skewed judgement of others. The facts, that death of a human being is not unconditionally punishable, that misjudging others is not necessarily evil, and that Law and Justice are friends with political benefits, make our social reality even more complex.

    There is no damage higher than loosing life in a senseless event; I felt noxious after I heard the verdict and had to take a walk outside to recover. The highest ethical standard, the parents of Trayvon exhibited to millions of people around the world trough their noble statements and conduct, sets a high standard for all of us. As a society, starting in Florida, let’s figure out what we all can do to tangibly prevent any other parent from going through loosing a child in such senseless circumstances.

  135. Savannah permalink
    16 July 2013 4:20 am

    Very eloquent and well-spoken piece. I know that black people are often stereotyped, I have seen it. However…racism works both ways and I have experienced it several times. I am a white woman and I dated a black gentleman for a long time. I lived in the suburbs, he lived on the south side of Chicago. We were from two different worlds, but we didn’t care…color is only skin-deep after all. But, I would often go to his house as I still lived at home and wanted alone time with him. Do you know how many racial slurs *I* was called while venturing into his neighborhood? At red lights. At the gas station. Walking to my car. In the grocery store. Do you know how many times I was afraid because of the hateful glares directed at me? Black women looked angry, sometimes furious because I was with one of *their* good, black men (yes, he was a very good, educated, and caring man).

    I know it is different for blacks when it comes to racism. But, it happens to any race – black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern. If folks could see beyond skin color and stereotypes, they would realize that we all bleed the same color of blood.

    Trayvon shouldn’t have died. I think the verdict is a travesty. As a parent myself, I can only imagine his mother’s pain; not only losing her son to such a senseless act, but no justice was served. My thoughts and prayers are with all who loved him.

  136. 16 July 2013 4:22 am

    Since Trayvons death, over 11,000 black men have been murdered. 94% of them by other blacks. Where is the outrage? Where is the media?

    • 16 July 2013 3:52 pm

      what a stupid comment – what an idiot !

      • Mark Bajkowski permalink
        16 July 2013 4:21 pm

        The comment may have nothing to do with the case at hand here, it may unnecessarily suggest a double standard, or may be considered too cynical, but calling it “stupid” is inappropriate in the context of those tragedies and what it means to the victims’ families. If anybody in all this is stupid is G.Zimmerman for playing a cop because he has a gun permit. Neighborhood Watches require a local or State regulation or we will face this tragic nonsense again.

  137. Mark Bajkowski permalink
    16 July 2013 4:25 am

    Attn. Moderator: Please disregard my previous comment post due to few typos.

    Your post, reflecting your sincere feelings and a sad realization that the Justice and the Law are not always ethically equal, must be fully respected. However, in my own opinion, your post contains certain generalizations which almost automatically put the factor of race in the foreground of this tragedy.

    For the sake of balanced view please acknowledge that other dynamic may exist that could greatly “gray out” the black/white context of this event. There is a prior indication that George might be not a ruthless racist who hunts black teens and that Trayvon, being a teen, might be not be most rational participant in an encounter with a 10-year older man whose intentions might be, at best, suspicious or, at worse, life-threatening to Trayvon. I have a feeling that sequential overreaction, or mishandling, or maybe some common stupidity, on part of George, then Trayvon and then George, each for his own imperfect reasons, ultimately ended in the worse outcome possible.

    The best generalization, I can offer, is that we all are responsible for this sad event because our society repeatably conditions each of us that the race is a predominant manifestation of prejudicial treatment while, what psychologists know well, the race can be just one factor in our skewed judgement of others. The facts, that death of a human being caused by another is not unconditionally punishable, that misjudging others is not necessarily evil, and that Law and Justice are friends with political benefits, make our social reality even more complex.

    There is no damage higher than losing life in a senseless event; I felt noxious after I heard the verdict and had to take a walk outside to recover. The highest ethical standard, the parents of Trayvon exhibited to millions of people around the world trough their noble statements and conduct, sets a high standard for all of us. As the society, starting in Florida, let’s figure out what we all can do to tangibly prevent any other parent from going through losing a child in such senseless circumstances.

  138. Amy L Gray permalink
    16 July 2013 4:25 am

    I believe the phrase you wanted was “A millstone around my neck”. A lodestone is merely a magnetized piece of ore, and not necessarily very heavy.

  139. Patrick G. permalink
    16 July 2013 4:32 am

    How did race get to be a part of this? What we have here is a guy who didn’t use the word “black” to describe Martin to the police until he was asked, but a kid who described Zimmerman as a “creepy ass cracker.” From my perspective, there was racism, but it was directed at Zimmerman because he was perceived as being white, rather than being Hispanic. Are we really going to label the guy as white simply because it’s convenient for the race baiters to do so? This is aside from the fact that Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic, NOT white.

    This case is not and should not be a platform for race relations in this country. The case was tried on evidence – period. There wasn’t really even justification to bring it to trial in the first place, and frankly, we’d be better off with race relations in this country if it hadn’t been brought to trial. The ONLY reason it was brought to trial was because of a political pressure from outside sources. The reason Zimmerman wasn’t charged in the first place is because at the scene, he was the one who was clearly the victim of extreme violence, and he used his legally carried and concealed pistol to defend his life. Hello McFly! There was a reason he wasn’t charged at the scene – it had every thing to do with his broken nose, the lacerations and bruises on his head, and the blood flowing from his nose, lips and lacerations on his head, all while Martin had nary a scratch but for the abrasions on his knuckles. It was pretty clear to the jurors at the trial who was the aggressor and who was the victim, just as it was to the police on the scene.

    And why are we so quick to try to fill in unrealistic blanks to try to paint even more unrealistic portraits about Zimmerman’s frame of mind with assertions that he was somehow afraid of the black man in the hoodie? Are we forgetting that Zimmerman was a member of the Neighborhood Watch and that there had been a rash of break-ins and burglaries, perpetrated by (you guessed it) young men wearing hoodies? And why are you so convinced that Zimmerman was lying? Who is to say that his version of events wasn’t the correct version of events? The evidence and timeline certainly supported that, and even the police who testified for the prosecution admitted that they believed Zimmerman was telling the truth.

    The verdict at the trial was the correct verdict for a plethora of reasons, so let’s not turn this into something it never was to begin with.

    • Slum Jack permalink
      16 July 2013 9:39 pm

      Good, salient points, no matter how much others want to try to ignore or overlook those key aspects.

      Attempts to *make* the matter a major race issue, and especially between “blacks” and “whites”, is essentially just that… trying to load the matter with imposed issues which require insertions of quite a bit, the more odious being that of somehow blaming “whites”, when neither person in the situation WAS “white”.

      Missing this dynamic is to miss one of the most influential dynamics perpetuating racial division and strife BY “the black community” while attempting to speciously accuse “whites” at even inappropriate or glaringly outright wrong and contradictory premises.

      And it’s why any self-respecting, intelligent and fair-minded – even non-recist – “white” would NOT be amenable to a misuse of that boy’s tragic death, under those actual circumstances, as any kind of rightful basis for accusing “us” of … well, anything.

      This is not to say there aren’t all kinds of available and germane basis and premises and even opportunities for “whites” and “blacks” to conduct genuine dialogs otherwise. But the feign that THIS matter is one of them, to my mind, is sorrily counterfeit and one of the causes of alienation and actually a black racist method simply presuming to accuse and inherently disparage “whites” (and so generically as to BE a “racial profiling” itself) simply on a claimed “black privilege” to be the “experts” on the topic at ALL times, in ALL ways.

      Above, I see persons apparently inclined to their own “white guilt” succumbing to that, and to a degree seemingly because it was wrapped in fancier articulation and intellectualized disclaimers… yet disclaimers rendered intellectually insulting by the repeated returns to more stark and groundless assertions.

      Even to pose that Trayvon was simply “killed because he was black” isn’t worth dignifying, especially as that is the entire “message” to “whites” in the piece, used to try to justify a lot else.

      Black racism is very much a reality (as is the case with ALL races) and a real part of “the problem”, particularly in the form of stances that attempt unilaterally accusatory or more condemning platform for presumptions dictating to “whites” only and to nth degrees. If and when BOTH sources and forms of racism may be considered, and in circumstances genuinely relevant, then an actual parity of dialog and real example can exist.

  140. 16 July 2013 4:40 am

    Thank you Matthew, I’m reading this from Australia and will be sharing your post in the hope that it will raise awareness of those here who share your experiences and act as a reminder to those others of us who contribute to the alienation and racism you have described.

  141. Alex permalink
    16 July 2013 4:40 am

    Thank you for this honest and beautifully written article. I wish I could better convey how moved I am by your words. I keep thinking what I might have done had I been in Trayvon’s shoes. I am white and female, so this is admittedly a different pair of shoes. If I had been walking through a neighborhood, and a man was following me, and then approached me – my instinct would be to mace him. And maybe get in a couple good kicks while he was down (if I am being honest). And how differently this scenario would’ve played out. Would I have been viewed as holding my ground? Probably. Most likely. Would I have been seen as the aggressor? Doubtful. If further violence came from my escalation – would it have been seen as his self-defense? I guess what I’m trying to say is that fighting back when someone is following you seems a perfectly logical response. Anyway – please know many many people understand and share this outrage. Thank you for opening real dialogue.

  142. Lynda permalink
    16 July 2013 4:52 am

    This was a really well written article and it reminded me in parts of an article I once read written by a transgendered woman about how she didn’t really understand/believe in sexism until she became a woman. I think it’s very hard for people who are not experiencing discrimination to come to terms with what it’s like. Their instinct is that they must be hearing exaggerations of the situation and not the whole truth.

    I’m a white woman and I distinctly remember when I started dating a black man the surprise I felt at the way that we were treated. I had been taught, and believed, that racism was mostly in the past. I hadn’t experienced racism among my friends or family (putting aside the story my grandmother told about the time she saw “a black”). I just had no idea the level of racism alive in the world. I thought it was just older people and scary red necks. It’s not that I hadn’t been told, I just didn’t really understand it until it started affecting me.

    I have no idea what we can do to help correct the knee-jerk disbelief that happens when someone who has never experienced discrimination has it pointed out to them. It seems that even when we’re aware of its existence the full weight of the issue isn’t getting through. Of course we would solve a lot of the world’s problems if people learned to be more open and empathetic.

  143. 16 July 2013 4:58 am

    Clearly, had Zimmerman would be on death row tonight had he been black and Trayvon white.

    • PatrickG. permalink
      16 July 2013 6:08 pm

      No, he wouldn’t because the evidence would have been the same, and no conviction could be brought based on the evidence. That’s how the legal system is supposed to work, and that’s how it worked in this case. Race never played a part – the verdict was based on the fact that the State never made a case that removed reasonable doubt.

      • Ann permalink
        17 July 2013 6:31 pm

        .Don’t be so sure, “Evidence” is not truth with a capital T. Everybody looks at the world through the prism of their life’s experience. There is plenty of instances where the legal system has failed

      • Ari Ogoke permalink
        17 July 2013 10:03 pm

        @ParickG. I can provide evidence to the contrary but that would distract from the insight Matthew is trying to share.

        Look around, talk to people, and pay attention to what is happening near you. You might be surprised by what you see, hear, and learn.

  144. 16 July 2013 5:06 am

    I hear your words in my heart, Matthew. I am so very sorry that I have lived in ignorance for most of my life due to being white and living with white privilege. Presently, when I do things like pump my gas, go for a walk, hang my clothes out on a line after dark, I try to imagine what it would be like if I were black. For one (especially since I live in a projects), hanging my clothes at night would probably bring the attention of any police who happen to be driving by. I imagine people’s suspicious eyes on me when I shop for groceries or clothes. I imagine feeling defensive and stressed out because I am surrounded by people who seem to value my life less than the lives of their white friends and families. I imagine the heart breaking scene of my little boy or girl coming home crying because they have been told or shown by actions that they are less than the majority white kids. And then having to send them off to school again the next day. Watch them grow up with the burdens that I hoped they would not have to experience like I have.

    No wonder high blood pressure is significantly higher for African Americans. http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/docs/african_american_executive_summary.pdf

    I am so sorry.

  145. Sarah permalink
    16 July 2013 5:09 am

    Listen, I want you all to know… I want to get to know you as an individual, and I don’t give a crap about race. I don’t care what a group of non-existant Shakespeare wannabes with dumb wigs thought was cool when they travelled in their wooden boats to the promised land 4 score and 7 years ago. I am sorry that an elite minded group of individuals hell bent on civilizing the world, in and instant, dashed the hopes of so many hard working and hard living individuals and forever caused a race problem for me and mine to deal with. And who the hell tries to civilize the world through enslavement and slaughter? What a bunch of JERKS! Yeah, they did that, and hell yeah, I’m SORRY and Embarrassed.

    I want everyone to know, I do not accept racism. I do not want to even give it another wasted thought. I don’t want to hear the terms “whites” or “blacks” (as if these are the only two hues that matter). We’re people. We’re all jammed on this continent together. Imagine the work we could get done if we could all wake up to our potential as human beings.

    Im sorry for what happened to Trayvon Martin. I bet he was a beautiful soul. A victim on so many levels.

    Matthew, thank you for writing your piece. And do me a favor please- Help me stop perpetuating the “me against you mentality”. Maybe if we refuse to acknowledge racism it will become a figment of our imaginations. That’s the nice thing about the past- we can learn from it and CHANGE the future. Let’s acknowledge our differences and praise them.

  146. 16 July 2013 5:11 am

    Matthew, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject. As a 33-year old white male who from the age of 11 went to mostly black schools, including Freshman year of college, and who currently works in one of the oldest black communities in the country, I see, as best as someone like myself can, exactly what you are speaking about. And I have for many years. In fact just today I found myself in the middle of a conversation about the case at my favorite mechanic’s shop where what you speak of was on full display, proudly even. It angers and sometimes still shocks me how some white people (and I certainly know it’s not just white people) will take off their cloak of decency and spew whatever vile epitaphs they choose because they think that every white person within earshot feels the same way. As if there were no other way to feel about a certain “other” people.

  147. luke ottinger permalink
    16 July 2013 5:17 am

    i will agree with most of what you speak, but know in my heart there are many things you see one sided. you see what you want to see and believe it to be the truest. there is great racism in are world and i believe you are one yourself. oh, i forgot, that isn’t possible. all black people love white people. you see there are two sides and yours is the only side you see. you see all white people as racist( the black friend statement from your earlier statement). you claim all your gains as a race only comes from your race. no other white folk helped the cause, and paid heavily for it. i will stop there because i’m angered and no good comes from that.

  148. Jaime permalink
    16 July 2013 5:20 am

    This makes me sad on a lot of levels. I am white, and before you even get into the body of your letter, you have profiled me. You have pre-judged me and have the nerve to assume you know what I am thinking. I am also a woman, in a corporate career. I didn’t have that right until relatively recent years. I have to “man” myself up to get anywhere in the corporate world. Meanwhile, I am also a single mom of toddler twins – one of which has a serious health condition. Most of my colleagues, and especially my bosses, are single and/or have no kids. They have zero idea what it’s like to desperately try to be as “on the job” as everyone else when you have so many other non-chosen factors of life pulling you in other directions.

    No, racism is not gone. It’s a hell of a long way off. Gender equality is only a teeny bit ahead of it. In that frame of reference, perhaps you can take a note from feminists. We got over the bra burning stage and we are on to proving ourselves as equals. First we have to get the white men to trust us, and to do that, we must mimic them. It’s stupid but true. People don’t trust “different” so show them you’re to really that different after all. Then win them over with the qualities you have that they will NEVER possess. Like the insight into an emerging market of upper-middle minorities, what’s important to them (you) and how to build a stronger company, and country by including different people instead of excluding.

    By focusing on anger, you void yourself of strategic productive thought. You’ve had your Malcom X phase. It’s time to focus on what’s next and how you really want to be seen and remembered in the future history books. What would make your children and parents proud?

    This verdict is BS. Treyvone deserved better. Zimmerman should be put down – by the law. Not that horse-shit “law” they have in Florida. I’m extremely upset that white people are being bullied in this though. Zimmerman is Latino – another man of color. A white man did not hunt and kill Treyvone, a Latino did. I am suggesting that we focus internally, and stop pointing at an entire race as to who is to blame. Racism will never die as long as we provide fuel to the fire. Be the positive change you want to see. Thank you!

  149. Tom Smith permalink
    16 July 2013 5:28 am

    I wish you would write and get all the black gang members of America to listen to this because it is they who caused your plight.

  150. Jason permalink
    16 July 2013 5:49 am

    Hoodies, worn by anyone, neither please me nor disgust me. Just sayin’.

  151. 16 July 2013 6:06 am

    Reblogged this on lovelyseasonscomeandgo and commented:
    A excellent post, I wish everyone could read this!

  152. 16 July 2013 6:08 am

    This was honestly so great, Matthew. So many quotes I took from this and will share with friends and family. Thank you. Even though you spoke for yourself and your experiences, you directly spoke for me too and my family, and I appreciate that.

  153. Malcolm X permalink
    16 July 2013 6:11 am

    Here is a quick perspective… I am a Mexican who came to the US 25 years ago. Did I find racism? But did I whine or move forward? Did I justify their fears with my actions? I am now a US citizen; I own a house and a small business; my daughter takes piano, karate, ballet. I have never asked for food stamps unemployment benefits or any other handouts. I have never assaulted any one; never smoke crack or marijuana; why do you BLAME them? It is you and your actions that determine your future in America.

  154. 16 July 2013 6:35 am

    I got referred here from a Facebook link. I don’t normally comment a lot on blogs of folks I don’t know, but I found it so frustrating that the kinder comments on here were broken up by the occasional one doing exactly the kind of thing you talked about in the post. So, I wanted to post to thank you for your thoughtful message, which was clearly written with compassion and kindness even as you tried to spell out some hard truths. I don’t know, I guess I think that if you have to deal with the micro-aggressions, the least I can do is add in a micro-kindness. As a white person, I am listening, and I hear you, and I want things to be better, and where I can see a way to do it, I’ll do my best to try to help fix things.

  155. 16 July 2013 7:03 am

    http://lovelyseasonscomeandgo.wordpress.com
    I just wanted to interject that Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary’s book “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” is an excellent start to help some get a better grip and understanding as to why what goes on in the African American community and what people of color experience on a daily basis.
    Check out her website too.

    http://joydegruy.com/

  156. 16 July 2013 7:14 am

    Very well expressed thoughts. Your argument is primarily based on the idea that discrimination is based on skin color; however, I think this is far too simplistic. The main question that we should be focused on is WHY do people view black people in the ways in which you described. Certainly, it is not because they are black, dark skinned etc. If that were true, Indians would be discriminated against as equally as blacks. However, what people fear is the products of the URBAN black community (and it’s generous to use the term community) that has been in melt down for the past fifty years. Most black kids don’t have a strong male role model present, and their mothers are largely absent. Without a strong family unit, these kids have no real chance in life. They have no blueprint provided to them for success; they have no role models to look up to teach them that there is no substitute for hard work, and no easy money. So, it’s no surprise that many kids drop out of school and turn to ways to make easy money and ultimately end up in jail or as victims of crime. And the cycle of poverty grinds on, as teenage mothers raise another generation of kids and it’s no wonder that they can’t pass on a value system or a strong work ethic to their kids because they were never taught these things to begin with. I grew up in a majority black urban environment, and it makes me very sad to visit my hometown. I am disturbed by a largely old money, white ruling class and the absence of black professionals in the middle class. I will freely acknowledge that many in the white, old money ruling class are just peachy keen with the way things are. They are not compelled to reach out to the urban black community to help them strive toward success because that would threaten their own power, and corruption or ill earned power thrives on the ignorance of a poorly educated, black community in crisis. This extreme division in power and wealth is still alive and kicking in the Mississippi Delta and it is very scary. However, the opportunity exists for the black community to take; it is just damn difficult to break the terrible cycle that they are in. So I admit everyone should be pitching in to help heal the black community and help it establish a new reputation of respect and dignity in our culture, so that no one fears the black community. However, the black community also has a responsibility to be determined to do better-to push hard work, education, and most importantly to be strong role models for their kids, to teach them strong values and ethics. The absence of these strong values, sense of right and wrong, in the urban black community is what scares people the most.

  157. Mayne Man permalink
    16 July 2013 7:15 am

    What about probabilities? Young black men are much more likely to criminally assault you on the street than young white men. This is simply statistically a fact. So, is it illogical to fear them more? It defies common sense that people will not use probabilities to define situations. (I am not saying racism does not exist, it clearly, manifestly does. And yes, I’m African-American. But I’m also a statistician who prides himself on objectivity.) See, no one likes to talk about probabilities, because it’s just far too uncomfortable. I get raged on for being black all the time, and I understand the deep pain of it. But until we talk about probabilities and what lies behind it, this drylongoso shit won’t hang.

    • Slum Jack permalink
      16 July 2013 9:58 pm

      Thank you. A rarer honesty.

      But — the premise of our blogger is to “explain” to “whites” just how “the black community” regards this particular incident and subsequent matters associated. Do you agree that’s true and accurate?

  158. 16 July 2013 7:18 am

    Awesome!

  159. 16 July 2013 7:18 am

    Beautifully stated and with the gravitis the verdict’s real meaning deserves. I have white friends that are conservative that just don’t get it. They don’t get it that it isn’t a “double standard” when blacks use the N word among themselves that what is happening, by taing the word for themselves is they disarm the words power to wound. They don’t get it that blacks are reluctant to come forward as witnesses to a crime. They don’t get that if they reported, say, a fight, that they would make a statement to police on the sidewalk and maybe have to go down and sign it the next day. But a black would most likely be taken to the station to fill out his statement. And the don’t get it that the outcome of this verdict is the absolute worst statement to black Americans that could possibly be made. Maybe why they don’t get it is because I don’t have the words to make them understand. I’m not black, so my words are dismissed as those of a “liberal”. Thanks to you, I can now quote from a reliable source. What astonishes me is that even without proving Zimmerman a racist, even if he didn’t throw the first punch and Martin jumped on him at some point in the ‘altercation’ it is still crystal clear that Zimmerman is responsible for the confrontation that left Martin dead. He followed Martin, he continued to stalk him on foot after being told by the dispatcher not to. He chose to carry a gun, and after he lost sight of Martin he chose to continue to hunt him, to seek him out. In my mind, those fact alone prove who “started it”. If Zimmerman had chosen not do any single one of those things, then Martin would be alive – an incidentally, so would Zimmerman. But he didn’t. That may not prove he murdered him. That may not prove manslaughter (although in my layman’s mind it did). But it proves beyond a doubt who caused the altercation that left a young man dead.

    Your elegantly written statement above shows the consequences that society has taken on because the state of Fla. and the jury couldn’t see the simple truth. That is that Martin, stalked in the rain most likely felt threatened and he chose to turn and face that danger. Unfortunately his stalker had a gun.

  160. Richard permalink
    16 July 2013 7:36 am

    An open letter to whites? Really? Where do I begin? Let’s start with race, since that’s the author’s underlying theme. George Zimmerman’s mother is Peruvian. His father lists himself as “white” on voter registration forms. So is George Zimmerman White? Hispanic? White Hispanic? White/Hispanic status unknown? Did you know that there are three variations of “Puerto Rican” on voter registration forms but only one for “black/asian” who clearly outnumber their counterpart? Is Tiger Woods black? Excuse me…Is Tiger Woods African American? Wait. Back up. There is no reference to “African American ” on voter registration forms. So is Tiger Woods Black? Is he Black/Asian or Pacific Islander? Does one claim their race status (when clearly bifurcated) based upon favorite parent status? So is Barak Obama “white/black” or “black/non hispanic?” When religion comes into play, it’s often the mothers religion that is given preferential treatment when it comes to child rearing. Does that have any influence on how people “see” themselves when it comes to race?
    “Race was at the core of this case and race it why it became a symbol of such great weight and meaning”
    Why was race at the core of this case? Is is because that FBI statistics show that this kind of crime is typically committed by and perpetrated upon similar race characteristics? If George Zimmerman had been classified as “black/non Hispanic” or “white/black” would we be having this same discussion?
    “A world that privileges whiteness.”
    For some, perhaps. What about those where privilege was given to blacks? What about affirmative action? What about those, like me, that went to a predominately black high school and scrapped to be recognized and rewarded in the academic setting of the Archdiocese? What about those who graduated in the top ten percent of their class watched as blacks were admitted to first tier universities while whites and white hispanics and white/American Indian and white/black/Indian (!!) were diverted to small liberal arts colleges?
    Thousands of young black men die each year to gun violence. In 2008-2009, the leading cause of death among black men aged 15-19 was by firearm. And the vast majority of these deaths were perpetrated by other black men. Where is your article on this?
    If you want to get angry. If you want to create change. If you want to make a difference in the community….look to the root cause. It’s not race.

  161. 16 July 2013 7:37 am

    Reblogged this on reblogz's Blog.

  162. Dorothy permalink
    16 July 2013 7:51 am

    I had a hard time reading this post for a few reasons. Part of it, I will admit, was because I felt attacked. I have always been raised to see people for who they are, not what they look like. I’ve always felt it unfair that people who don’t look a certain way or act a certain way are treated differently than the “majority” population. I fight for these people, in my own quiet way. And yet, in this article, I am white, and therefore my eyes are closed and I refuse to know the hardships of others. It wounds because it seems that no matter who I am, I will always be “white” to some, and I can change that as much as you can change being black.

    Another reason I found this post hard to read is because I saw a bit of myself in the subtle digs and generalization. I grew up in a predominantly middle eastern apartment complex. Looking back, I remember some very nice people, but it took me a long time to look past the all the bad. I’m female, therefore I should not have been outside playing while the boys were trying to play. I remember hearing derogatory statements and not knowing why grown men would hate me so much. I remember almost getting run over because I dared to play with my hula hoop outside where I could be seen. I wasn’t allowed to play with the other little girls because I was a bad influence. And because of all of these things, I grew up hating anyone who looked middle eastern. It was a hate so deep-seated and nestled into my heart, guarded by my hurt, that I didn’t even realize it was there. To this day, though I have tried with all my might to stop thinking of these people as those who harmed me, I still sometimes catch myself shying away or being cold.

    So, while I can never understand what you go through as a black man, and I would never want to know personally because I’m not ignorant to the ways of the world, I sympathize with the ache in your heart. I had a hard time reading this article, but I am glad I read it nonetheless. All you can do is live your own life. Fight for what you think is right, and find happiness in whatever form it may come. Try not to let this circumstance, however devastating it may be, color your vision with bitterness and sorrow.

  163. Jacob permalink
    16 July 2013 8:28 am

    I wonder if you knew that a few months before the shooting of Trayvon Martin took place, George Zimmerman witnessed a white police officer beating a defenseless homeless man who happened to be African-American. What did George Zimmerman do? He dialed 911 because the WHITE police was beating this defenseless, African-American homeless man. It was subsequently “covered up” by higher ups in the police department. Zimmerman found out about this, and filed multiple complaints about how much of an injustice this was and how there were corrupt officers in the police department. This article is on CNN. It begs the question: if in fact George Zimmeam is racist, why did he call 911 to call for help? Why did he file multiple complaints about how unjust this was and about corrupt officers? Why did he go on record during interviews about this? Does sound like someone who is is racist.

    • Phil permalink
      16 July 2013 9:42 am

      But Jacob, this would discount the whole race game and would make this unmarketable on TV. We must keep the people separated by furthering the notion that we all hate each other. Again, this article does more harm than good.

      • Dorothy permalink
        17 July 2013 2:25 am

        The problem with cases like this is that racism is not as neat and tidy as people and the media pretend it to be. I can’t say whether GZ is racist, but race did motivate his actions that night. It’s not so strictly one side or the other. That GZ could defend a black man against a white police officer says nothing to how he reacted to Treyvon. Different circumstances cultivate different reactions.

    • Ari Ogoke permalink
      17 July 2013 10:35 pm

      @Jacob wrote “George Zimmerman witnessed a white police officer beating a defenseless homeless man…”

      Did this really happen? Please provide a source/link. Thanks.

  164. 16 July 2013 8:29 am

    Wonderful article and so true. It’s not just you all that experience this, but in many other parts of the world. You’ve said it brilliantly.
    Much love and hugs, from South Africa

  165. Bumblebee permalink
    16 July 2013 9:14 am

    Thank you for this. As an American living abroad, this case has passed very much under my radar, and the controversy over its conclusion completely blindsided me. Thank you for the perspective.

  166. David K permalink
    16 July 2013 9:24 am

    Matthew,

    While I do agree with you that racism is still prevalent in America, I have to take issue with several of your arguments. First and foremost the argument that AAVE is a valid from of communication that white people look down on for being “non-white”. While sure, that may be the case for some, but I feel that the problem with ebonics for most is the deplorable grammar. Admittedly my own is far from perfect, but the point is to recognize a shortcoming and work on improvement it, not to take a speech pattern that arose form extremely sub-standard education and legitimize by claiming its black culture. What passes as English by deep south white people is just as bad. Closely related to this is my second issue; it is you’re argument that black culture, which I guess is hip-hop and baggy clothing, is somehow worthy of respect. So much of hip-hop is full of racist, homophobic and misogynists messages that espouse the “thug-life” that is unbelievable any educated person would support it. Do you support it because it is considered black culture? That seems hypocritical at best. I am white but certainly if were to support white culture on its whiteness, well I’d be racist, and homophobic, and a misogynist. You seem to put to much emphasis on race; that the black race and culture is somehow better than white culture and should be treated differently. We are all American, all human, and building up walls around the various peoples cultural practices is not helping anyone. Lastly I would like to add that what happen to Trayvon Martin is a tragedy. SYG laws are abhorrent, and Martin’s case points out why: it is far to difficult to ever clearly know what the facts of a final struggle that leaves a person dead and the other alive. However, your emphasis on race my be misplaced. I think a stronger argument can be made of classism. Here is a young man who appears to be of a lower class, while a middle-class man was “defending” his suburban neighborhood. Another example would be Daniel Adkins Jr.

    (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/06/1089165/-SYG-Claims-Mentally-Challenged-Man-at-AZ-Taco-Bell-RIP-Daniel-Adkins-Jr)

    He was a mentally disabled man from Arizona who was shot by a man when he banged on his car hood in a drive through. He was unarmed as well, but there are SYG laws in AZ as well and the killer was never even arrested. Where was the uproar about a defenseless mentally disable man who was gunned by a man who was safe in his vehicle? There was none because no one cares except his family. The black community doesn’t care because he wasn’t black, the white community doesn’t care because the mentally-handicapped are even further marginalized than blacks.

  167. Lee permalink
    16 July 2013 9:35 am

    I never looked at it from a racial standpoint. Zimmerman is mixed…some German some Latin…he is not white….I am white….but my grandparents escaped here from Europe in 1930 so..my roots are not white white if you think about it.not Plymouth Rock white……I think the jury heard the case and could not prosecute based on evidence….sometimes justice is not served in this case an adorable young probably completely normal teen was in the wrong place with a clumsy…gun happy dude.who probably has no experience using a gun and had no business carrying one……it is a horrifying experience and as a parent..i am completely sick…I look at this case as a mother…and a mother and father just lost their little boy.. a mother who lost her son…it is sad and heartbreaking…black, white, Hispanic…or Asian..,,she lost her son…that is how I look at it and it is completely sad…..I have found some crazy people on some of my social sites making the most ignorant comments…but they are not white…really!! . One, a woman who is so against Obama that she thinks this case was more political than anything else…and she is from El Salvador…what nerve….she disgusts me… any ammo she can find to put down Democrats she will …whenever I go to her site hoping someone will tell her off.. it gets uglier and uglier…she is not white!!! She thinks that Zimmerman represents Repubs and Martin the Demos…it is crazy..she was happy that he was not prosecuted……so here we have an example of ignorance at its finest…but really it is not about being sooo white …Pilgrim white anymore….it is more about ignorance and fear…really…the more ignorant a person is…the more afraid of them I am…I find the Armenian…young Armenian population hateful of African Americans…they have said the most hurtful things about African Americans and Jews for that matter …some of the most racist I have ever heard and they are not really white…..Pilgrim white..that is …these are people who experienced Genocide and are very racist…try interviewing 100 Armenians and ask they how they feel about African Americans..? Lebonese too…I have hear horrible things from Lebonese…horrible…so really please don’t label “whites” its all over …racism ..its ignorant …and mean and uninformed people who have the hate …..
    .I pray one day we can all just get along…….

  168. Phil permalink
    16 July 2013 9:40 am

    Bah Humbug on this article Matthew. With all due respect. As if only black people deal with what you describe. I’m white and I’ve experienced similar situations from other white people. Have a white guy put some tattoos on his face and I bet other white people will give him a sly eye and pass judgement. It isn’t “always” about race. People like to have understanding and if they don’t understand they create their own rationalization. The race game is an easy game to play. How can you say it’s racially motivated when you have not a single idea of what was really going through GZ head at that time. I feel your article is more harmful than helpful. You’re just furthering the divide of races.

  169. David permalink
    16 July 2013 9:43 am

    I request documentation of the “media storm that erupted” to defend the thoroughness and competence of the effort to investigate the killing of Trayvon Martin.
    Don’t take this as criticism; it’s just that my attention to how this case unfolded has been insufficient to allow me to cite examples from my memory and say ‘yeah; I see what you mean’.

  170. 16 July 2013 9:58 am

    The reality of a conversation on race is a problem when the persons you wish to hear your conversation are closed off to your words.
    When the listener is part of a situation they have learned to accept as normal they will find no fault in their actions they are the problem but see no problem.
    I live in Germany I was born here but raised in America, I came back 20 years ago and settled into a small town in southern Germany near stuttgart.
    I have watched the locals in their dealings with the Turkish population as one of distrust and unwanted.
    This distrust and hate because that’s truly what it is if the truth be told trickles down to the children.
    By the time these children are 10 they understand full well what their role is in the German society and what the foreigners (Turkish) role is here.
    They have learned at this tender age that there is no place for these people in their society and they are always outcast and suspect.
    It’s quite interesting to see this reaction in the children as they turn from being playmates to being separate by nationality.
    Our country has created these borders too from the first settlers to the current settlers that emigrate from europe today.
    They come with their closed mindedness and racist hate the cycle continues.
    Here the situation will never change we have the possibility to make changes in America based on the population of minorities and the supporters of the white community who are enlightened and will fight racist.
    There is no support here it’s a white society without a minority of law makers who are foreigners.
    I say all of this because whites have been conditioned to be afraid about minorities, they have learned that the world is theirs like the young people of Germany.
    They understand the old boy mentality because they are living that every day they have created a community of support that excludes blacks and is supported by others in their work profession and surrounding support systems.
    Sure there are always the blacks that are allowed in but in the end the majority are left out because of the fear from co workers.
    As long as we have this problem we will always have the Zimmermans of the world who look at the Trayvons of the world as dangerous.
    They can’t help themselves it seems they are a product of their environment, a community of white people who say they are open minded but truly have no idea what that is. Open mined to serving their community and protecting themselves from the problem.
    I see that hear clearly when I was young I missed these things but the same rule was in place in all American communities.

  171. John permalink
    16 July 2013 10:10 am

    Thank you for taking the time to write this and for giving it such a compelling title. You’ve opened my eyes that little bit wider.

  172. 16 July 2013 10:11 am

    Mr. Simmerman-Gomes, you are correct that there is a subtle mistrust and fear of African-Americans (among others) in this country, and that it manifests in many ways which “whites” don’t all perceive. But you know what? THEY HAVE A REASON. In many areas – perhaps most – black men commit crimes wildly in excess of their proportion in the population. You can see the statistics anywhere you like (I’ll include some at the bottom). In New York, where I live, where you can see that 70% of robberies, for example, were committed by African-Americans. I was mugged this year by a group of Black youths. 2 years ago, my brother was robbed at gunpoint by an African-American man. After my experience, I was curious and, I asked my friends who have been mugged about the identity of their attacker, and every single one of them were mugged by Black men. I am here to tell you, Mr. Simmerman-Gomes, that you can’t only blame “institutionalized racism”, for the stigma that is given to African-Americans (especially young men) in this country — but you must acknowledge that there is a problem on your end – that is, the behavior of African-Americans, particularly young men. Perhaps they don’t meet your eyes on the bus because they are afraid, and with these sorts of statistics and my first-hand experience, who are you to tell me I am wrong? . I can see why you might bristle at this — you, after all, are educated enough to be an apparently successful blogger, but I don’t see you weighing the other side or addressing possible counterarguments to your point. Which is standard practice in opinion writing, but where does that get us, really? Let me ask you this — Have you posted an article dedicated, to changing the behavior of your people? To modify the toxic aspects of your culture, especially the ignorant, education-phobic Ghetto culture, which keeps Blacks economically and educationally repressed, feeding this cycle of violence and mistrust? Why do the (hugely popular) rappers still tell the same old story of violence, misogyny, profiting from crime and drug dealing (don’t tell me it’s just music — walk down any street and watch a youth mimeograph a song word for word)? Why do so many Black mothers still strike their children in public and encourage them to solve problems with violence, teaching them that hitting is ok? Why do so many Black mothers still have children before completing their education? Why do so few Black fathers stick around? Why do so many Black leaders turn up corrupt, especially within the church? Are these things really still the White Man’s fault, and if so, at what point can African-Americans stop being victims and take charge of their own destiny? I’m sure it would be easy to dismiss me as a racist, but everything I say here I have witnessed firsthand. I have studied African music and culture for years, and I have worked in the Black community for years as an educator and musician. I know both historically and firsthand the incredible debt we owe to Africa and its descendants, from Homo Habilis through the Malian empire, . One of my best friends is a Black man. And it is because my love and respect for him and his people that I need to tell you, the situation will not get better until African-Americans re-imagine their culture, set their sights on economic self-sufficiency, and are willing to sacrifice for it, the way that all immigrant groups before them have done (yes, I know African-Americans aren’t an “immigrant group” in the same way, but that’s my point — no more exceptionalism!). This of course does not excuse the excessive and trigger-happy behavior of George Zimmerman, but it should give you a tiny glimmer of an opposing perspective, which your article seems not to be aware of.

    Respectfully,

    The Truth isn’t always pretty or nice.
    WZ

    PS, stop-and-frisk saves lives and enjoys strong neighborhood support.

    http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130430/claremont-village/bloomberg-unleashes-tirade-against-stop-and-frisk-critics-nyc-media

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/analysis_and_planning/2012_year_end_enforcement_report.pdf

  173. Laurence Wright permalink
    16 July 2013 10:25 am

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/06/sexual-abuse-in-white-community

    I grew up as a white kid in Tottenham, North London. Anyone who knows the area will be aware that it is a very multicultural place, with the largest Turkish community (outside of turkey) in the world, large Greek, Ghanaian, Nigerian, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Vietnamese, Caribbean, Latin American, Eastern European influences among many others. I love this aspect of London and in the main people are living side by side without racial conflict. Having said all of this, I have only once been stopped in the streets by police and when this happened they were good to me and my friend, also white. I had the smallest amount of Marajuana in my pocket and they looked the other way. I suspect this may have been different if I had been Black. I don’t pretend to understand what it must be like to experience this on a regular basis and I fully respect your view on this because its something I know nothing about. What I would like to say though is that when you are extending sympathies to those involved, save some for the whites that have installed and are currently supporting this system because they may have gained the world, but they have paid a heavy price for it and I truly believe that there will be no salvation for their compliance. I was born an atheist, but it is hard to deny the existence of a God with the amount of paradox, injustice and divine irony in this world. Matthew, if you need any help, or know of anyone that would benefit from my time or efforts I will be glad to stand with you as I believe that the human race is a brotherhood currently being divided by a small group who benefit from scarcity, inequality and inefficiency, I do not form part of THAT club.

  174. 16 July 2013 10:34 am

    Thank you for such a powerful opinion and for sharing . In my head I too thought,oh this is so clear cut,perhaps now the rest of America will see what the black man faces everyday of his life. As you wrote,my feelings after the verdict was not so much of anger, but a deep wounding of my soul.

    American justice is blind because from the onset,it refused to acknowledge the racial implication of what Gorge Zimmerman did. To hear a jury tell me that it’s very okay to kill a kid because he appeared to be a threat to a passing man who that kid did not initiate a confrontation with, is just too much to bear. I’m a mother to 4 young black men and sadly my children fume in silent rage because they feel their lives in the eye of justice is not worth much.

    They live with the stares and gestures too,averting eyes and forced smiles when they rise above the obvious and offer a polite greeting or conversation just to put that frightened poor white lady at ease. It never shocks them when the same reactions and comments follow as they pass by.

    This hate and fear that breeds America must surely have an expiration date because my relatives in Africa laugh at me and ask me to tell them the difference between quote unquote our so-called third world mentality and the American way of life as regards to preserving justice and fairness. To tell you the truth in my country of Origin, Gorge Zimmerman would have been killed that day he shot Trayvon,not because he killed a black kid;but because he killed a human being,

    How can something bad end, if a larger number of a country will not even acknowledge something is bad in the first place. Their is something seriously wrong with America in America and we have to make it right.

  175. 16 July 2013 10:35 am

    Reblogged this on DottaRaphels and commented:
    THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH AMERICA,IN AMERICA.WE MUST MAKE IT RIGHT.

  176. Eyes Opened permalink
    16 July 2013 12:32 pm

    Thank you for this blog. I am a young white woman and I can tell you that until recently I was very unaware of my white privilege. Most certainly due to the fact that I never had to deal with any of the prejudices that black people and other ethnicities face everyday. I am torn on the case (only from a legal standpoint by Florida laws, morally Zimmerman is guilty). It does come down to the fact that if this had a been a white man in a suit, Zimmerman would never of followed him. He did racial profile him, maybe if he had not been wearing a hoodie this would not have happened either. I agree with what you said that we do not know what happened, that if Trayvon had been the actual aggressor at one point and Zimmerman did fear for his life. We will never know, Trayvon never gets to tell his side of the story. This case really opened my eyes, I do however feel that media picks and chooses which cases become national and they are in part to blame for a lot of things that keep people divided. The jurors had to make a decision based on the “facts” presented to them, and the prosecutions case really was not that strong which is unfortunate. Its sad to see people who are guilty walk free. Casey Anthony murdered her baby and is out walking the streets as well, and anyone who thinks OJ is innocent is clearly delusional. The justice system fails us many times.
    I also feel that the PSA that Florida made geared towards blacks in regards to “not rioting” was very insulting. Instead of reprimanding people for something they haven’t even done yet maybe they should of presented an option for peaceful protests AFTER THE VERDICT rather than something that was similar to a cheesy after school special spec treating everyone like they were problem children.

  177. Tammy permalink
    16 July 2013 12:33 pm

    Matthew: Thank you for a well written post. I wish there was something to say. Every person needs to teach justice and tolerance for change to be realized. To come, I hope.

  178. 16 July 2013 12:45 pm

    Beautiful, heartfelt, articulate and so very very accurate. It is hard for the elite to see that they are elite. As a white Australian woman I can only accept that I can see Aboriginal Australians as “other”. If I remain conscious of my shortcoming, I can remain open and responsive in any interaction. I remember listening to what I thought was a comprehensive and accurate portrayal of an Aboriginal experience of the Australian health system, given by An Aboriginal health advocate. After she left, colleagues said that they hadn’t understood what she was talking about. Of course not, it is invisible to those who haven’t experienced it…

    I also experience faint echoes of this in good old Australian sexism which can be invisible to my (white male) partner’s otherwise sensitive and discerning eyes.
    Thank you for this post.

  179. 16 July 2013 12:46 pm

    I am a 63 year old teacher/nurse/counselor who runs a Teen Outreach and a teen center we call The Common Ground Teen Center. For over thirty-five years my staff and I have promoted the adage that ‘each person is a person of worth’. Young people at our center represent many races, sexual orientations and gender identities. We celebrate life.

    Your eloquent words resonated with me so much. Many of my young black students have described situations like the ones you’ve experienced. I listen and my heart aches.

    I am also the daughter of an Italian immigrant who came to this country as a 14 year old boy, was placed in first grade because he had no English, left on day one and went to the mines to work, lying about his age. My papa instilled in me an awareness of the need for respect for all that has guided my life.

    When Trayvon Martin was killed and no arrest had been made our Outreach hosted a Conversation about Race at the college where I teach – it was well attended and at least allowed for dialogue. But this verdict has me stymied. I am especially troubled by people who seem to see this trail as less than it is – you are correct, in my opinion. It represented more than many see. I raised three children. As a mother I was concerned for my son as a teen, just because adolescence is a time of exploration and I wanted him to learn from risk-taking without being damaged by a poor decision. But I never had to caution him to be careful when walking or tell him not to wear a hoodie or worry that he would be harassed while shopping.

    I met with our peer educators yesterday (these are young people who teach with us) and their words reflected their confusion and sadness. I write to express my gratitude for your courage. I will share your post with others. Please continue to express your thoughts. They are vital to the growth of our culture.

  180. 16 July 2013 12:57 pm

    Matthew,

    Thanks for the article and it’s insight into what it’s like to be black in America. I live in North Carolina, but I lived in Montreal for many years and grew up as a minority English in the province of Quebec. I know what it’s like to be hated for just being who I am. I have felt the hate at the cash register in corner stores, just for being English. By law the English are not allowed to go to the schools of their choice, or to answer a business telephone in their own language. Yes, this is legalized prejudice by the French against the English.

    My point in saying all this is that racism and prejudice is everywhere. You hope that the legal system will protect and uphold the standards espoused by constitutional rights and freedoms but it won’t because prejudice is a fact of life on this planet. Whoever is in the majority has more privileges than the minorities. In Asia whites are taken advantage of. It doesn’t make it right, it just is.

    The most sobering thought in my mind is that I too have prejudice. For someone who has been hated just for who I am, I should never do that to someone else. And I don’t consciously do it, but it is human nature to fear what we don’t understand, or that which we deem a threat. It is part of our self-protective instinct. I will be honest here. There have been times that I have seen an “angry looking” black man coming toward me and it evokes fear within me. “Does he hate me? Is he angry with me because I am white? What is he going to do?” Are these feelings reasonable? From a self-protective and survival perspective: yes. Is my interpretation of what I see always right? No.

    I’m not sure how to close except tot say that I wish it were not this way Matthew. I wish black and white in America could get past their hatred. I wish Catholic and Protestant in Ireland didn’t kill each other. I wish Sri Lankans didn’t commit atrocities against Tamils. I thank you again for your insights. Perhaps understanding the situation that blacks in America face will help me get past any fear I might have.

    Sincerely,
    -Kerry

  181. twency permalink
    16 July 2013 1:18 pm

    “I wasn’t present when George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, so I don’t know what transpired. I cannot peer into George Zimmerman’s soul, so I don’t know what he was thinking or with what intent he followed Martin down the street.”

    or

    Martin was “a black boy killed for blackness itself.” “[I]n my brown skin is the crime for which Trayvon Martin died.”

    Which is it?

    • Amir permalink
      16 July 2013 2:56 pm

      This is a very good point. This case is much more complicated than people would like to admit. White privilege is quite real, and all the hardships that the author has endured because of his non-white skin are also real. Racism is not even close to dead in America. All of those, however, are largely nonsequiturs in relation to this case. That racism is alive and well, that black men are unjustly scrutinized, marginalized, and in many cases, become victims of violence because of their skin color, and especially because of skin color coupled with their atire, does not demonstrate that Zimmerman shot and killed Martin because of these factors–or at least not in a neat and obvious way.

      Here are some other factors that were at play:

      1) There had been a spate of robberies in the complex, all of which had been perpetrated by young black men.

      2) Zimmerman was carrying a gun, and

      3) Zimmerman actually has some black ancestry (An Afro-Peruvian great grandfather,) and was raised in a home in which two black girls were semi-integrated into the home.

      4) Zimmerman enjoyed good relations with his many black neighbors, and even invited one to stay at his house indefinitely after her home had been burglarized.

      5) Zimmerman had a black business partner, his high school prom-date was black, and his wife’s best friend is black.

      6) It’s not clear that Zimmerman was passing as white, as the author claims. In fact, this seems improbable, given how dark Zimmerman is. Possible, but not established.

      • veronica permalink
        20 July 2013 1:19 pm

        so in other words he is not a racist because he has black friends….. My mothers ancestors where blond hair, blue eyed Europeans, my fathers ancestors where African. They are both Dominican and so am I. So am I white or black? Remember you dont know what I look like….

    • twency permalink
      7 August 2013 9:01 pm

      I remain curious.

      “I don’t know what transpired”
      or
      “in my brown skin is the crime for which Trayvon Martin died”.

      Which is it?

  182. 16 July 2013 1:20 pm

    WZ
    Here we go with the usual insults. We have all types of abusive people in the world, black and white , yellow ,brown every color you can think of has its problem with violence to single out a situation and say thats the way an entire race is, is absurd.
    Pointing fingers and saying this is the way it is across the board well hello. Wake up.
    Who has been running into schools killing young people around the world if I remember correctly it’s young white males.
    Who also have been reported killing their children and their wives out of rage and unknown reasons.
    Who has a history of going into other countries and doing all types of unspeakable things in the name of freedom.
    We can go on and on pointing fingers each side is responsible for their hate and stupidity.
    It’s not about the color of ones skin it’s about how do we as people learn to grow past the issues of hate and fear mongering and make a better world?
    You WZ seem to still have problems with understanding that issue and are caught in the circle of hate.

    • 16 July 2013 11:07 pm

      There is not one ounce of hate in my body, Mr Roman. Not even for the muddle-headed thinking which you indulge in. Follow my line of thinking to it’s conclusion and you have a safer country and a more economically self-sufficient African-American population that lives up to its potential. Follow your line of thinking (and I use the term loosely as you offer no concrete ideas to solve the problem) and you get Ebonics, the failed Affirmative Action program, welfare dependency and the thousand other ways the apologist Left has failed to empower a community that has insufficient cohesion, and is beset by too many dysfunctions, to take advantage of. The way I espouse is the way of Booker T. Washington, the (legitimate, non-corrupt) African-American church, and a cornerstone of many influential Black thinkers including Martin Luther King. Was he also “caught in the circle of hate”? I suggest, Mr. Roman, that you ask yourself, exactly where am I wrong? What CONCRETE solutions can you offer to the problem that are better than mine?

      • 16 July 2013 11:13 pm

        I mean, it’s really quite simple. If you want me to stop being afraid of African-Americans, can’t I ask them to stop mugging me and my family? Isn’t that a fair thing to ask?

      • Mark Bajkowski permalink
        16 July 2013 11:30 pm

        “Follow my line of thinking”, which is opposite of “the apologist Left”, and will resolve all socioeconomic and political ills of our society including muggings? Wow, that is a very impressive promise…

      • 16 July 2013 11:34 pm

        My final thought is that, while I understand the utility of “being the bigger man”, of forgiveness, and judging the individual as an individual, and I am willing to make that effort, it “takes 2 to tango” and you can’t ask people not to believe their own eyes and experiences. Trayvon Martin’s case is a tragedy and I would be devastated if it was my son; my aim is a strategy to ensure that, given time, it will never happen again,, and I have offered real solutions based on what I’ve seen with my own eyes. Every ethnic group suffered distrust and discrimination at some point – Jews, Italian, Irish, Chinese – and their path towards becoming economically and culturally integrated into American society was always the same: community cohesion and mutual aid, and a culture which fostered family unity, education and economic development. There are no exceptions, and all of the anti-colonialist, apologist, exceptionalist, peace-n-love philosophy will not, ultimately, get us one inch closer towards advancing the cause of African-Americans, reducing the fear, and protecting the future Trayvon Martins of the world. The proof of this is that my opinion is currently out of favor in our society, viewed as “racist”, whereas to espouse an exceptionalist view of African-Americans and blame all of their problems on the White man has become accepted and entrenched in our classrooms and our media. And how well has that been working?

      • David Roman permalink
        17 July 2013 1:15 am

        WZ you seem to be beyond conversation. Caught up in hearing your ideas so thats fine talk on, sadly you are beyond conversation because your caught up in your own world of pointing fingers and you seem angry. So take care and muddled headed seems to be the type you are closed minded to a point of being dangerous. So be blessed and all the best.
        w

      • simple permalink
        23 July 2013 8:55 pm

        Ad hominem. Attack my ideas, not me. If I’m as wrong as you say, it should be simple to prove.

  183. 16 July 2013 2:17 pm

    Dear Monolist
    I read most of your article and whether you believe this or not, being a white male I feel your pain. However, to ease some of your incites, racism isn’t just a black thing, it exist in every race. When I was reading your article it was almost like you were talking about me with the exception of the black word. I to have been followed by store owners and observed for no reason, been harassed by the cops when pulled over for no reason. Been turned down by every gov’t help organizations when me and my children had nothing. Fought and clawed my way to achieve a college degree, only to mop floors and watch high school drop-outs get the high paying jobs. It seems the black community thinks that every white person is born with a silver spoon in his or her mouth and the white community thinks that if your black you automatically get a million dollar contract to play sports; However, in each case (the truth is) it only pertains to a very small percentage of the population. So my message to the black community is to not think they are being singled out on this race thing, because it’s a global issue in all races, believe me I’m white and I can tell you from experience. We all need to join together and lick this problem regardless of skin color.

  184. paulatoddking permalink
    16 July 2013 2:19 pm

    Thank you for your beautiful words. I cringe with shame when something like this happens.
    When will racism go away? White people will never understand what it is to be black, but I hope that all my friends will read your piece to get a glimmer of what it’s like. When a crime like this is committed it is committed against humanity and we all suffer from the loss of a valuable human being. How long will it take? What will it take?
    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts

  185. Lisa permalink
    16 July 2013 2:22 pm

    Matthew,
    Thank you for your words. As a white woman, born and raised in Chicago, I have always lived in a (self propelled) multicultural world. Racism is still very present in all levels of our present western society, although it has evolved in many ways. Your message did not fall on deaf (white) ears.

    Lisa

  186. Jennifer Dawson Forsyth permalink
    16 July 2013 2:30 pm

    I really have been wrestling with my thoughts as to the verdict. Having read your insights has brought some clarity and I truly thank you for the time that you took to share them so eloquently and succinctly. Our nation has miles and miles to go… Although this is not the verdict that I had hoped for (or even anticipated), there is actually some meaningful dialogue happening. Blessed be that.

  187. Kym Kolb permalink
    16 July 2013 2:31 pm

    Thank you Matthew, for your thoughts and voice. While I can never say that I will fully understand what it is like (as I am white) to be profiled, I can tell you this:there are many, many of us out here working to make change. In the system and in ourselves. Of course, I have a story to tell, but this post is not about me. I just want you to know that there are PEOPLE out here of all colors who don’t doubt your experiences of racism and who are just as upset as you are over the injustice and who are trying to change things. I only wish the change could come a lot faster.

  188. CailinMarie permalink
    16 July 2013 2:37 pm

    Mr. Simmermon-Gomes thank you for writing this. It is so far the most honest and helpful piece I’ve read (as an American white woman.) I am answering for two reasons, one when someone writes publicly it is usually with the intent to reach an audience and so I wanted to acknowledge receipt, two because I personally believe that racism like alcoholism, is not curable and that the racist needs to stand up and say “Hi, I am Cailin Yates and I am racist” and attempt to recover. I wasn’t always racist and it usually surprises people when I say I am. In High School my military family moved to Virginia. Here I was confronted by the need to define my color. This had happened in Spain when I was in primary school, I was mistaken for “gypsy” the Europeans are not so nice to gypsies. But it wasn’t who I am so it was different. In High School people wanted to know “what are you?” Um, a girl. No, they were asking “are you all the way white?” I thought that was funny, but then something happened. I had to ride a bus where as the white kids, my brother and sister and I were the minority. We were also the last stop. The rest of the bus was filled with black kids and they wouldn’t move over. So we walked this long walk of shame to the back of the bus where seats were “saved for us” and they would serenade my sister and I on the way to school. It was mortifying. And it changed me. I am not excusing myself. But I wasn’t always racist and I know where it started. I know that I am more comfortable with you when you dress white. I know I am more comfortable with you when you talk white. But I also know I am recovering. I went to Mount Holyoke, a women’s college in the North East America where I was challenged regularly by other women to acknowledge the lense through which I look at other people. It was there I first looked in the mirror and said “I am racist, I am not proud of this.” I was at this school when the officers who assaulted Rodney King were acquitted and I watched fellow students react with personal pain. (Did I say that correctly?) We were in Massachusetts. To my knowledge these women did not know Rodney King or his family. They took the acquittals personally. And they reacted publicly. This mattered to me as a white student on campus. I did not understand. But I knew I needed to try.
    I am writing this to say “keep talking.” I am writing this to say “I am guilty” because I think if we can admit to it, then we have a place to start. You can’t fix it if you won’t see it.
    And I am writing this because while I think that racism like alcoholism is an ongoing recovery, I am hopeful. I am a mom. I want my kids to grow up with different lenses than the ones I have. And when my 8 year old daughter brings over the black neighbor’s granddaughter to play in our home I don’t say anything, but inside my heart there is a little celebration going on.

    • 16 July 2013 2:57 pm

      Wow, I just read your post, CailinMarie, after I had written and posted mine. We seem to share a similar view. Maybe a 12 step recovery program for racism is in order. It is a concept which is worth considering.

      • 17 July 2013 6:10 am

        The bit about the 12-step recovery program for racism? Excellent, albeit I wonder if it was almost tongue-in-cheek.

        The first step, though, is surely accurate. We have to admit our racism. No ifs, ands, or buts. Just admit it.

  189. 16 July 2013 2:40 pm

    Beautifully written. I’ve been becoming increasingly disheartened by much of the response because it just seems that so many of my fellow whites don’t want to admit that racism is real and it is everywhere. I am finding it harder and harder to remain optimistic that we can fix a problem that so many refuse to acknowledge is real. There’s none so blind as those who will not see. I’ll share your beautiful essay, and try to hold on to the slim hope that we can make things better by opening one mind at a time.

    Thank you.

  190. Paul permalink
    16 July 2013 2:45 pm

    Thank you. As a white man who has lived in other countries I have experienced this kind of prejudice. I could feel the dislike others had for me simply because an American. Sometimes they would tell me to my face and other times I would be slighted or not given service. So, thank you for saying so clearly what is true about American white culture prejudice against American black cultural. I appreciate it and am passing it on.

  191. 16 July 2013 2:47 pm

    I see a lot of defensiveness in the comments, and while understandable, there is no solution in being defensive. Anyone who has gone to family counseling or who participated in some sort of recovery program knows how ineffective, though a completely natural response, it is to be defensive.

    As a person who is a recovering alcoholic/addict, I understand how PTSD and living in an abusive environment can push someone into making the wrong choices in life. I did not learn how to deal with my emotions effectively until a bit later in life. I am still dysfunctional to a certain degree. Part of the process of my recovery, both in therapy and in 12 step programs, has come from acknowledging I have a problem.

    Because of my background, I have been around urban blacks who have, like me, found an alternative way to live. But that way is a path of destruction. For most, there is not much hope for anything more than eventual prison or death. That lifestyle is a vicious cycle, passed down from generation to generation. The children can’t help but see their role models doing things that they have come to glorify. Maybe because to not glorify being a gangsta would result in cognitive dissonance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance). Many children who grow up in such an environment try to be like the only heroes to whom they feel they can relate. They have also gotten the impression that the only way for a person of color to be successful is to sell dope and participate in the underground crime.

    White folks do not have to be defensive or even take on blame and guilt. But I think in order for things to change for everyone, we need to talk about these issues openly and with compassion and understanding. Not everyone is capable of “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps”. They just aren’t. When hopelessness descends upon a person, it is so hard to overcome it without help from our fellows.

    We can keep on trying to sweep the race issue under the rug and not ever bring it up, since many of us claim it is not an issue. But it is. I live in the deep south and what may be subtle in other parts of the states is not so subtle in this area. And because I witness racism to a higher degree, I can recognize it in lesser degrees. Maybe it isn’t as big of a problem up north. Most people I know who have moved here from up north are shocked at the degree of racism still present here in the south.

    I am going to keep talking about the subject whenever the opportunity arises. It seems to make some people uncomfortable. Probably because they would rather stay in denial. But my son listens to me and his eyes are open. He has to have extra compassion because he has experienced racism and physical abuse from blacks in our majority black neighborhood.

    That is another issue. I hate that my son has been hurt. I hate it. As a mother, I want to whoop those kids until they can’t sit down. But, as a result of these experiences, I know to a certain degree what other minority mothers have gone through for decades. Hell, centuries. And I know that most mothers would rather be abused all day long than see their babies abused for a minute. You cannot understand that pain and hopeless frustration unless you’ve been there.

    Which brings me to another point. A previous poster brought up the feminism movement and how women have had to struggle and fight to be considered equal with men. Women of color have a double burden in this area. Not only have they had to “man up”, they have had to “white up” as well. So, yes, white women can understand the fight for equality. But we need to multiply that for the other women in order to truly understand. And if you live in the south, it’s a fight for sure.

    Compassion and a willingness to discuss and self-examine will go a long way in our recovery as a whole. We have to face this issue eventually. Why not now?

    • 16 July 2013 3:07 pm

      Just an afterthought…I grew up in Dallas, TX, so I do know that racism exists for many other minority groups. It exists no matter where you go in the world. I just happen to be exposed to black/white issues more so than others currently, so Matthew’s message hits home for me.

  192. staresen permalink
    16 July 2013 2:53 pm

    My God, that was beautiful. You, my brother, have a way with words. Thank you for articulating everything in my head so beautifully.

    I pray for all the young black men in the U.S. and around the world. Black men who can’t walk in their own communities with Skittles and ice tea without fear of being executed. Trayvon represents our brothers, our sons, our husbands, our friends. Zimmerman unjustly took Trayvon’s life. He disregarded and disgraced the very basic principles of our justice system by taking matters into his own hands. He mentally tried Trayvon, deciding he didn’t belong and was guilty solely based on the color of his skin. But despite this unfortunate tragedy, Trayvon’s death was not in vain. His death has opened the world’s eyes to a problem that still plagues America: racism. And for that reason, Trayvon Martin is a hero.

    I pray that we continue to keep this topic at the forefront of our minds.

    Again, thank you.

  193. lynn permalink
    16 July 2013 2:58 pm

    Great perspective and lovely heartfelt post. What the public needs to stop doing, however, is looking at skin color first and the facts second. Until that happens, racism will never end. Remove the color of the skin in this case. Imagine all parties involved having purple skin if it helps. Now just looks at the facts. Should the 17 yr old been followed and approached for walking in the rain at night? NO. Was Zimmerman wrong for doing just that? YES. Was it a bad choice for the 17 yr old to assault Zimmerman by holding him down and banging his head into the pavement and punching is face? YES. Do I think ZImmerman should have gotten more than a slap on the wrist? YES. Do I cry for this 17 year old who is no longer alive? YES. Does my heart go out to his mother? YES YES YES. If it were you having your head banged repeatedly on the ground would you start fearing for your life? YES. Bad choices happened on both sides. Does Florida need to change the Stand Your Ground law? YES. Being able to chase after someone is no longer self defense. That is ridiculous.
    Another thing that needs to change is reverse racism. Let me tell you what I, as a white woman, deals with on a daily basis. In retail, a black cashier is sweet, kind, and chatty to the black customer in front of me in the checkout lane. I immediately like her because she is so funny, outgoing and kind. It is my turn next so I walk up and smile at her and say hello. She doesn’t respond, never talks to me, and after I finish my transaction, just hands me my receipt. It hurts. Because she is judging me because the color of my skin. This happens all the time. My son is in retail and couldn’t refund a product due to the no receipt/No refund policy from the store. The black customer became angry , called him a Cracker and pointed to a black co worker standing next to my son behind the counter, and said ” I bet HE would do it for me!” I deal with reverse racism everyday but can’t complain about it. White people are silenced because if we complain we are labeled as racist. We sit through Black History Month, watch BET, see award ceremonies just for blacks. How do you think that makes others feel? If whites had a White History Month, a White Entertainment channel, A National Association For The Advancement Of White People, can you imagine the out cry?? It seems like every time a crime happens that involves a black and some other race, the black community claims it is racism. My desire is for all humans to just be humans and band together as one, loving each other, and putting all the skin color aside. No white person alive today should be hated because of the stupidity of slavery so long ago in our nation’s history. I have never judged anyone I meet and treated them a certain way because the color of their skin. But yet I am judged daily because the color of mine. Blacks need to be the first ones to stop looking at skin color before we, as humans, can ever get past all this insanity.

    • 16 July 2013 3:12 pm

      Here in America, we have had White History month for a couple of centuries. We have had many White Entertainment channels. We have not had the need for National Association For The Advancement Of White People. Can we not spare a month or a channel here and there? Hopefully one day there will not be the need to set aside channels and months for other races. Hopefully one day we will all just blend in and accept each other as friends and family.

      • Stan permalink
        17 July 2013 3:39 pm

        Racism is racism regardless of the direction of it.
        And lynching a ‘white hispanic, whatever the hell that is, won’t make society less racist.
        Zimmerman should never have been charged, it was race baiters and racists who caused him to be charged.
        The simple facts never supported either a murder nor a manslaughter charge.

    • 16 July 2013 4:02 pm

      The incidents you mention happen multiple times a day to many black Americans, so often that I bet they would have trouble recalling just one specific incident to use as an example. What stands out in your mind as a bad occurrence is the NORM for them. That’s why “reverse racism” is just white people whining.

    • Meme permalink
      17 July 2013 1:56 am

      As long as we have race specific awards, months, or events there will be division. Both sides must see this to change it.

  194. Freedom 4 All permalink
    16 July 2013 3:20 pm

    I am white, but this does not give me my identity. My thoughts give my character. My clarity keeps me grounded. My quest for logical thought keeps me sane.

    This conversation needs to change. We cannot keep looking at people by their skin color or religion or country of origin. At the most simple level, we are all human beings with pretty damn similar DNA. We are all related, and share relatively similar life experiences, as we are all simply pawns in the grand scheme of things. We are all searching for answers – How did we get here? Where are we going? What is my/our purpose? If we keep dumbing down this conversation into “this is what whites should act like” or “this is what blackness means”, we are doomed to live in ignorance and idiocy. There is no blackness or whiteness or hispanicness. There is only humanity.

    Sure, you can have pride in your race, ethnicity, heritage, etc. But, in my opinion, the idea of identifying yourself or creating your identity based on race or creed or what similar people in your neighborhood are doing is just juvenile and short sighted. The biggest problem in this country (in my opinion) is the ongoing removal of individualism and creating an identity based on individual values and personal experience. We cannot continue to be fed the “media’s mothers milk”, which is constantly treating us like idiotic racial zealots.

    I do not know what this Martin/ Zimmerman court case has taught anyone or if it has shined a light on racial prejudice. I may be naive in hoping that most people are over the race baiting that the media eats up and spits down our throats every few years. It happened during OJ, during Obama’s candidacy, during this case and in countless other examples. The media loves to divide us and keep us thinking in these close minded paradigms. And sadly, we all fall for this ploy more than not.

    I do not have answers, and I do not think anyone else can say provide a remedy in how to achieve this individualistic utopia that I dream about. This is the dream that MLK spoke of and many African Americans died fighting for. This is the dream that Palestinians and Jews might achieve if they give up their hate and ethnic divisions and focus on what is really important – “JUST LIVING AS HUMANS”. This is the dream that I yearn for, when people do not view our President as black, or white or half black or half white or part asian or whatever else, and just view/judge/vote for this person by his or her convictions and actions.

    This is not a difficult concept and I believe that most people want to forget about race/religion/creed/ethnicity and all these other societal scripts to divide humanity. To divide and conquer or to unite and prosper? Doesn’t it just make sense to choose to unite and live in peace?

    Maybe this utopia is unavailable in our capitalist society, where it is clearly unfair to think those brought up in poverty have the same shot to succeed as some wall street banker’s child. So I would argue that “Wealth Inequality” is the real problem and although it is closely connected to racial problems as well, it is not a black- vs- white issue. This is more of a 1% vs the 99% issue, which is another reason why Americans need to stand united, regardless of race or religion to make this country more equitable and close the income gap.

    I did not want to get in to economics because this is a completely different political animal with so many different lines of philosophy, but I guess everything eventually comes back to money, which is the primary reason the media covered this Martin/Zimmerman case so closely. The media is at fault for exploiting the death of Marting for their monetary gain, but we are also at fault for letting them get away with it.

    We cannot sit by as puppets. We can no longer create our identities based on our race. We must not be fooled into believing that race matters just as we cannot be fooled into believing “my God” is better than “your God” when looking at religious conflict.

    Please do not understand me. I know racism still exists and I know people who are ignorant in many of their beliefs. And of course, relations between blacks and whites are overly sensitive in America. But, we have to look past it and realize that the only way forward is to focus on our commonalities as human beings. That is all we are. We are human beings living on a big rock rotating in space. We are all so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But our insignificance as a singular being is what give us our strength, since we need to work and live together to survive as a community of individuals.

    Once again, there is not pamphlet on “how to be white” or “how to be black” or “how to be christian” or “how to be an Iranian”. Our identity must be formed by our experiences and constant physical, emotional, and in someways spiritual self-driven evolution. And no matter how many books you read on racism, or genocides, or religious crusades, you can only come back to one simple, logical conclusion to live your life in clarity and peace – “We are all simple human”.

    • 16 July 2013 3:55 pm

      Freedom 4 All

      The attitude you are espousing here is very much part of the problem. You sit in a position of privilege and power and, instead of listening to the needs of those who do not share in your privilege or trying to understand what it means to be us in this world which has been built for your benefit, you imperiously instruct us on how to feel and what to want.

      This conversation does not need to change. You do. You need to stop telling other people what it means to be them. Am I a human? Yes, of course I am. But I am a great many things besides and those things have fundamentally shaped the life I am allowed to lead. And because of that it has fundamentally shaped my identity. Blackness was not invented by an NAACP committee. It was made by whites. Whites shaped the world to please yourselves and that world has made us black because it has looked at the colour of our skin and told us that we are. It has not allowed us to be otherwise. It devised a hierarchy of humanity and placed us on the bottom rung. When I was born to a black man and a white women it gave me some options. I could be black. I could be mulatto. I could pretend not to care. But I could never, ever, be white. Why? Because then it would have to share with me the privileges reserved for you and there would less privilege to go around.

      What privilege, you ask? They are too many to name but you have raised one: the privilege of unquestioned humanity. You, white man, are the very model of the human being. You are what the world screams a human should be. We who do not live up have our very humanity questioned, by the world and, in the dark moments when the need for an explanation of our struggle, the need for justice, overcomes our resolve, by ourselves. It is questioned when we are profiles before we are people. It is questioned when we are threats for our mere presence, our very existence. It is denied when we are shot for being in the ‘wrong place’ at the ‘wrong time.’

      Do you know who decides the right time and the right place to be black?

      So no matter how long and hard you, who has never been the victim of systemic, institutional oppression because of your race, explain to me that the very identity for which the world oppresses me does not exist, I will not change my ends to suit you. Bluster as much as you like that ‘there is only humanity.’ I will believe it when I see it. In the meantime, I and my community will fight for the recognition of our own humanity. Maybe you could help.

      • Freedom 4 All permalink
        16 July 2013 5:19 pm

        Well, I thought you were intelligent and spoke out of logic. But now I am doubting this.

        1 – What privilege did I receive exactly? What privilege did my parents receive when they got off the boat from Sicily with nothing and had to sacrifice everything to try and make it in America, working two jobs and saving their money to help me get educated? You are judging me for no reason and with no justification.

        2 – You say that I need to change? You say that I am the problem because I am telling people what to be? I am saying the exact opposite if you actually tried to think outside of the box for once. I am simply stating that ones identity should not be “primarily” constructed or based on one’s race, ethnicity or creed. Is this wrong?

        The fact that you say that “blackness” was formed by whites is beyond my comprehension. I really do not know what you speak of here, and I think you should expand on this topic in your response. I do not believe there should be a blackness or a whiteness or a hispanicness, etc. There should only be a humanness. Race is only a secondary variable, but the color of your skin does not provide you an individual identity.

        My global utopia is one where there is no “blackness”, no “whiteness”, no “christian”, no “jew”, no “atheist”, no “American”. Just human. Now, what does this mean? It means that when you first meet someone and spend time speaking to someone, you should not leave the meeting thinking “oh, that was a nice Indian woman” or “what a despicable puerto rican he was”. You should just judge that said person by their character and human capacity (that was a nice women or what a despicable man). You should clearly not judge someone by what religion they believe in or what country they come from or what sex they are attracted to and so on and so on. These may be things that lead to one’s identity but it does not define them. Is this not what MLK, Ghandi, and other modern day prophets dreamed of as well?

        How much simpler do I need to make myself without you getting all defensive and judging me without any knowledge of who I am? There is nothing radical or hateful with my previous statements.

        We must not divide and group people together and tell them that this is how you need to act because you are black, or white, or christian and Muslim. I have always believed that religion does more to divide us than unite us (both in America and globally). Likewise, race allegiance (I would also term this nationalism to some extent) does nothing to unite us or bring about a more intelligent or compassionate humanity. Once again, I am not saying that people do not prejudge others by their race or creed, based on predisposed stereotypes, but I am saying that we are ALL also partially responsible for these stereotypes if we create an identity that is not INDIVIDUALLY driven.

        I really have a problem with your line of thinking because I do not believe you are seeing the bigger picture. You say in your last paragraph, “I and my community will fight…” You are proving me point right there in those words. Am I not a part of your community because my skin is a bit lighter? You are the one shutting me out of your community because you view me as an outsider based on my skin color.

        Listen, I have never had to deal with overt racism. I do not know what it feels like to be denied service or beaten because of my race or creed. My grandparent or great grandparents were not slaves in this country. I know the history of African Americans and Native Americans is way worse than the Irish immigrants or the Italians or the Polish (although the Japanese had to deal with concentration camps). Knowing the ills of our own short lived American history, all I am saying is that we ALL need to stop equating humanity with ones race or creed or ethnicity.

        We can all be proud of our heritage but we cannot base our individual identity on this. I know I keep repeating this idea, but I cannot stress it enough. I am a white American of Italian descent that grew up in NJ. I should prob be like every male character on Jersey Shore with spiked hair, bad leather pants, and a growing alcohol problem. Right? There is nothing wrong with living like under this Italian American stereotype, but I am not going to base my identity on what others tell me I should be.

        I may be getting off track and the Martin case is way more severe than my generalizations, but the general principle remains true. The only way to get by all the bs and start living simply as human beings is to rid ourselves of the constraints of race based identity. You are the one calling me the “white man” the model of a human being and what the world screams for all to be. Are you kidding me? How can you think like that? What does “white man” even mean?

        Do you really think there is only one way to be white? Or only one way to be black? This is what I am getting from you and this is a very troublesome philosophy. All I am saying is that there is NOT a way to be white or black or muslim or hispanic or hawaiian. There is just being human.

        Would Zimmerman not have shot Martin if he was a few shades lighter? If Zimmerman was black and Martin was hispanic and the same incident happened would the African American community still stand united behind Martin? I do not know these answers and I do not know what really happened in this singular case (although I do agree that they should have gone after ZImmerman for manslaughter and not 2nd degree murder and they might have had an easier time convicting him). Would a more responsible media have focused more on the issue of “gun violence” and not make this so much about each individual’s race?

        The only thing I can say is that you were completely disrespectful to me in your last post and I hope you can learn to judge people based on their humanity and not on their race or creed.

        How is what I am saying any different than the values championed by people like MLK???

      • 16 July 2013 5:48 pm

        To those who feel insulted because they are white, let me try to break this down from you from my white girl perspective.

        If we are open and accepting individuals then we have come to that from an experience that has given us a clear path of which side of this issue we stand. If we come with integrity, then we must also be willing to be humble enough to recognize our privilege. Whether we ask for it or not, we are not profiled because of our skin color. We would have been walking down that same street, hoodie and all and not have been killed. Zimmerman would not have pursued us. Did he pursue any other people in hoodies that night? The reason for the top coat was because of the threat of rain, the hood went up when it started to rain, that was after the pursuit had began. Treyvon feared for his life, and when hunted tried to fight back. In the end that fear was justified because Treyvon breathes no more. The symbolism that made this come about is what we are all responsible for. The media, the institutions of law, the good old white boys club, have created a make believe threat, fed the public cool-aid and they all drank it. Why fear someone in a hoodie? I wear them all the time. The idea that you are exempt from being part of the problem is what makes it obvious that you are part of the problem.

        I image any white person can go into a store in a southern town and not get a single odd look from the personnel. I also know that a colored person walks into that same store and all eyes are on him or the camera, meanwhile the white person is shoplifting. That is white privileged, and we get it whether we want it or not. Defending it is being in opposition to the solution. If you truly are not racist, you will understand where I am coming from. Not being racist is a step, not accepting white privileged goes a little bit further. Instead of demanding that humans conform to your societal demands of appearance, why not try on their styles, walk in their shoes… put that hoodie on an walk the streets, with the idea of ONE LOVE, ONE HEART.

        There is nothing that you have done, that I do not share.

      • 17 July 2013 6:24 am

        This was a good comment.

        I can understand that white people in general are bewildered by or even uncomfortable with having this discussion. “I’m a good person; I can’t be racist!”

        Well, it takes a while to consider what racism is and what part we play in it.

        I don’t get the defensiveness and even the need to push back and say “Well, others are racist, too.”

        As far as I know, I can’t change anyone but myself. That’s where I have to start the work

      • Freedom 4 All permalink
        16 July 2013 7:29 pm

        I appreciate your response but you are not getting to the root of the issue. Racism/ discrimination is not new. It has been around since human beings evolved enough to create political bodies and other societal power machines. Human beings have done some pretty f’d up things over the course of recorded history.

        I do not have the cure for human ignorance nor do I think there will ever come a day when every human being is looked upon as equal. This is a social ill that is horrible and I wish there was some magic spell to open people’s eyes up.

        The reason I had to comment is that we are ALL losing the essence of both the American and the French Revolution. Sure the majority of people back then were very racist but the spirit of these Revolutions was based in the idea of INDIVIDUAL purpose, freedom and pursuit of happiness.

        I am not the “white man” (I don’t even know what “white man” refers to). I am an Individual with my own beliefs, my own convictions and my own world view. I share viewpoints with all types of people, regardless of race, religion, sex, etc. I refuse to be grouped together with racist people or feel guilty when some ahole does something racist, just because we share a similar skin tone. This is juvenile and not helpful in bringing people together.

        Do certain races experience more prejudice than other? Sure. But I cannot do much to stop those ignorant few, just as I cannot stop the West Borough Baptist Church from not loving gay people.

        Individualism is the only way to get past racial stereotypes and ignorance.

      • Slum Jack permalink
        16 July 2013 10:29 pm

        THIS is your unfortunate mistake and hypocrisy:

        “you imperiously instruct us on how to feel and what to want.
        This conversation does not need to change. You do. You need to stop telling other people what it means to be them.”

        This is *exactly* what you’ve done. And apparently are still doing.

        I read your original piece above and then at the conclusion could only regard that as your own, highly personal, confession of your own inherent racist reactions and ways of thinking, frankly.

        You openly admitted to meaning to be “provocative” and I initially wondered if, perhaps, you were also being clever enough to couch what were your own controversial revelations in terms that might “trigger” others in example, too. But now I doubt that.

        Instead, *you* are exampling the very kind of misguided racist outlook you condemn in others, while also so flatly inflicting upon others what you just so squarely condemn them for.

        It doesn’t get any more ironic, nor unfortunately so.

      • Warren L. permalink
        17 July 2013 5:13 am

        I would like to interject into this discussion if I might.

        Mr. Simmermon-Gomes, it seems to me the same “see this from my point of view” angle that you are asking of your audience should be practiced by yourself. Your argument makes sense, however, simply because Freedom4All has a different opinion than you, does not make him wrong. This issue is apparently viewed very differently by black and white Americans. So for his “attitude to be part of the problem” is an unfair statement.

    • Warren L. permalink
      17 July 2013 6:04 am

      I hit enter prematurely…

      I do not fully understand why you are so antagonistic towards Freedom4All and what he said. From what I gathered he is arguing for a One Human Race mentality as opposed to focusing so heavily on race, as you would have us do. It seems to me that you have a lot of animosity towards white males, and I pity you for your negative experiences with them. However, to view the entirety of the white (male) population as complicit in hindering the African American population is non-realistic. I know you never said those words, but that is how I interpreted your writing. I believe you are correct, in that we, as Americans, can benefit greatly from understanding the African American perspective. However, at the same time, it might also be beneficial to understand the new white perspective on America. And Freedom4All cannot speak for the white population of America any more than you have the authority to speak on behalf of all black Americans. Therefore, instead of being at each other’s throats, trying to disprove the other, you two might benefit greatly from cooperation, since I believe you both want the same long term end result.

      Although your argument is valid, and I agree with you on many of your points, it is quite hurtful as a white male to read about the animosity and image that the “black community” (as embodied by your post) holds of myself. The opinion held by myself and many of my counterparts is that I, we, were not alive to enact discriminatory measures towards African Americans (I was born 1989). Additionally, I was raised in a diverse, multi-cultural city (Los Angeles) and was not raised to hold prejudices towards people based on their looks or beliefs. So I would ask that in the same way you would not want whites to lump all blacks into a category of “criminal,” I would, as a white man, ask that you please not lump me into the category of “privileged, uncaring white male,” without first understanding my struggle and life.

      I will not pretend that I have not benefited marginally from not being stereotyped. However, the stereotyping of white males that you present is equally as insensitive and counter-productive towards attaining a truly equal society as the proposed stereotyping done by whites towards blacks.

      I am not some “poor me” white who feels threatened by the advancement of non-whites in America. I could care less what you look like, I just think there is a double standard in your article when it comes to labelling and categorising entire segments of the American population.

      I think I understand this feeling of “being told what to think by others” that you express, and Im sure you’ll dislike this paragraph since thats probably what Im doing :). I cannot speak to the African American experience in America anymore than a black man knows my experience. There are always two sides to every coin. I just don’t believe that in 2013, the white man is this huge hinderance to the African American population. The same way I don’t believe the African American community is an obstacle to the advancement of America, as was once held.

      So although I agree with many of your points (pretty much everything I didn’t dispute herein), I just disagree with this presence of the omnipotent white man who dictates to all! Remnants of the past remain, but enormous advances have been made, and to allow ourselves to be race baited in this way by the media is so insanely counterproductive to our goal of attaining true equality.

      To conclude, I would like to thank you for sharing your view points and opinion on this important and relevant topic. Additionally, I would like to ask you to please consider providing others with the same protection from labelling that you yourself seek for the African American population.

      Sincerely,

      Warren.

  195. 16 July 2013 3:31 pm

    Tonight we marched in Seattle, and I took your words in my heart with me… and I wanted to share with you what I felt from it all. Tomorrow and many other marches I will march.

    One Love
    July 16, 2013 at 12:54am

    You know the melody, Preacher Marley delivered it so well

    The triumph of love existing in a world of living hell.

    The color of skin creating a rainbow of hope

    A mantra to chant when injustices make it hard to cope.

    Tonight I walked the streets of my universe listening to the pain

    The same old oppression raring its’ ugly head again

    A child is dead while the man who hunted him goes free…

    In a country committed to human rights how could it be?

    how could it be?

    As I listened to the testimonies of the angry hurt crowd
    I started chanting the mantra, too afraid to speak it out loud
    Tonight was not about creating the peace
    Tonight was not about making the violence cease
    Tonight was a stand against the oppression based on the color of skin
    Hundreds of years of slavery, will it ever truly end?
    How do we reach the beach of One Love, One Heart?
    When a child who is born of color is doomed from the very start?

    If you are white like me, do not turn away from the truth
    We have been privileged and protected in our youth
    We are not profiled by every cop that we meet
    We would not have been hunted like Treyvon, just for walking down the street.
    Tonight we were all profiled, I counted 4 vans 22 bicycle cops, and 9 police cars, and 3 unmarked( full of men )SUV’s
    For a group of 30 -40 marchers, just asking… How could it be??

    How Could it Be?

    Preacher Bob asks us to get together and feel alright
    Maybe with universal love, we can win this fight.
    As I walked home with my friends and I watched my city quiet down for sleep
    I hang out in the darkness, observing the streets.
    My heart aches as I see a child digging through the trash for food
    In this country of plenty, where is the good?

    Tawnee Lynne Cowan

    • Curry permalink
      16 July 2013 11:01 pm

      Bloody Sunday (Irish: Domhnach na Fola)[1][2]—sometimes called the Bogside Massacre[3]—was an incident on 30 January 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland, in which 26 unarmed civil-rights protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers of the British Army. Thirteen males, seven of whom were teenagers, died immediately or soon after, while the death of another man four-and-a-half months later was attributed to the injuries he received on that day. Two protesters were also injured when they were run down by army vehicles.[4] Five of those wounded were shot in the back.[5] The incident occurred during a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march; the soldiers involved were members of the First Battalion of the Parachute Regimen

  196. 16 July 2013 3:44 pm

    Thank you, Matthew. As a white woman who was raised in the South in the 60’s, I have worked hard to overcome the racism I absorbed in my childhood culture. It is always good to be reminded that naming the sin of racism that lingers inside me and continuing to work on that is a long process that needs intentionality.

  197. Silas permalink
    16 July 2013 3:54 pm

    Eloquent, eye-opening, and moving. Thank you.

  198. 16 July 2013 3:58 pm

    The whole world hasn’t turned away. There are some whites who are appalled by this. As a white man in America, I can’t pretend to fully understand the experience of being a young black man in America, but I can say that if I saw my local police hassling you for no apparent reason I would say something. When I hear people speaking in a racist manner, I stop and correct them. When I see bigotry in any form, I try to stop it. And I’m not alone in this. Many of us will stand with you if you want us.

  199. notks permalink
    16 July 2013 3:59 pm

    A really great article with really great points. I wish everyone would read this.

    The only matter that I can just never wrap my head around is the notion that speaking proper English is a “white” thing. It’s not.

  200. 16 July 2013 4:25 pm

    Thank you for your bravery, for opening yourself up to possible criticism by recounting what it’s like to be perceived as a threat, for making public the ways you carefully present yourself so as not to be dismissed. White people need to be reminded of this over and over again. Someday, perhaps, enough of us will understand for things to change.

  201. Linda Swihart permalink
    16 July 2013 4:33 pm

    Thank you very much for sharing your insights. I am aware of my personal relationship to this problem and I’ve been working on it most of my life, almost six decades, when the chance comes. Women get frightened by men sometimes, and in the distant past I’ve been through a few frightening experiences, two involving a white man and one involving a black man. It’s been much harder to lose my fear of black men. I wish that were not true.

  202. Swampprof permalink
    16 July 2013 4:35 pm

    Thank you for this piece. I didn’t read all the comments, so forgive me if this topic has been addressed. I completely agree with your take on language and the early comments on AAVE. I teach in the education department in a large, rural midwestern university. There are (a) few Black students in my classes. Whenever we bring up racism, the history of school segregation, etc etc, most White students are very careful to police themselves to say the right things, typically quite rehearsed, about race. They have Black friends, they went to school with Black kids, etc, though many of them do say they had no people who weren’t White in their schools.

    However, when I turn the subject to place and language, the veneer is stripped away. I ask them where they are afraid to go, and why, and the White students always mention the area’s cities. Black students almost always say rural areas. But what was most interesting to me has been the reaction of just about every single student to AAVE. Nearly every one – including Black students – said it was important to not allow children to use AAVE in school, and to correct them so that they learn “proper” English. Many balk at the idea that AAVE functions as well as any other dialect or language in communicating subtle meanings.

    So, I don’t spend much time at all talking about race (or sexual orientation – see Kenji Yoshino’s “Covering” for quite similar examples about how gay men in particular are forced to “butch it up” to not be targets) in my classes anymore, we get right to language and place.

    Thank you again.

    • 17 July 2013 2:32 pm

      Swampprof- I enjoyed reading your post. Here are a few thoughts I had about it. You’re a professor, do you assign your class papers? If so, would you grade a paper with AAVE the same as one that didn’t use it? I must say agree with you that when we remove terms like racist from the conversation, we get more honest answers. Perhaps these students you mention will even learn a thing or two about themselves.

      Anyway,

      Great post!

  203. 16 July 2013 4:36 pm

    This is a brilliantly written piece. Glad I came across it. Well done.

  204. 16 July 2013 4:39 pm

    My notes:

    Matthew – Thoughtful and well said, it also shows you are still trying to process the stereotypes.

    The certainty that Zimmerman vs. Martin was only about race, or the certainty that race had nothing to do with it, seems to be two incorrect narratives.

    My Facebook page is being bombarded with opinions and links. My friends are majority liberal, guess what? They think it’s injustice. The few conservatives that post, of course, think justice was served.

    Thing is, almost all liberal white people are angry about the travesty. Are they racist?

    Make no mistake, Zimmerman should be held accountable, and hopefully he will in civil court. But I wasn’t on that jury, and I think it is unfair to simplify: Six jurors obviously were racist, and were incapable of looking at evidence.

    Why is Zimmerman a White Hispanic American and Obama a Black African American? Why not the opposite? Zimmerman looks Hispanic. If the media reported it as Hispanic on Black perhaps no one would pay attention. Stories of racism sell.

    So who’s racist? All those outraged whites? All those blacks who suspect whites are racist? All those whites who think Trayvon deserved what he got? Where’s the ambiguity?

    Thing is, blacks being outraged about privilege is justifiable, whites being peeved about being accused as racists is minor in comparison. The way to stop it is one friendship at a time.

    Recently I witnessed an assault that began on a basketball court. When cops asked for witness they asked a couple friends of mine, who said they hadn’t seen it, were drinking water, or some such, until they came to me. Afterwards my friends and I were at a bar watching San Antonio vs. Miami, and we started discussing the fight. I said, “You were there, why’d you say you weren’t.” One of my friends said, “You’re not black, so you don’t know what it’s like. Pretty soon they’ll ask me for ID, and then I’ll be in the back of the car.”

    Seattle in 2013 isn’t Mississippi in 1934. Still, it’s reasonable for blacks to be distrustful of police, but it is also a prejudice.

    Race is part of it, but not all of it.

    My opinion: Zimmerman initiated the conflict. Martin may have over reacted. Zimmerman over reacted to the over reaction. Zimmerman seems to be guilty of manslaughter. That’s where I’d come down. But I’m not on that jury.

    Read Ta-Nehisi Coates at On the Killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

    • Warren L. permalink
      17 July 2013 6:40 am

      I very much appreciated your comment. Primarily your respect for the judicial system and not insulting our jurors with racist allegations. I think ALL RATIONAL people agree Trayvon’s death was a tragedy, however the argument stems from was it a CRIME..

      In an earlier comment I questioned the author’s use of a double standard in labelling Americans by race, and how he was quick to do so for the entire white population of America, while deploring white Americans not to do so to him. You wrote, “The way to stop it is one friendship at a time.” And I couldn’t agree more. I think the biggest travesty of this whole case is the fact that instead of Trayvon’s death galvanising the AMERICAN population to come together to seek justice and possibly amend archaic gun laws, it has divided us on racial basis. I have noticed many whites siding with Zimmerman simply because they felt rejected, for being white, by Trayvon supporters. Similarly, I know black Americans who feel Zimmerman acted in self-defense, but instead openly support Trayvon because of the overwhelming pressure from the Black community to stand together on this issue. This to me is ridiculous.

      My high-school boxing coach once told his very racially mixed gym that “Racism only exists in the mind of the racist.” His message has helped guide my life beyond simply racism. His message was that only that which we acknowledge exists. So by not granting racism a forum, it ceases to exist altogether.

      I have noticed a really cool trend in this country, that the younger generations care less and less about race. It’s as if my boxing coach spoke to the nation. The next generation grants race an even smaller forum than those before and as a result, the hold race and racism has over this country diminishes from generation to generation. Just image how our children would view the world if their parents and the media never mentioned race and never distinguished based on race. If in the news, “man” was always “man” and never “black man” or “white man,” how would our children view the world?

  205. Curry permalink
    16 July 2013 4:44 pm

    After reading this I have a few question for the public and this can be answered by anyone of any race. First, if the boy under the hoodie had been anyone other than an african american boy would it have made a difference? Second, several of the things that you spoke of that deal with the public and how they see you, have also happened to me and I am a white/Irish man. I have been stopped by the authorities before just because my automobile looked like another automobile that a officer had a problem with the night before. I have been followed around businesses before and watched as if I was going to take something as well. I am firefighter/paramedic and often respond to a community that is all african americans. I have been called racial names at these communities before for reason unknown to me. While I am on the job I act professional and give every patient the same treatment as if it were my own family. I have not given any of these people the reason to call me names but yet it has happened. I can also remember as a teenager being at the county fair standing next to the line leading to a ride just watching my friends because my girlfriend did not want to ride. While I was standing there a group of young african americans walked up next to me and stood there for a moment. I did not think anything of it until one of them hit me in the face on my blind side and then ran away yelling racial comments. I had not said anything to them or provoked them in any way. Third, if you are out in public and see a white person with a shaved head or maybe a cowboy hat on does that person make you think maybe this guy could be of danger to me because he has a shaved head and could be a white supremacist or a “red neck” because he has a cowboy hat on? Anyway, your writing was informative and I appreciate reading other peoples point of views but I also wanted to share some of mine as well.

    • 16 July 2013 4:50 pm

      He only put the hood on after it started raining, Zimmerman knew he was a colored boy.
      Profiling of any sorts is racism, classification is a form of oppression. If you are not colored, then of course you are not going to get this. It is not about name calling, it is about legalizing murder on colored people. This is not about your experiences as a rebellious white boy, this is about whether or not you can understand this is not about you.

      • Curry permalink
        16 July 2013 5:20 pm

        How can you make the assumption that I was a rebellious white boy? I was born in Ireland and moved to the U.S. as a child. If you know history you will probably know that Irish people were also treated poorly. I was simply stating that the experiences that he has had, happen to people of other color. Furthermore, you do not have to be colored to “get this”. Jewish people are not “colored” and I can imagine that they “get this” as do middle eastern people and native american people as well. Thank you for your comment and I know that “this” is not about me it is about “We”.

      • Jericho permalink
        16 July 2013 7:22 pm

        “colored boy”…really? Which side are you on?!

      • Curry permalink
        16 July 2013 8:54 pm

        That also surprised me which is why I put it in quotation marks.

      • Curry permalink
        16 July 2013 9:28 pm

        Bloody Sunday (Irish: Domhnach na Fola)[1][2]—sometimes called the Bogside Massacre[3]—was an incident on 30 January 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland, in which 26 unarmed civil-rights protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers of the British Army. Thirteen males, seven of whom were teenagers, died immediately or soon after, while the death of another man four-and-a-half months later was attributed to the injuries he received on that day. Two protesters were also injured when they were run down by army vehicles.[4] Five of those wounded were shot in the back.[5] The incident occurred during a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march; the soldiers involved were members of the First Battalion of the Parachute Regimen

      • Curry permalink
        16 July 2013 9:32 pm

        Just a history lesson for you Tawnee Cowan. It is a terrible when anyone gets shot for no reason. I feel for Trayvon Martin’s family. This tragedy could have been avoided had Zimmerman just walked away.

  206. 16 July 2013 4:49 pm

    Your initial post (unsurprisingly, given its topic) has inspired a deluge of responses. I only hope that your other work—which sounds fascinating—can evoke such enthusiastic participation, albeit with more consistently level-headed responses.

    Thanks so much for your considered and (again!) clear-sighted response to freedom4all and many of the above posts. Indeed, this habit of mind, that wishes the inconvenient conflict away, is part of the problem. You do well to remind us—as we seem to be reminded again and again—that blackness was made by whites; as, indeed, was whiteness.

    I take no comfort in all of the disturbing insights and feelings these events have brought up. But then, comfort, much as white America may yearn for it, isn’t necessarily what’s needed here.

    I wonder if you’ve read this bracing piece in the Atlantic magazine, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, titled “Trayvon Martin and the Irony of American Justice.” Coates writes the following:

    “The injustice inherent in the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was not authored by a jury given a weak case. The jury’s performance may be the least disturbing aspect of this entire affair. The injustice was authored by a country which has taken as its policy, for the lionshare of its history, to erect a pariah class. The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is not an error in programming. It is the correct result of forces we set in motion years ago and have done very little to arrest.

    “We have spent much of this year outlining the ways in which American policy has placed black people outside of the law. We are now being told that after having pursued such policies for 200 years, after codifying violence in slavery, after a people conceived in mass rape, after permitting the disenfranchisement of black people through violence, after Draft riots, after white-lines, white leagues, and red shirts, after terrorism, after standing aside for the better reduction of Rosewood and the improvement of Tulsa, after the coup d’etat in Wilmington, after Airport Homes and Cicero, after Ossian Sweet, after Arthur Lee McDuffie, after Anthony Baez, Amadou Diallo and Eleanor Bumpers, after Kathryn Johnston and the Danziger Bridge, that there are no ill effects, that we are pure, that we are just, that we are clean. Our sense of self is incredible. We believe ourselves to have inherited all of Jefferson’s love of freedom, but none of his affection for white supremacy.

    “It is painful to say this: Trayvon Martin is not a miscarriage of American justice, but American justice itself. This is not our system malfunctioning. It is our system working as intended. To expect our juries, our schools, our police to single-handedly correct for this, is to look at the final play in the final minute of the final quarter and wonder why we couldn’t come back from twenty-four down.

    “To paraphrase a great man: We are what our record says we are. How can we sensibly expect different?

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/07/trayvon-martin-and-the-irony-of-american-justice/277782/

    I strongly recommend it, if you haven’t already seen it.

    And again, thank you for your bracing insights and your responsible part in moving this dialogue forward.

  207. Debbie permalink
    16 July 2013 4:49 pm

    I heard there was a gang robbing houses in that particular neighborhood that was wearing hoodies and robbing houses no idea if it is true or not. I do agree with the person that stated Zimmerman is/ was an idiot…I was raised dirt poor and had to fight for how far I have come, judgement thrown at me for how i looked, color be damned have a serious over bite and you are supposed to be stupid. Racism end? I am not that nieve and I get it from both sides, as an adoptive parent of two little African American boys I have white people give me dirty looks, I have young African American women look at me with hate at times, and some pretty cool looks from people who see that my son’s and I are just happy. I hate the day they will realize our skin doesn’t look the same, or maybe they will understand I could care less they have me heart and soul. I fear for the things I don’t know how to teach them about the very things you have mentioned. I look to others within the African American culture for advice as they get older. I didn’t follow this case closely I work full time and have three little people running around when I am not at work and they are my focus of all my free time. I choose this life, I am sad that now I am careful where I go because if anything ever happened to them I would never forgive myself. For those who look at me with contempt I feel sorry for, for the things you have faced I hurt. Every time this country takes 2 steps forward it takes 4 steps back. I don’t know the answer. I do know when I pulled my white van over to the wrong side of the road to where 3 African American teens were walking around dinner time they looked fearful, I put down my window and said “I made a pack to commit random acts of kindness this year, I would like to give you $20 go to McDonalds and get some dinner” their shocked looks were priceless. I have done random things, paid for soda’s for a couple kids in line behind me at Wal-mart they were white, it’s not about color for me it’s about our youth and how adults look at them with contempt because they may not look the way older folks like me expect them to. If people just treated each other with kindness, if people stopped being suspect of others all the time, if people believed in just being human, couldn’t we mvoe on? I would love to challenge anyone to the friend I now have with my friend, commit random acts of kindness, you don’t have to be well off to care do you? I know fostering and adopting has opened my eyes to a world at times I don’t like very much, but it’s also showed me what a need there is for people to just help one another. I hate hate, period! As far as the death of this young man, my 19 year old brother was killed in an auto accident, not the same thing but NO ONE should have to die so young. Human life should be valued about all else. I used to think we should not help others in other countires until I read “Left to Tell” then I thought, you know what if it was me in that situation, wouldn’t I want someone to help? Any thoughts on what I can help teach my son’s will be deeply appreciated, I am scared of what I don’t know.

  208. Kandice permalink
    16 July 2013 5:04 pm

    So here’s how I view things, even though you have made it clear that its not about white people. We ALL feel prejudices in our lives, regardless of the reasons. Fat, skinny, tall, short, black, white or any color in between. It seems the only thing that gets the lime light is the predjudice against the “colour” of one’s skin. In most cases, it’s the one’s that are always yelling for equality and “skin color doesn’t matter” that plays the race card. Let it go. How do you expect our upcoming generations to be better people, when things of the past are constantly dwelled on?

    I have three white children, I DO NOT teach them “well, it depends on what color they are”. My children do not think twice if they should make friends with someone if their skin isn’t the same color. Black people are beating a dead horse with this. Black people will be the ones my children learn racism from. My middle child is one of the most tender hearted, loving people I know- How do I teach her that no matter what, you will always be considered a racist because you are white? Do you not think she will face predjudices and scrutiny in her life time because we are branded with the history of being slave owners?

    The thing is, people from all walks of life could share similar experiences as you have, but if they aren’t black, it’s not the same. If I put myself in an area that wasn’t exactly a “white area”, do you not think I would experience those same looks and odd reactions… Of course I would.. I have, but I guess that all white people warrant that reaction because of what my ancestors did to yours…

    How do you expect our generation to feel responsible for something we had no part of? Should white people be in debt to black people because of our history? Should I feel I owe you anything other than respect? NO.
    NEVER in a million life times could white people right the wrongs that people of our PAST established. Being constantly taught and “educated” on the things of our past does nothing more but create and harbor hate and turmoil, and where you find those things, you will find sadness and anger and grief. Letting the past stay in the past doesn’t mean we belittle what has happened but it means that we have learned and are trying to create a better world for our children and theirs.

    The fact that Trayvon Martin has been compared to Emmett Till is beyond me. Really? Emmett Till felt true hate, that was a hate crime. Has anyone who dwells on slavery days, in this day in age, experienced it….? Why is there a double standard, why can white people be slandered and its viewed as ok, but if white people speak the same words but flip the color order, it’s viewed as hate and discrimination? Where is the difference? I wasn’t raised that white people are better than anyone.. Why were you? Possibly you were raised as a racist person and that white people are this and that- please shed some light on this.

    I was born and raised in the South, so I am not one of those people who think we have “evolved” in 2013 and race isn’t an issue. Of course it is, and unfortunately racism will always be an issue. White people just have nothing to fall back on as black people do. The only ones who I see “oppressing” black people… Is black people. You can’t live in the past and create a fall back/excuse for black people all over the nation and expect the worlds views to change. We should own all of our decisions as individuals, not as a collective for each race. Why does it seem that white people are forever persecuted for things going wrong in a black persons life? If I lose my home, do I get to stick out my hands and say I have Cherokee blood in me, so someone owes me? Of course not.

    You also mentioned that black people have to white it up to be accepted… That’s not a racist statement at all. I don’t call dressing decent, “white”, I call it respectful. Please tell me, what respect comes from knowing what underwear a person has on? You can not demand respect you have to command it. That’s where the difference is.

    WHAT IF you had a chance to see what the events of that night were that Trayvon was shot, and your thoughts on what really happened (because that’s what they are, thoughts, you can’t vouch for something you didn’t witness) were wrong, how do you justify all the hatred and racism you are feeling towards white people? Or do you get a pass on that because my ancestors may or may not have been slave owners? The anger that stems from living your life through the eyes of what was done in the past, will always create issues.

    Life is to short not to live, love, and laugh. Expressing views that go back to a different time, a time that you and people who reference slavery and the cruelties of those days, didn’t experience personally. A time when there was true hate crimes towards black people. You are the ones who “keeping that pot stirred” and for what? Am I to be in debt to black people my whole life? I say No. Make better choices as people and don’t expect something from others that you can’t give personally… And from what your “open letter to whites” shows, you can’t give us, what you want us to give you.

    • Kay permalink
      18 July 2013 10:59 am

      wow! You are clearly missing the point. So many things I can touch on but I wont. You dont owe “you people” anything. Why are black people raised thinking that white people are better? The fact that you asked that proves the point of his article and unbeknownst white-privilege. I wonder at people that think the destruction of the black community stopped at slavery. Slavery has a legacy. Willie Lynch (and all that entails to the psyche of the black community) Segregation, after the civil rights movement came the drug era (and I will keep my opinion on how the drugs came to the neighborhoods to myself) and the drug era birthed violence, higher incarceration rates,poverty and broken families. So now here we are…with “you people” who need to make better decisions. Im not saying that the black community doesnt need a lot of work on themselves but tell me this if a young girl is raped and turns around and becomes promiscuous, Although she is voluntarily doing these things now, do you not understand where it stems from? And yes, she needs to make better choices but do you not understand that she has lost some control and is seeking to gain control by doing the very thing that hurt her? Do you not understand that she might not see that? So calling her a whore and scorning her does what exactly? kinda makes her feel like “you people”.

  209. Chuck permalink
    16 July 2013 5:06 pm

    Great piece Matthew. I hope you will find comfort in knowing that not every single white person thinks alike. When I read your post I was hoping you would find a term for those whites that treat you in the manner they do. That is one of the faults I find with everyone lumping all whites together…much as you think about being lumped in with all blacks. Just because one white person gives you the evil eye doesn’t mean every white person does. I’m know you have been denied service, but I’m also betting it doesn’t happen every single day. One of the faults with the Trayvon case was the press saying GZ was white. If they would have stated he was Hispanic would things have been different…maybe…but they called him white then changed it to white Hispanic…why don’t they refer to President Obama as white black? I agree with your article, but I disagree with using white to represent every white person on the face of this earth. That causes some of the whites to change their views in the wrong direction and that is not the direction of progress. We need to find a way to harness all of this outrage and energy towards progress. Let’s find a term for whites that don’t lump them all into one ugly group. Generalizatioons don’t lead to progress.

  210. 16 July 2013 5:10 pm

    Thanks for this. We couldn’t help but quote you over at our blog, Restoringpangea.com because your statement about clothing hits the nail on the head.

  211. Sarah S. permalink
    16 July 2013 5:12 pm

    As a white middle class woman living in a predominantly middle class white area, I am constantly trying to check my privilege and prejudices, especially in light of this case. Thank you for your beautifully written piece.

  212. Schlomo Goldbergchildfieldmanjenkinson permalink
    16 July 2013 5:13 pm

    He was a thug, no different than any other thug he does not deserve any sympathy, stop lying about him being this precious little babby tray tray and some “white” guy was out to kill someone you stupid clowns making up excuses on how white people cause your own damn trouble when you yourself are the blame for your own degeneracy, grow up stop blaming everything else for your own problems, people kill people every day this isn’t anything new, stop making this about race

    • 16 July 2013 6:07 pm

      It would be better to ignore you,but you are full of hate and that’s why we have this problem in America. If you have nothing constructive to contribute,then move along. A THUG DESERVES TO BE MURDERED? I think you are a thug,just from this little write up you put here,but I don’t think you deserve to be killed for being a thug,especially if you are a thug who did not provoke or engineer any confrontation.

  213. Shlomo Shekelstein permalink
    16 July 2013 5:18 pm

    Trayvon was a racist and an anti-semite. The way he called Zimmerman a “creepy ass cracka” was like another Shoah upon the Jewish people. I’m sorry but I cannot sympathize with people that hate Jews so much they would attack them.

    • 16 July 2013 5:23 pm

      I’ve approved this one but I am seriously dubious of its authenticity. I think it’s best to look at it as an example of race-baiting trolling.

      • 16 July 2013 5:42 pm

        The description of Zimmerman as a “creepy ass cracka” by Martin was made both in pre-trial affidavits and on the stand by a prosecution witness. The social media contents of Martin and his friends are also full of racist overtones that go far beyond the form of speech used by the poor & uneducated blacks I encounter in the non-profit endeavors I am involved with.

        The only place I see the Jewish origins of “Zimmerman” coming into play was the initial attempts to cast someone who looks and self-identifies as Hispanic as instead being a white in the early effort to cast this as a white killing a black. If those early media reports had really believed he was Jewish, they would have described him as that rather than white…

    • Ron permalink
      17 July 2013 4:23 am

      This is probably the most ridiculous attempt at logic discussion I have ever seen. And I say this as a Jew as much as I say this as a person who has experienced racism based on my religion and culture.

      First of all, which Martin are we talking about here? The one that got shot in the street and had no chance of calling anyone anything — and any account of what happened, recorded by a deeply prejudice George Zimmerman who has to fear for his life and his freedom here, is suspicious at best to me. Or are we talking about a relative of Trayvon Martin who has just lost a loved one? Are we blaming a person in mourning now? Really?

      Second, it’s not like this was about Trayvon Martin pouncing on a person with the last name of Zimmerman who could possible be Jewish. Did George Zimmerman wear a name badge? How would Trayvon Martin have known his name or even ethnic upbringing?

      Truth be told, Shlomo Shekelstein, this wasn’t a racially motivated crime committed by a black teenager against a Jew. Assuming you are Jewish, you should be understanding of this. If anything, Jews should be on the front lines battling against racism, not throw out red cards like their candy and act as if we have learned nothing from history.

  214. Zman the free man permalink
    16 July 2013 5:19 pm

    THANKS LIBERAL MEDIA
    YOU HAVE TRULY DONE AMERICA A GREAT SERVICE

  215. Swampprof permalink
    16 July 2013 5:20 pm

    One more comment. I am also a White (gay) man, and I have lived abroad. In fact, I’m in Asia right now, in a country where the police have increasingly been suggesting that foreigners are responsible for crime. Compared to seven years ago, when I previously lived here, I notice a lot more furtive, fearful glances from people, particularly women. No one follows me in the store, but people avoid sitting next to me. A woman recoiled in fear when I got in an elevator the other day, and kept laughing nervously. I also had trouble finding a place to live two out of the three times I lived here; the last time, I went to an agent at my university, and nearly half of the housing listings clearly said NO FOREIGNERS. I’ve been past a few establishments that clearly say NATIONALS ONLY.

    And yes, this stings. I’ve spent 15 years learning this damned language, studying, making friends, and still people seem to look right through me.

    However, I also know that these stings that I’ve experienced – and I’m glad that I have in a strange way – are not the same that you experience. Here’s why – from that “invisible knapsack” idea.

    I know that I don’t have to stay here, and that I can go back home and find many, many environments where these slights are very unlikely to ever happen to me. So, I know I have an escape. Americans of African and Native descent really don’t have a “home” country to go back to where they might fit in.

    I read right-wing websites that I see people referring to, and from the comments section, it’s painfully clear that a whole lot of people are quite comfortable throwing around racist language from the coded to the explicit. My guess is that the majority of those people are White, maybe some are Latino, Native, Asian, etc. I have no doubt that what you describe happens to to you, and I might even go so far as to say I know that all-encompassing full-body tingle of anger, shame and impotence that comes with being denied something because of something I cannot or will not change about yourself. But I can and have walked away and gone home to places where I’m pretty much guaranteed to not experience that tingle. And that’s something that Black Americans can’t do nearly as easily as I can.

  216. Kunwar permalink
    16 July 2013 5:20 pm

    Look , I’m an Indian. I don’t have any interest in shooting matter, nor have i read your article beyond the second paragraph.

    This is your second paragraph

    “…….What I do know is what it’s like to be a Trayvon Martin. To be suspect. I do know what it’s like to be followed by staff in a nice clothing store; to be stopped by police for walking down the street; to endure the thousand micro-aggressions and the hundred fearful looks, the patronising astonishment coupled with quiet indignation at my education or erudition. I know, in other words, what it is to be a person of colour in a world that privileges whiteness.”

    Your last line offended me. You should change it to – what it is to be a “BLACK” in a world that privileges whiteness.

    Because we Indians, Chinese, Jews ( as well ) and so many others DON’T get followed, DON’T get stopped by Police, DON’T endure aggressions and DON’T suffer fearful looks.

    So speak about yourself, and your race, and reflect within as to why you are the center of attraction.

    • 16 July 2013 6:11 pm

      wow! so there is honor is being a person of color and non in being black. Please accept my personal apology for that obvious error Mr India guy…In America you are definitely seen as superior to us poor black folk,(at least in your magnanimous eyes you are) THIS IS FROM A MAN WHO CAST SYSTEM IS DESTROYING HIS WORLD? THIS IS PITIFUL!

    • Kay permalink
      18 July 2013 11:13 am

      Ahhhh yes!!! The immigrant population who came to this country and made it as good upstanding citizens, so why cant we? Because the same/similar things you left your country for we are enduring here…hello!!!! I

    • 18 July 2013 7:09 pm

      This is probably going to sound harsh, but here goes…

      If you think for one second that this is a “black only” issue, you are either sadly misinformed or blisfully ignorant. Where I grew you, you… yes, YOU… would most definitely have been at the receiving end of some horrible comments and nasty attitudes. If your skin wasn’t the “right” shade, you were just the same as the blacks/Asians/Jews/etc. In small town Ohio, you would have been followed by workers in a store, ignored or insulted by uneducated and ignorant people with a small town mindset.

      There were Chinese brothers at my high school who were perpetually targeted for “joking” insults and harassment.

      I have always insisted I was born in the wrong place, as I don’t share the views the majority of my hometown seem to have. I almost hate going to visit sometimes, honestly. Obviously, your personal experience isn’t the same as the original poster has had, but it doesn’t mean yours is the ONLY experience of someone of an ethnicity other than black or white.

      Frankly, your comment offended me. If you have no interest in the topic (and admittedly didn’t bother reading it in its entirety), why go out of your way to type out a reply?

  217. Autumn Scott permalink
    16 July 2013 5:22 pm

    I wish I could understand… I have often been told by my coloured friends that they feel less than equal, less than human, that they often feel like everyone is judging them that all eyes are accusing them. I always laugh it off I say that it is ridiculous for them to feel that way. I suppose that I some times feel the same way… some days I feel like the world is staring at all my imperfections that everyone is watching to make sure my children and I are not stealing or breaking… I would love to hope that what the majority of minorities feel, stems from the same self limiting thoughts as I experience, as the alternative is too bleak for my contentment.

  218. stephen permalink
    16 July 2013 5:25 pm

    Hi Matthew,
    thank you for the insightful piece. It is of course an ongoing issue a lot of people deal with daily. In this particular situation though it was an American neighbourhood watchman ‘protecting’ his housing estate with a loaded gun. I don’t see how any other ethnicity of hooded teen would have fared any better. The way I see it, Trayvon’s an innocent victim, not a martyr for a preexisting cause. He shouldn’t be vilified or exalted, he’s just a child.

  219. 16 July 2013 5:29 pm

    I would suggest that anyone following this case do a few things to educate themselves about what took place.

    First, watch both the video of him making the purchase of Skittles and Arizona Watermelon Juice at 7-11 and the following transaction where he hands some money to some folks outside the store, one of whom came in, bought 3 blunts (small cigars commonly hollowed out to hold marijuana) and gave one to Martin after leaving the store. The blunt was not found on Martin after the incident, no one reported him holding it when the confrontation started, and the levels of THC in his system – though present – were not consistent with having recently smoked MJ. Where did that blunt go?

    Second, find the extract from his Facebook history where he is coached on how to abuse Robitussin DM to avoid being “roped” (busted for drug use). The use of the Arizona flavored drinks and Skittles are used to make drinking over the counter DM cough syrup in large quantities palatable; the effects are dissociation and agitation, and it does not show up on standard drug tests. The autopsy showed liver damage, which was consistent with that sort of substance abuse on a regular basis. His stomach fluids were not tested for the presence of cough syrup.

    Third, listen to the full audio of all the 911 calls, both from Zimmerman and also all the neighbors. Martin was initially spotted by Zimmerman on the street, but all the calls describe the incident taking place out their back windows in the common area between the rows of town homes. Zimmerman got out of his truck to try to relocate him because Martin had run around a corner into that shared common area after he saw that Zimmerman was on the phone and presumably calling the police. You will also notice that Zimmerman was making a much bigger deal in that call about how Martin was not acting right and behaving strangely rather than what he was wearing or what his race was, I have found most people are still basing their judgement on the doctored version of the 911 call prepared by the local NBC affiliate to try to cast Zimmerman’s attitude in teh worst way possible. .

    Fourth, find one of the graphics showing the locations of where the confrontation took place, where he was staying at the time, and the location of the 7-11. Then ask yourself why Martin did not simply run to where he was staying and lock the door while Zimmerman was still on the phone with 911 after having lost sight of Martin. He could have very, very easily gotten to where he was staying, locked the door *and* called the police himself before the incident took place. In fact, the few witness accounts available indicate Martin went somewhere further down that common area and then doubled back to confront Zimmerman – perhaps after hiding the missing blunt and a bottle of Robitussin DM, but not wanting to go in where his father or father’s girlfriend may have also noticed he was acting strangely.

    The best summary here is that two egos collided and a young man died as a result, but that both could have done several things to have prevented it. Even at that, there were many more things on the list of things Martin could have done differently than what I can pin on Zimmerman; Zimmerman’s judgement faltered when proceeding too quickly through the common area where Martin was able to sneak up on him and confront him at close range, Martin’s sting of bad choices included mixing types of substance abuse, not calling for help himself, and coming back to confront whoever he thought was reporting him instead of locking himself in a safe location.

  220. 16 July 2013 5:34 pm

    I am a white woman, and I want you to know that I see the racism. I want you to know that I see it in myself and that I mourn it and am angried by it and want to claw it out (perhaps in the same way that you mention white mothers clawing at their children to hold them back). I want you to know that I need your help, because in the same breath that I claim to acknowledge that I see the racism, I know I do not see all of it because my privilege means I don’t have to. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being brave enough to write this, to paint the target on your own back. I’d like to say that I am standing with you, but I know that I don’t, that I can’t fully. I will say that I am taking a step closer to standing with you, that I desperately want to know what it is to stand in your shoes, to be an agent of change so that your blackness is celebrated just as much as my whiteness. And I pray that I will be able to recognize the need for change within myself, will be able to stop being part of the problem. I’m sorry. I am so sorry. . . for what you experience, for my part in it, for a world that would prefer to ignore that there is even a problem.

  221. Sotonye Walter-Akpana permalink
    16 July 2013 5:45 pm

    very well articulated.

  222. Jennifer permalink
    16 July 2013 5:45 pm

    The notion that it is not a racial issue because Zimmerman is multiracial is not necessarily correct. One of my university friends whose mother was white Quebecois and his dad, east-Indian from Trinidad, identified as “white” and actually asked me once what it felt like to be a minority. There are many others like my friend.

  223. Sue permalink
    16 July 2013 5:51 pm

    I couldn’t agree more that racism exists and that things you describe happen constantly. I see them every day and am always disgusted about it, too. I also agree that race was a factor in this tragic incident, but we digress a bit there. You state,”guilty of murdering an unarmed teen-aged boy for no other reason than his race and his hoodie” when, in fact, there were other reasons… a very big reason being that Zimmerman was being beaten by Martin. The coroner stated unequivocally that the gunshot couldn’t have entered Trayvon’s body at the trajectory that it did unless the two were in the exact position that Zimmerman described (Trayvon on top).

    That aside, yes, it angers me, too, that a kid can’t just walk the streets like I used to without suspicion. Zimmerman was 100% wrong if he racially profiled. He may have, too, but I haven’t read any proof on that, so I can’t comment intelligently. What I can share is that I have felt frightened by quite a few people I’ve encountered in the same fashion in my 44 years and almost all of them were white. A hoodie and/or a skin color alone mean nothing to me. Mannerisms, looks, actions, etc., scare me sometimes, and they are completely independent of race and dress.

    I also think that principle played a large part in this. We all have principles we stand on, and I believe we should, but I also believe we all need to exercise common sense above all else. I can fully understand why Trayvon exercised his right not to feel required to answer Zimmerman’s questions, but how would this have ended if he had simply said, “I was just shopping at X and now I’m on my way back to my father’s place on Y.” He didn’t even need to say it politely. I would have supported him in responding with any tone or words he chose to defend his right against having to answer the inquiry of someone with only informal authority. I do think, though, that he could have answered in such a way that would have 1. ended the exchange there and 2. maybe even taught Zimmerman a lesson that would improve the global situation one spec at a time.

    In the end, I believe both men were wrong. Zimmerman was wrong to stay engaged when the police told him to just leave and let them handle it, but Trayvon was also wrong in not making his point in a less violent way. As we all know, but seem to have to continuously prove to ourselves, two wrongs don’t make a right.

    So, for me, it came down to the letter of the law. All things leading up to how and why the shooting happened were awful and unnecessary and in some cases wrong, but at the exact moment the shot was fired, it didn’t meet the definition of murder two or manslaughter. That is why I am trusting the jury’s decision.

    This is clearly far from over for you, though, and believe it or not, it’s far from over for me, too. I have always gone out of my way to make any person who appeared reticent in any situation feel more comfortable, and things like this only make me more conscious of it and more friendly in my own behaviors. We’ll probably never ride a bus together, but I wish we’d have the chance to, so I could smile and chat and laugh with you just like I try to do with every single person I encounter… even the white man with frightening tattoos and chains and a glare in his eye who makes me feel uneasy, myself. People constantly surprise you.

  224. Chris permalink
    16 July 2013 5:56 pm

    just so everyone knows. . .black, white, hispanic, asian, NONE OF THOSE ARE RACES. THEY ARE ALL ETHNICITY. WE ARE ALL ONE RACE AND THAT IS HUMAN.

  225. Natasha Kirsten Kraus permalink
    16 July 2013 5:58 pm

    Thank you for your words. For your testimony.

  226. Annie Gallo permalink
    16 July 2013 5:59 pm

    This is the kind of painful but necisary truth white people need to hear…thank you for being able to dig deep into your own sadness and pain and write something so eloquent and poignant. This is truly the kind of conversations that need to happen around race in this country. I think it’s high time for our country’s own Peace and Reconciliation Trials with people like yourself and Joy Degroy on the panel. Until then I will share this with as many white people I can.
    Peace, love and Juctice!
    Annie

  227. Ashley Aldridge permalink
    16 July 2013 6:11 pm

    1 black kid is killed by a 1/2 hispanic – 1/2 white guy & everyone goes nuts. 500 young black people are killed by black people in 2012 ALONE in Chicago ALONE and nothing is said.

    THIS is why Trayvon died. Not because HE was black or what HE was doing, but because of what the black CULTURE is doing. If you are black and don’t act tough, street, or thuggish, you are ostersised in the black community for being too white. You are and Uncle Tom for using proper English.

    So why is it WHITE people’s fault? YES, a lot of whites are racist. But how many human beings aren’t racist? It is human nature to be drawn to people that are like you…black, white, gay, straight, pretty, unattractive, etc.

    The violent, ghetto, thug, street mentality is a BLACK problem. If a white person were to walk in a black neighborhood after dark, name ONE person who would NOT say “you have no business being there.”

    So when you get a 2nd look from store security, or get pulled over by the police, look at WHY!!! Watch the news, read the arrest newspaper that shows up at local gas stations.
    Is society unfair to the black community? YES! No question about it. But who is feeding the fears that they have?

    It takes a LOT of DISCIPLINE to end racism…on both sides. Stay in school, earn your way, don’t steal, don’t resort to violence, think about the other side.

    I, for one, HATE it when I hear white people complain about Black History Month or Affirmative Action. “How would they like it if we had White History Month?” is one of the dumbest, most ignorant, disgusting questions I hear from white people. People against Affirmative Action are in denial that white-trash ignorance and racism exists.

    There are many good apples in the black community bushel, but the bad apples spread too easily. Same in the white bushel. Racism is like a disease that is easily spread; partially from the actions of the bad apples in the black community, but also the ignorance from the bad apples in the white community.

    All I ask is for the black community to take some responsibility for what happened to Trayvon Martin. Go outside a black school when it lets out and see all of the negative stereotypes present in a majority of the kids.

    Listen to an educated black man once in a while. I overheard one talking to a young black lady the other day, and it was VERY interesting. He talked about how black kids are not taught about credit scores, financial responsibility, or what they are capable of if they stay on the right track. White kids, he said, don’t have near the same problem with street violence and foolishness as black kids.

    This came from a black man.

    If being a thug, ignoring your free education, hustling, following the heard, taking the easy way out, and having street-cred is black, that is the problem. White people see it, white people fear it.

    White people don’t want to worry about getting mugged, having their store robbed, or having to subsidize the raising of other people’s kids. Get your education, be civilized, ignore the violence-first instinct, have a plan for your life, and take care of yourself and what is yours.

    Black-on-black crime is a bigger problem. Protest that. Raise your kids to avoid that. If it surrounds you in your neighborhood, DON’T HAVE KIDS for a few more years, save money to move somewhere safer, and take responsibility.

    Protest in the mirror, you may get further in this fight.

  228. wantingtounderstand permalink
    16 July 2013 6:18 pm

    First of all, I would like to sincerely thank you for posting this. This is a time of great tension, and this blog post is refreshingly calm. I understand that you have had hundreds of questions and responses and that you may not see this or ever have time to respond, and that is fine, but I feel the need to reach out anyway.

    I am wondering how you feel about the racial identity constructed for Zimmerman by his opponents leading up to the trial? After getting dozens of emails from organizations like Care2 and MoveOn describing Zimmerman as “white,” there is no doubt in my mind that it was important somehow for the world to perceive this man as white, even though he is both white and Hispanic, but has self-identified as Hispanic his whole life.

    I am troubled that he was abandoned by his own racial community, that he’s like a hot potato that no color wants to claim. Even though he is equally Hispanic and White, it seems like he’s been labelled as white because that is a more digestible dichotomy – it makes more sense somehow for a White man to be a racist than a Hispanic man. But this is ignoring the reality that he is both white and hispanic. Why has he been Anglicized? There seems to be so much riding on the dichotomy of black vs. white, a dichotomy that Zimmerman does not neatly fit into.

    Did you see this happening at all? What is your take on this?

  229. 16 July 2013 6:24 pm

    It’s hard to understand why racism still exists. We can say we’re all forward thinking and colorblind, but the evidence speaks for itself. I am a white woman in a small-ish town. I’ve seen more of it than I care to admit. Racism is alive and it is ugly.

    You’re very correct in saying we don’t know everything that happened the night that Trayvon Martin was killed. Only two people know the truth and one of those people isn’t here to tell his story. As a mother who lost a child (through extremely different circumstances), my heart aches for Trayvon’s mother. I cannot imagine the horror of having a police officer arriving at your door to tell you that your son was shot and killed. No mother should endure that.

    I cannot say that I will ever understand what you have gone through in your life, either. I’ve never been glared at for waving to a child. I have never been followed through a store or stopped by an officer because my skin color raised unneccesary red flags. I have never been thought of as threat, a criminal, a lesser person because of how I looked.

    I have felt ashamed of my race, many times. Embarassed anytime I hear a racial slur easily slide from someone’s mouth. Anytime I notice someone tug their child closer or hug their purse harder. I think that many people just don’t understand that the only race we SHOULD think about is the human race.

    As a parent, I can only make a promise. I promise that I will do what I can to ensure my children grow up with respect for people, regardless of their skin color, gender, religion, sexual orientation. We do teach them that everyone deserves respect and they should be kind to people unless that person does something that shows they aren’t worthy of it. Maybe it’s naive of us, but maybe we can a little bit of a difference in our small corner of the world. I certainly hope we can…

    • Howard Sanders Jr permalink
      16 July 2013 6:57 pm

      I will not go into a long speech on what you have written I will just say thank you for putting this in a way that anyone can understand.

    • Theresa Pugh permalink
      16 July 2013 9:18 pm

      Very nice Pixie!

  230. 16 July 2013 6:38 pm

    sorry you feel “suspect”. not every bear in the woods is going to maul you. but enough do, that you take precautions. go ahead, look at the breakdown. sorry if it hurts your feelings. but there is a reason people “proflie”. if 18% of the population is responsible for over 50% of the crime, then that group “is threatening and you really are justified in keeping watch for it in your communities.” http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/analysis_and_planning/crime_and_enforcement_activity.shtml

    • veronica permalink
      20 July 2013 1:28 pm

      actually it has been proven that everybody commits crime at the sam per-capita rate. However, we are 18% more likely to get arrested than out white counterparts. In my statistics class i was taught that if phrased properly ANY statistic can be made to prove what you want.

  231. Michel P permalink
    16 July 2013 7:03 pm

    Wonderfully written, however I’m wondering if this Zimmermans neighborhood had been burglarized by white kids the prior weeks, would he have gone after Treyvon still??
    But I get your point on the fact that society still fears blacks. I’m hispanic and have had similar experiences.

  232. Daria permalink
    16 July 2013 7:17 pm

    Excellent piece, thank you.

    I am flabbergasted at all of the white people I know who claim that our system is not racist. I know it is because I experience it too – from the other side. As a blue-eyed blonde southern woman, every redneck bigot feels safe airing their opinions about minorities in my presence, and I have heard some horrible things before getting an opening to say “shut up.” When white people claim that racism isn’t a factor in any aspect of American society, it’s not naivete, it’s cognitive dissonance. The only way they can fail to know is that they refuse to know.

  233. 16 July 2013 7:26 pm

    …and while being followed in the the stores, not once did you turn and attack the person who was following you. Hmmmm….

  234. Xina permalink
    16 July 2013 7:41 pm

    I wouldn’t dare pretend I understand, but know that this white woman feels a sad hopelessness in the aftermath of this case, too. Raised “not racist” but in a white world, moving to a more integrated locale taught me some truths about just how “not racist” I was. It wasn’t a pleasant look into the mirror. I feel guilty for not being more activist, though that lack of activism encompasses all issues that “matter” to me. I hope, however, that trying to live each day as an exercise in treating everyone like a human — and professing and teaching that attitude whenever the opportunity arises — can eventually bring about the sea change our culture needs. Blatant racism is an evil, to be sure, but it’s the more subtle, atmospheric crap that lets us lie to ourselves and believe ourselves pure…and “just”. May we all have our veils lifted, as many times as necessary. I am sure there are still more over my own eyes.

  235. Jericho permalink
    16 July 2013 7:48 pm

    I truly had to stop reading through these grimy opinions, so I’m not sure if anybody decent has mentioned this…but WHY are we allowing this murderer to dictate the events of the night as truth when it’s been shown that he is a liar by his own statements! Why are we not looking at this ( http://bcclist.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/trayvon-martin-george-zimmerman-path.jpg ) and thinking that it’s possible this guy, with his gun and his vigilant spirit walked swiftly around the building to cut off Trayvon….it makes sense! Trayvon was on the phone, he wasn’t playing hide and seek in the bushes, it was drizzling he wanted to get home to watch the game…he’s not sticking around to confront some (I think literally now) “crazy ass cracker” who had an eye on him. PLEASE, someone take a stopwatch out to the scene and match it up with the calls…the prosecution didn’t even MENTION this theory, but instead relied on the killer’s account! Pure ludicrous. It’s as if they figured the jury would just ‘get it’ and didn’t feel the necessity to even mention it! Uffft! I feel so sad inside for Trayvon…what he endured that night, how scared he must have felt. So sad…

    • 16 July 2013 8:52 pm

      Go look at the maps showing where he was first spotted, where the confrontation took place, and where he was supposedly headed. Martin had *plenty* of time to have gotten back to where he was staying and lock the door behind him during the time after Zimmerman lost sight of him while talking to 911 until that call ended unless he intentionally stopped and waited for some reason. Instead, he was waiting for Zimmerman just around the corner in a shared back entrance area between the town homes. Here is a more accepted map of the travel paths: http://www.hlntv.com/interactive/2013/06/17/zimmerman-trayvon-map-interactive The security footage also shows him waiting around outside the store until he got someone to buy a blunt for him (commonly hollowed out to pack with marijuana), only then did Martin head home. There are no reports of him having a blunt on him, and the levels of THC in his system during the autopsy were inconsistent with having recently smoked one – a good explanation as to why Martin had only moved a few feet during that time instead of bolting on home was that he was dumping his contraband so that it would not be on him or at his house when the police showed up (since he’d seen Zimmerman on the phone and correctly presumed the police had been called). But he took too long hiding his contraband and Zimmerman showed up while he was still near enough to it to possibly be found in an area search…

  236. Brenda permalink
    16 July 2013 7:59 pm

    Your article is brilliant and eye-opening and so sincere that I had to read it twice and self-reflect.

  237. 16 July 2013 8:23 pm

    Reblogged this on TheZoo and commented:
    Very moving open letter to white people by a brilliant young man. Please give it a read, because you will learn something.

  238. 16 July 2013 8:43 pm

    I am so, so, so sorry.

  239. Dianna permalink
    16 July 2013 8:51 pm

    Thank you. Listening, and sharing.

  240. 16 July 2013 8:52 pm

    Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat.Com™.

  241. S P permalink
    16 July 2013 9:03 pm

    I read the whole article plus several of the replies/comments, and I do agree with almost everything in this article except the one obvious fact that keeps eluding both the author, the black community, the media, and the large white population sympathetic to Trayvon’s fate: He is the only one to exhibit explicit racism and hostility in his words (creepy ass cracker) and his actions (physically attacking another person without provocation). If there was any evidence that Zimmerman instigated the physical encounter or assaulted Martin in any way, I would whole-heartedly support his conviction. That fact is what makes this case different and could not be overlooked by the jury no matter the social inequities and persistent racism that exists in our society.

  242. Theresa Pugh permalink
    16 July 2013 9:13 pm

    Theresa Pugh This is a poignant letter aand well felt and written. GZ was Hispanic/Caucasian. I do not see myself as “a white person”. To generalize the actions of someone else and lump us into “whites” is irresponsible. I did not follow this case, intently and am saddened by the death of this young man. Not “black” or “white” in my eyes, but a humsn being. I cannot say if my great GrandFather kept slaves. I am sorry that this happened and many freedoms are now being enjoyed. To blame me is ridiculous. As a woman we were also ostracized, could not vote, could not make our own decisions, could not enjoy the freedoms that many men held. My solution? Stop generalizing and lumping human beings into black, white, yellow, et al. Of course, this is just a pipe dream, probably won’t happen. man’s greatest enemy is the lack of compassion for humanity. We “must” fight to be right. Fighting comes in many non violent ways. A simple debate and respect for the other person’s opinions, religion and compassion for their feelings. Your letter woukld have been accepted better if it were addressed to humans instead of “whites

  243. gromrus permalink
    16 July 2013 9:17 pm

    I am sorry for how fatiguing it must be to have to live in a way with a view to how it will be perceived and turned back on you. I pray the love of Jesus to change me to really do unto others as I would have them do unto me. I am who I am with strengths and weaknesses and virtues and sins and talents and deficiencies just as everyone else is. I pray that I would see and take seriously the humanity of all those around me.

  244. 16 July 2013 9:19 pm

    I was wondering if you read and saw the same evidence I did? George Zimmerman never attempted to pass for white, he self identified as Hispanic. Second of all Trayvon was astride Zimmerman and whether he pounded Zimmerman’s head once or multiple times, he did in fact punch him in the nose and did pound his head against the ground enough to cause bleeding. At that point he was more than justified in shooting. And third, this trial has absolutely nothing to do with you. I’m sorry you experience racism. I’m white and I am not racist. No more than you, yourself. This trial was brought, not because of enough evidence to lead anyone to believe George Zimmerman committed a crime, but because people from around the country insisted charges be brought. By projecting YOUR feelings into a court case that had nothing to do you, you are of course disappointed and saddened, not to mention angry. Again, it really had nothing to do with you.

    • Nurse Ebony Eyes permalink
      17 July 2013 6:35 pm

      The bottom line is George Zimmerman followed, approached, and engaged a 17 year old male while being armed and dangerous (and after being instructed not to by the police) because he was walking while black. As a result of an encounter that Zimmerman initiated, and none of us know or will ever know what transpired truly a college bound life was lost. Zimmerman was acting like a hell-bent vigilante. Neighborhood watch is just what the name implies.. You use your eyes to WATCH, and leave approaching individuals to the professionals ie. the police. Engaging in and arguably starting a confrontation that you end up on the tail end of is not self-defense. It’ starting something you are ill-equipped to finish.

      • 12 November 2013 8:37 pm

        Actually, Zimmerman did finish it. Your argument is that a person should only be able to defend himself against a physically smaller and weaker person. I refuse. I am 55 years old. I am not surprised or embarrassed by the fact that I am not a match for a 17 year old street fighter. I am armed at all times. I have been armed since the night that two pieces of crap robbed and killed the Vietnamese market owner down the street. The man survived two invasions and fled Vietnam with the clothes on his back. He traveled thousands of miles and ended up in Mississippi of all places. Only to be killed by some guy who wanted to steal a hundred bucks and come cigarettes. Damned right I am armed.

  245. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez permalink
    16 July 2013 9:22 pm

    Matthew,

    That was beautifully crafted!

    Now, tell me how do we fix racism and prejudice in the minds of whites and other non-black races?

    How do we mobilize to change those idiot laws?

    Thank you for laying it on the line.

    Jackie

  246. Rebecca permalink
    16 July 2013 9:27 pm

    This is beautifully written and so important. I live in NYC (stop-and-frisk capital of the country), and I think about my white privilege every time I walk by a police officer when I’m doing nothing wrong. I know the confidence I have — that my innocence protects me — is pretty much the opposite of what most people of color experience in the same situation. Thank you for expressing your own experience so evocatively.

  247. 16 July 2013 9:31 pm

    Very moving essay. Thank you for writing it. (from a “white guy”).

  248. 16 July 2013 9:33 pm

    Matthew,

    This is incredibly insightful and eloquently presented. Thank you. Thank you very, very much.

  249. Iryna permalink
    16 July 2013 9:34 pm

    This is a beautifully written blog post. You are, without a doubt, gifted in the art of communication. There are a few things I’d like to point out. These are the facts to the best of my knowledge. I kindly ask that you don’t take offense if you believe me to be wrong, but instead share your own view. I’m open to suggestions.
    That being said, I was somewhat bothered when you said that the sight of Martin frightened Zimmerman “so severely that he decided to follow that boy with a firearm at the ready.” This isn’t quite true. Yes, Zimmerman profiled him. But saying that his firearm was ready (implying that he was contemplating killing the man just for looking suspicious – or worse, just for being black) is false. Zimmerman’s account is that Martin threw the first punch and continued beating his head into the concrete. As he was trying to shimmy himself onto the grass, his jacket moved and revealed the gun, at which point Martin threatened to kill him that night. At that point, Zimmerman’s life was, by definition, in imminent danger and he chose to use lethal force as a last resort. The physical evidence supports this version of events. Zimmerman was heavily beaten while only Martin’s knuckles were injured apart from the bullet wound. Granted, there’s no evidence of the conversation exchange, but at that point it’s unnecessary.
    I guess the point I’m trying to make is this. You wrote a beautiful article about what this case means to you and other members of the African American community. I can’t argue with that, nor am I trying to. What I’m pointing out are the details of the case that tend to be washed over with emotional or racial arguments. Even if Zimmerman believed Martin to be dangerous for racial reasons, it’s unfounded to say that race was Zimmerman’s reason for killing him. Zimmerman pulled the trigger while he was choking on his own blood, with his head being pummeled into the concrete. It was a kill or be killed, adrenaline filled situation, not a premeditated hate crime.
    What happened was tragic. The loss of a life, especially a young life is something to be mourned. I am, by no means, trying to say that Martin deserved to be shot (a phrase that seems to be tossed around a lot). I’m just trying to question the credibility of the claims that make it seem that Martin was maliciously shot down for no reason other than being black.

  250. 16 July 2013 9:38 pm

    This is incredibly moving, revelatory, and inspiring. The writing is brilliant, piercingly clear; its honest Seeing strides fearlessly into the confused heart of this cacophonous matter. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  251. Ron permalink
    16 July 2013 9:43 pm

    I’m a German Jew and as such I have experienced somewhat similar yet drastically different situations while growing up with religious and cultural traditions that were different from everyone else, in a country that has a history of, plainly said, not getting along with Jews in the past. I do not claim to know what you must feel like on a daily basis. I am white (or at the very least white-passing) with a name that is, where I come from, considered the equivalent of “white”. Unless I tell everyone I walk past in the street that I’m Jewish they don’t react any different to me than they would react to any other non-Jewish German or, for that matter, white person. Anti-Semitism isn’t nearly as much a problem in Germany as racial inequality is an issue in the United States, actually, but my point stands; I do not receive different treatment because I do not pass as anything other than the norm.

    What I would like to share is some revelation that I drew back in high school, back in the mid to late 1990’s, during a Jewish History class which I took while attending a Jewish boarding school in England, and which I did not connect to African Americans and their struggle for equality until I read your article yesterday.

    The revelation is about Jews in the mid-19th century and how Reform Judaism was much less a way for Jews to be more secularly “in tune” with their largely non-Jewish surrounding but an honest-to-God attempt to blend in and finally be rid of being looked at and treated like an unwanted subculture. The following is a transcript of what my head fills in when thinking back to that Jewish History class.

    “Look, it’s not like we don’t like you Jews. We just don’t like what you represent. We like the way we are and we don’t like the way you are different. We’re not racist, Jews just don’t fit in. You dress different, you talk different, you smell different, you even look different; you are not as educated as we are, or if you are then you’re rubbing it in every chance you get; you don’t have the same outlook on life as we do, you know — we try to raise our kids healthy and safely and all you do, everyone knows this, is spread disease and hate and fear. Everyone knows that you want our money and our status, that you will not stop until you get it. We cannot let our children play outside because of fear of what Jews will do to them if they ever get their dirty hands on them.
    “We don’t want you to just roll over and die, obviously. We’re not inhumane. We just want you to be more like us, you know. Try to blend in, do what we do, be like we are, so we can live next to you without having to bar our windows and lock our doors at night. And we see the effort that you are making. And, seriously, even if you met all of the requirements we impose on you it still won’t be enough. You Jews will always be different, you will always be inferior to us, and it’s our God-given right to stand up against this threat that you pose to everything that we are, everything that we fought for, that we bled for. That’s all we’re doing, really — we protect our own from the threat that you pose, every day, because you just have this unnatural urge to be different, to be Jewish, to be you.”

    Now replace the word Jew with black and see what you get. Sound familiar?

    • Theresa Pugh permalink
      17 July 2013 1:17 am

      Ron, very astute and true. Jews were persecuted by the German and put to death because of their faith ie ethnicity. I believe this Religion has every right, also, as a people have the right to feel these feelings. As I said. People are peop
      le. Acceptance of these very things would make a big difference in how the world could be.

      • Ron permalink
        17 July 2013 4:30 am

        I don’t think an ethnicity or culture or religion or even race “earns” the right to feeling offended. We ALL have the right, regardless of our background.

    • Ari Ogoke permalink
      18 July 2013 4:50 am

      @Ron, Thank you for sharing this! I have seen it before but could not remember enough of when I needed to reference it.

      I hope that reading this snippet will help open folks eye regarding the nature of prejudice but I am not holding my breath.

      Thank you, again, for sharing.

  252. 16 July 2013 9:45 pm

    I am sad for the loss of life. Using the word “sad” in regard to the verdict does not describe my reaction correctly. I am outraged by this verdict. I am offended on so many levels, morally, socially, judicially, ethically. What has happened is the latest “symptom” of a dysfunctional society (with distorted values) and a failing judicial system.

    Aside from the racial profiling, it seems to me that this (verdict) shows that more responsibility in controlling his own actions was (even worse is and might be in the future as a result of this) put on a 17-year-old (unarmed) teenager than a grown (armed) man. One would think that the fact of carrying a weapon puts more responsibility on this person to act more carefully and thoughtfully and that this person should have the ability to not let things get out of hand. It seems to me Mr. Zimmerman “initiated” the conflict by following (for no good reason) Trayvon Martin. He was even told by police to not pursue or make any contact. And then he used a deadly weapon to get out of the provoked altercation. That is an abbreviated version of what has happened and obviously I don’t know the details, I wasn’t there – but just by pure reason – that sounds like manslaughter to me.

    I’m really upset and sick about, not just the racial profiling but the degree of “criminalization” of kids and teens in our society, the suspicion they met with and the burden that is put on them. I raised two (white) boys and they experienced suspicion by others including police by simply walking home (in the dark), being teenagers, behaving as they do. I feel there is a true disconnect in our society, kids and teens are not allowed to act their age and have no (safe) place to be themselves. Instead of being understood (yes, they do dress strangely and might act weird once in a while) and having room to grow they are looked upon as potential threats, more often than not.

    In addition, I am really concerned about the effect this verdict might have on all the gun-slinging self-righteous people out there who think militia is a good thing and needed. I don’t see Zimmerman as the evil villain in this whole scenario either, he is in some way a result of this culture and was definitely not well equipped for the job or situation (it takes more training than carrying a gun). He might even have acted out of fear at a certain point.

    However, the minute he carries a gun he bears a greater responsibility (for his own and the safety of others) and what he did is manslaughter and that has to be acknowledged.

    • Ben permalink
      17 July 2013 12:43 am

      You can’t get over the fact that there was a fair trial with some of the most prestigious attorneys out there.There was not enough evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that zimmerman committed a crime. All jurors pleaded not guilty, including the black juror. Get over yourself. This kind of thinking is what promotes these racial issues. If Treyvon had not been so aggressive and confronted zimmerman with a blow and further aggression, nothing would have happened. Yeah, it’s too bad that the circumstances could have had a hand in promoting this conflict, but in the end, Treyvon’s inability to control himself and act rationally resulted in his own downfall (for lack of a better term…)

    • Meme permalink
      17 July 2013 1:50 am

      You are choosing to ignore the legality of Zimmerman’s actions as a neighborhood watch. We are told to observe and report. The Police did not tell Zimmerman not to follow, the 911 operator which has no legal authority told him that he didnt need to. He was not told, “Not to”. The 911 dispatcher has liability if they tell someone to do something specific. If your friend was in a car on fire and you called they would tell you that you do not need to try and get them out. They would be liable if you got injured. An armed person did not draw the weapon until his life was in danger, end of story.

      • 17 July 2013 2:38 pm

        “The 911 dispatcher has liability if they tell someone to do something specific. If your friend was in a car on fire and you called they would tell you that you do not need to try and get them out.”

        This important point about how to interpret the dispatcher’s statement, along with Martin hanging out at the store after making his purchase until he got someone to buy a blunt (not found on him when he died), that THC was present in his system, how the rest of the purchase along with the liver damage found in the autopsy was consistent with the abuse of cough syrup, and that he was wandering through the rain looking into windows are being repeatedly “ignored away” by those trying to cast Zimmerman as being primarily racially motivated in the absence of any evidence that he was. How are those of us on the other side of the fence – a divide in this case literally being constructed out of thin air by those claiming racism – supposed to take those claiming racism was a major motivator seriously when they are clearly trying desperately to avoid even acknowledging the existence of evidence that does not fit their narrative? How does simply alleging racism on the part of someone those claiming racism did not know make all these other facts irrelevant?

      • Ari Ogoke permalink
        18 July 2013 5:00 am

        WOW!

        Where did you and @Ray Scheel go to school *and* learn to string logic together? The dispatcher was clear — do not follow do not engage.

        @Ray, you labor mightily but repeating the lies about skittles, soda, blunts and the like does not fool any discerning person and will not make them true.

      • 18 July 2013 6:53 pm

        @Ari Ogoke:
        I am well aware of the fact that the part of the video where TM is gesturing towards the tobacco and the clerk turning him down along with the subsequent video showing TM standing outside and leaving only after someone to buys a few blunts does not fit the narrative being pushed iin certain circles. Likewise ignored for not fitting the narrative was the online conversation where he was seeking a source for codeine in an online conversation and is instead instructed on how to abuse over the counter Robitussin DM (and the liver discoloration consistent with said abuse that was noted in his autopsy). Or that while shot he was on his second suspension from school after being caught with presumably stolen property and a long screwdriver useful for burglary (which makes how he was stopping to look through windows while in the rain relevant to how TM would have interpreted being spotted looking like he was casing houses). However, someone’s decision to put on blinders to such inconvenient facts does not not make referencing such evidence a lie on the part of those who point out things others would prefer stay suppressed.

        The footage showing him getting turned down on buying something when gesturing at the tobacco, keeping money out, waiting outside, and someone coming along to buy a couple of blunts with the same amount cash in hand who pulls a wallet out only when adding in some additional purchases, and TM leaving only after turning to go by .

        A good summary of the inconvenient facts that many are trying to suppress to try to keep their race-baiting narrative sounding plausible
        http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/06/what_the_media_choose_not_to_know_about_trayvon.html

        And this steps through where (on Facebook) TM gets instructions on mixing up an alternate to abusing codeine cough syrup that instead uses the side effects of overdosing on Robitussin DM:
        http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2013/07/poor-mans-pcp.html

      • veronica permalink
        20 July 2013 1:34 pm

        Let’s see Justin Bieber is a known weed smoker, so is Michael Phillips, and I hate to speak ill of the dead, but that guy from Glee died of a Heroin OD so does that make THEM thugs. According to your logic I should be allowed to follow them, and if for any reason I kill them it should be ok right? I’m just using YOUR logic hear.

      • 7 August 2013 5:23 pm

        @Veronica:

        Should you be allowed to follow someone who is acting like they may be under the influence so you can direct the police to them? Absolutely.

        Should you also be allowed to defend yourself to the utmost extent you felt necessary if that person hid in the bushes after noticing you were calling them in and waited for you to walk closer precisely so they could confront you without you being able to maintain distance? Absolutely.

        Nowhere in my logic is there shooting them before they became a direct physical threat in a physical confrontation they initiated. That is a red herring of YOUR own invention, and its pretty clear you knew you were twisting things as you wrote your post.

        Bieber is on his way to being a train wreck on his own. Heroin is a no-go in any circumstance, that the Glee star dies is also tragic, but also an example of the ills that come of parents allowing their children to continue to run free even when the signs that there were unable to make appropriate decisions were too big to not notice or explain away. I do consider it a disgrace that the well-off can buy their way out of drug possession charges by going to swanky inpatient rehab facilities.

        I don’t have a problem with legalizing occasional recreational use of MJ by those who can do so without letting it run their lives (much the same as I feel the use of alcohol in moderation is acceptable, but that binge drinking or a 6 pack a day is not). If Michael Philips can use MJ occasionally without having to fence stolen goods to support his habit or losing his ability to function as expected, then I’m ok with that.

        But lets not forget that TM was letting the desire to get high run his life. He was living with his father precisely because he had lost the ability to participate in school because of the decisions he was making, yet no one in his life was really even trying to intervene to straighten him out. I’d have been completely grounded if I’d been suspended from school even once growing up, yet TM was on his third suspension that year and was still allowed to wander unsupervised at will (and did not even lose cell phone privileges).

        Here I am going to go off: why is there so much support from within the black community for blaming whites for what happened to a black at the hands of a Latino when ultimately the parents who had to bury a child did very little to intervene effectively before he wound up dead, even when they had been presented with ample evidence that their child was using drugs and participating in thefts to get funds he did not require for survival needs. When a white engages in a hate crime, the likes of Jackson and Sharpton have no reservations about also blaming the parents of the aggressor, so why is the reverse not true here? How was anyone in the white community supposed to have been able to help TM when even his own *black* parents & relatives were not interested in reigning him in? Being allowed to wander unsupervised at will with a cell phone is not an appropriate parental reaction to a child having been suspended multiple times, especially one known to have been using drugs and engaging in theft. Seriously, explain to me how it is the fault or responsibility of whites in general that the specific black individuals with familial responsibility for TM *all* seemed to have been disinterested in his long-term welfare before it was a potential way to grab 15 minutes of fame after it was too late for TM (even though most of the funds that were sent went to Jackson & Sharpton instead of the family of TM).

      • Theresa Pugh permalink
        8 August 2013 4:21 am

        Ray, your reply was spot on! Awesome!

      • Ari permalink
        8 August 2013 4:04 pm

        @RayS:

        Where to begin… TM was not wondering around as you implied… He was on his way to his father’s home to watch a basketball game. By all accounts, this is not the first time he has visited/spent time at his father’s home. He was not bothering anyone and should not have be stalked and then murdered by GZ.

        When you have a moment, I strongly urge you to pause and reflect on the motivation for your failed attempt at a hatchet job. You may be surprised at what you learn.

      • Mark Bajkowski permalink
        8 August 2013 6:38 am

        @Ray: I am just curious:
        How many unidentifiable adult men (except possibly undercover cops) do you know who follow teens on foot after dark to report they are “under influence” to police? Similarly, how many adult men do you know (except possibly pedophiles) who expect that a teen close to home remains friendly to an unidentified adult following them under dark?

      • 8 August 2013 5:29 pm

        @Mark:
        TM intentionally closed in on GZ twice, once while GZ was still in his truck, and again by hiding in the bushes so GZ was not aware that he was coming on that close. The one witness account also indicated it was TM who then closed the gap and started the actual physical struggle. It was not GZ who was repeatedly trying to get up close and personal (though not “friendly”) in this scenario, so I’m not sure where you are going with this.

        I do wonder whether those responsible for TM ever made him aware that there was a neighborhood watch program, and that he was to remain respectful if he was approached by other adults in the community. I suspect not, considering the general pattern of negligent oversight on the part of TMs guardians and TMs racist description of GZ as recounted by the girl he was talking to by phone when he was first spotted.

        I am aware that TMs actions would not be completely out of place (though still not constructive) in the ‘hood, but that is not the environment he was in. There has been total lack of assignment of responsibility for the fact that TM’s guardians did not make sure he understood that it was inappropriate to jump people he thought might be calling him in him before turning him loose after dark in weather where residents of that community would not be walking around casually.

        How many responsible parents let a teen on his third suspension from school that year (who had been caught with drugs and stolen property) wander loose after dark? And how is that irresponsibility the fault of the “white community” (where “white community” seems to be a race-baiter code word for “self-sufficient & responsible” rather than skin color since GZ was a Latino with significant Native American ancestry)? And why is it that no one supporting TM seems to have a problem with his parents having done little to nothing to try to reign him in when there is no way to argue that they were not aware of how close to the edge he was living?

      • 8 August 2013 6:14 pm

        @Ari:
        The original story was that he was going to the 7-11 during a break in a big basketball game (per Jo 19 July 2013 6:52 am and Jerico 16 July 2013 7:48 pm and numerous other blogs and early news coverage). Given the distance involved and a presumably healthy teen, the whole round trip should have taken 30 minutes, but he was nearly double that time just getting back. Anyone with any knowledge of sports who thought about that would realize that no break in a basketball game lasts the hour just from the time he got to the 7-11 until he got back home, much less how long it took him to wander over there in the first place, and then folks also realized that there wasn’t a game on where a halftime break fit the timeline of visiting 7-11 and the 911 calls.

        So, now the new story is that he was going *before* (presumably the NBA All-star game, though ironically it is only sources supporting GZ who specify which game) instead of during halftime, since that can be made to more or less fit the timeline. How about at least speaking up yourself when those defending TM are making claims you know are wrong? As things are going, it seems those wanting to play the race card have little to no interest in getting the facts straight or eliminating confusion, which is making you harder and harder to take seriously when it looks like the reason for maintaining the confusion and emotional appeals was to divert attention from TMs history, his lack of parental oversight, and that he was the one who initiated the physical confrontation…

      • Ari permalink
        9 August 2013 12:27 am

        @Ray, I clearly recall your earlier attempts to portray TM as someone someone who was trying to score skittles and the like in order to manufacture illegal drugs from them. I and many readers saw through your fabrications and basically refused to dignify them with responses.You clearly have an agenda and will stoop as low as you can to achieve them.

        You seek to distort/rewrite history. The facts show that GZ stalked TM in spite of clear instructions from the police dispatcher to stand down and let LEOs handle the situation. TM even took a detour where GZ’s truck could not go in order to avoid GZ. TM was scared enough to call his girlfriend and tell her he was being stalked. GZ would not let up. We all know how that ended.

        TM is not the first youth to stumble while growing up. He won’t be the last. Even your “hero” GZ had run-ins with the police. According to you, what does that say about his upbringing? In any case, the fact that TM was struggling is no justification for what happened in the hands of a man who was intent on playing cop.

        You and GZ may think you have “won”. Perhaps you have. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Good luck.

  253. Luke permalink
    16 July 2013 9:47 pm

    Zimmerman isn’t a white man so this “white privilege” doesn’t work for him. You just want him to be a white man but you can’t deny his brown skin, eyes and black hair

  254. Glenn from Oakland permalink
    16 July 2013 9:47 pm

    “colour” ?

  255. 16 July 2013 9:55 pm

    I see you as you are Matthew a young man with dreams, aspirations and rights. I believe you have the right to speak about it. So please, keep talking and maybe the dialog in this endemically racist country will start to change. As a white man raising a black son, I fear for his future, which will be different from my white son’s. they are 6 years apart in age, and worlds apart in opportunities, due to this American apartheid.

    Please Speak on, and louder. I support you fully and call you brother.

  256. ke4roh permalink
    16 July 2013 10:08 pm

    I’m white and from Alabama. I’ve made it my business to understand the Civil Rights Era and more generally what it means to be black in America today. Allow me to recommend some further reading: Nathan McCall’s “Makes Me Wanna Holler.”

    I also vividly remember, about 1994, going to a university student government association meeting to discuss a comic strip in the school paper that had (rightly) raised some ire among the (few) black students at the school. I spoke twice, first to say that freedom of speech must be respected and if the author wanted to offend people, that was his prerogative. After listening to a detailed explanation of the ongoing discrimination people faced, I spoke again to suggest the editor should have elected to not publish the strip.

    And then there was the time that an interracial high-school couple thought they would go to a school dance (in Alabama, around the same time). No, someone torched the gymnasium rather than have it so sullied. I wrote a letter to the editor published in the city newspaper explaining that it had set Alabama back 25 years, and in the next day or so I got a call from the KKK! Nuts!

    Yes, racism is alive and well, and it’s just as reprehensible now as it was then. And I’ll do what I can to put an end to it.

  257. Kelly permalink
    16 July 2013 10:11 pm

    I’ve been looking for this.

    I appreciate you taking the time to explain your perspective kindly, and I credit you for the fact that my understanding has expanded. That said, I’m realizing that to my deep frustration, because I am a white woman, my understanding of this issue is inherently limited. I am frustrated because I want to understand, but I acknowledge that the opacity of racism for me is, in a way, a privilege.

    Another realization: while I would never say that racism is over, I realize now that I am not the best judge of our progress toward equality.

    I’m going to stop talking now. Except to say that I sincerely wish it were all different than how it is.

  258. 16 July 2013 10:15 pm

    “African-American Vernacular English” i.e. Ebonics is the bi-product of centuries of trying to communicate within a society without being taught the language. It is much like being asked or rather required to play a game in which neither the opposing team nor the officials feel it necessary for you to be taught the rules, but yet you will still be penalized for breaking them. Also, anyone caught teaching you the rules will, too, we be penalized. Thus you must learn as you go.

    It is essential to know how to speak proper English in the United States in order to succeed. Because someone speaks in “AAVE” does not necessarily suggests less that that want to stay “black”, and more to the fact that they have not been taught the proper rules. That may not be the case for all, but definitely the case for A LOT. One must know something is wrong and WHY it is wrong before you can make the necessary correction. One must be coached. If parents don’t know and/or teachers are apathetic then a child cannot be expected to just figure it out.

    We have not put in nearly the time and/or effort of getting out of the enslaved mentality that was beaten into us. What we cannot be, yet, or really ever, is impatient with our youth. 400 years worth of language barrier cannot be reconciled in 150. And language is one of many fights that we must continue fighting.

    • Alicia permalink
      16 July 2013 11:58 pm

      I agree, it seems to me that a lot of people are not using AAVE as some political choice but just because they don’t know any different… whatever you think as a linguist, if you use a specialized vernacular, you can’t talk to anybody outside your own group. I don’t see how it’s productive to romanticize that when it’s holding people back. Obviously what is accepted as ‘normal’ speech is very political too but I just talk to people who only use Black English and I wonder how they’re going to get jobs or provide for themselves if they can only really talk to other people in their community. Forget about fitting in with middle class whites, how are they going to talk to any ethnic group other than their own? We need some kind of common language. I’m sure lots of people will say that’s racist but I’m concerned with quality of life and getting people out of poverty and giving them choices in life, not having a romantic view of authenticity while people remain oppressed.

    • Meme permalink
      17 July 2013 1:54 am

      Are you kidding? Ebonics is taught in the home and in the community not in schools. If you take 1950 as a starting point ebonics has risen not gotten better. Public schooling, libraries, the internet all have grown. There is no reason other than cultural that ebonics is spreading. Including whites.

    • Warren L. permalink
      17 July 2013 5:00 am

      Im curious Mr. Watts if when you say that “language is one of the many fights that we must continue fighting,” are you suggesting that AAVE needs to move towards “whiteness” or are you suggesting that the fight is instead to give AAVE an equal footing with what some refer to as “White-American English.” So to clarify, is the fight to transform AAVE into something more akin with standard American English, or is the fight to gain acceptance for AAVE in America?

      • Ari Ogoke permalink
        18 July 2013 5:10 am

        @Warren, Perhaps you missed it but Mr Watts already answered your question …

        “It is essential to know how to speak proper English in the United States in order to succeed. Because someone speaks in “AAVE” does not necessarily suggests less that that want to stay “black”, and more to the fact that they have not been taught the proper rules. That may not be the case for all, but definitely the case for A LOT. One must know something is wrong and WHY it is wrong before you can make the necessary correction…”

  259. perlhaqr permalink
    16 July 2013 10:30 pm

    The tantalising prospect that a white-passing man with a white name would be found guilty of murdering an unarmed teenaged boy for no other reason than his race and his hoodie[.]

    And the face punching, choking, and cranial blunt-force trauma against the pavement. But, y’know, setting that aside, it’s “race” and “a hoodie” all the way.

    You do your cause more harm than good by ignoring that.

  260. justbeinme permalink
    16 July 2013 10:40 pm

    I would also like to see racism come to an end once and for all. Please know that this problem goes both ways. I have experienced first hand racism towards towards me and I’m caucasian. If everyone would just treat others as they would like to be treated, this wourld would turn in a whole different dirrection – for the better.

  261. 16 July 2013 10:57 pm

    The first step in solving any problem is admitting there is one. We live in a racist country. In some areas it is subtle and others rampant. It is ubiquitous. I am familiar with the aforementioned traits you so eloquently, and sadly spoke of in your writing. I have no idea where they came from, but would be lying if I told myself they didn’t occur. I don’t consider myself racist and yet they happen, in me. Yes, I do have many multicultural friends. From my perspective, I don’t want you to be a cookie cutter version of me, I want you to be you and your culture, with mine. Because of my race I have opportunities that I take completely for granted and for the most part never occurs to me someone else doesn’t get the same chances I do. I am so involved in my own microcosm it’s easy not to notice what is going on around me. I can’t say anything about the Martin shooting other than it was a tragedy, the facts have not been handled well, and a great injustice may well have occurred. If we’re getting closer to answers to mankind living together in harmony than how come we’re not? We continue to ask the same questions that go unanswered. I still think Rodney King said it best when L.A. was burning, “why can’t we all just get along”. Poverty and drugs are a couple of reasons, the rest I just don’t know.

  262. Anne Dox permalink
    16 July 2013 11:13 pm

    Thank you for taking the time and energy to write and share this letter. It captures my own understanding and relates it eloquently. Of all the commentary I have read thus far, this is the most important piece to me.

  263. Ben permalink
    16 July 2013 11:14 pm

    I think one of the keys to unlocking racial equality is to stop THINKING about your (ours and everyone’s) supposed frustrations with racism. If you think there is racism then there will be racism. I know for certain, as you have claimed yourself, that blacks think other races think negatively of them and consequently contain prejudiced outlooks. If this were not the case then I think that there would have never been any kind of uprising with the whole murder/self-defense case. It’s been said that Zimmerman does not have a past filled with hate or resentment for blacks. The truth is that blacks represent an astoundingly disproportionate level of incarcerations found in the USA. And the truth is that the neighborhood that Zimmerman was patrolling was often visited by ugly crime. Whites might look at blacks with suspecting eyes because in this country (USA), blacks seem to be the ones giving many people trouble. But don’t take this as a generalization. If a white man that looks unhygienic or does awkward things is around you, then anyone would get suspicious, too. This trial was put on national television because the minorities felt like they were being oppressed due to the supposed “unjust” investigation for this murder. It’s not actually there to the extent that is was popularized in this event, but the minorities that took to the streets made it so. And it is because of this that such an aftermath occurred. I’m not trying to be an ass, but perhaps it’s the “oppressed” peoples’ faults for provoking this….oppression. Stop thinking that racism is there, and it won’t be there. Racism was in the air in the 60s, but now it’s under the carpet. Let it die out, and stop letting some of it escape.

  264. alex permalink
    16 July 2013 11:14 pm

    Have you ever thought that the majority of whites could care less about race. For us racism is long over. However im sick and tired off blacks whining and the naacp interfering. If I did those things I would be drummed out of my neighborhood, and job. Im so sick of having to be worried about being labeled a racist. When are blacks going to acknowledge that it goes both ways. Grow up white in a black neighborhood and you could write the same open letter in reverse.

    • 17 July 2013 9:36 am

      Racism may be longer over you but we live with it every day. If you want us to stop ‘whining,’ I suggest you try to help us end racism for everyone.

  265. Ashley permalink
    16 July 2013 11:19 pm

    Matthew,

    First and foremost, your argument was extremely eloquent and well-thought out. It was an absolute pleasure to read your thoughts. I don’t typically respond to these types of posts, but I do want to share with you my own experiences as a “white, privileged woman.” I grew up in a suburb where the majority of people were white and could be considered to be mid-high socioeconomic status. When I went off to college, my eyes were open to the world of diversity. I had very little knowledge of “black” culture vs. “white” culture, mainly because I had not been exposed to much diversity. In college, I made tons of friends: black, white, Asian, Indian, gay, straight, trans. I loved the different cultures and thought processes and languages. I loved everything that made anyone unique. Then I went out west to graduate school, and I finally got my taste of racism. The majority of the campus that I went to was white (and by this I mean that probably 90% or more of the students at that campus were white). I immediately became close friends with a black PhD exchange student from Ghana. One day when we were at lunch, another student came up to our table and looked at my friend and said “What the %#$* is wrong with your skin?” I was enraged that someone could say something so hurtful to another human being. After that I became much more aware of the stares and hurtful words that my friend would receive. But then, I started noticing the racism towards me. My friend would invite me over to hang out with the few black students on campus, and they would glare at me. They would ask me why I was even there. And they would tell me that I wasn’t welcome. While I do agree with much of what you have to say, I did want to simply point out that sometimes racism goes both ways. It’s sad. It shouldn’t be a factor, and yet, here we are. I was saddened for the “black” community and humanity when I heard the verdict on this case. I hope that one day both sides can move past the hurt, and the glares, and the words, and simply be people.

  266. Morgan permalink
    16 July 2013 11:21 pm

    Thank you for your words Matthew. Very, very well-written. I don’t know what it is like to grow up as a minority in the U.S., but I do know the feeling of being stereotyped, and it is an ugly feeling. I don’t disagree with you that racism is still alive and well, albeit in a slightly different form than the days of MLK and Rosa Parks. The movie “Crash” is an excellent portrayal of some of the issues that still exist today.

    That being said, you cannot hope to use the Zimmerman case as vindication for your protest against endemic racism. It is absurd, given the evidence, to have hoped to convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder. Everyone who followed the case knows that there was nowhere near enough evidence. That doesn’t mean he was innocent–it just means no one can prove he was guilty. Thus, all of the protests and outrage over the case are a classic example of people with chips on their shoulders waiting for a scapegoat, a banner to rally behind, and an excuse to cry foul. It is no different than a racist white man being secretly grateful that the person who stole his car was black so that he has an excuse to perpetuate his hatred.

    Perhaps the problem is not so much racism as it is people judging and jumping to conclusions. That includes everyone–Martin and Zimmerman. So long as people are selfish, prideful, and hateful, they will always find excuses to incorrectly judge others, whether by their race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or even appearance. We can try as much as possible, but we cannot get away from it.

  267. 16 July 2013 11:30 pm

    Very spot on. I would only point out that precisely the same experience can be had if you are white but are a homeless person, one of the young street people in an urban area, simply looking poor and male. Much of what is experienced by African Americans as racism is actually more classism. I am not in any way saying that racism doesn’t exist or isn’t a problem. I certainly, as the author requested, acknowledge that this is his (and million of others) experience. But I would point out that much of the push back from white America in denying that they are racist comes from the fact that they aren’t essentialy racist but classist (not that they understand this fact any better). They are not scared of a black man wearing a suit, they are not afraid of a black man who looks like he just came out of a nice Ivy League school. who dresses expensively and drives a nice car. They are scared of ANYONE who doesn’t fit their own community’s dominant pardigm. A young white man who has tattoes and pierced body parts would experience exactly the same harrasing behavior. A young white man looking like Neo in the Matrix would have the same experience. The rule here is that the unfamiliar is frightening for mist folks. As I said, while true racism certainly exists on a much wider scale than we like to admit, the racial minority victims of this type of harrassment often feel it is because of their race rather than because of their perceived challenge to what is seen as safe, middle class, and familiar. The fact that we have a huge unsolved social problem of chronic poverty in this country that crosses all racial lines creates an automatic tension. Poor people make middle and upper middle class folks uncomfortable. We are scared of them. But our huge community of alternative citizens, LGBT, Goth, Punk, whatever will all have stories of the same kind of experiences. It sucks and it shouldn;t be that way but I think we should try to be clear on the exact causes of these fears if we are to try to get past them.

  268. 16 July 2013 11:33 pm

    Reblogged this on ASpoonfulofSuga and commented:
    This was an amazingly well written Open Letter I hope you read it and share it !

  269. Maggie permalink
    16 July 2013 11:39 pm

    There is something very strange about the way the media covered this event. People get murdered every day, many of them little children. Are they less important ? Or was the media hoping to start an all our riot so they wold have something to cover? Or does someone hope to trigger enough emotion to put martial law in place?

  270. 16 July 2013 11:43 pm

    The Zimmerman racist narrative is worn a bit thin when you consider that he has dated black girls, or at least one, he mentored minority kids, he tried to organize the black community in Sanford against the police for the beating of a black man, he’s an Obama supporter, and is part black himself.

    If ever there was a guy who doesn’t fit the racist profile it’s this guy. So add that with the lack of evidence, why do you personally want to railroad him and make a simple self defense case into a racial issue?

  271. Scott permalink
    16 July 2013 11:45 pm

    This is quite the racist black person.

  272. Alicia permalink
    16 July 2013 11:49 pm

    I’m a white American. I acknowledge that racism definitely exists and has impacted communities through generations. So what is the most productive thing for me to do about it?

    • 18 July 2013 2:49 am

      Maybe you don’t have to “do” anything in particular. I mean, you’d do them anyway–be kind to people, be thoughtful, try hard not to judge without evidence–all those things.

      I’ve been thinking about your question a long time. I, too, want to figure out what I can “do” to end racism and racist thinking and racist actions and policies.

      It might take this. It might take us living among each other, go to the same schools freely, worship in the same churches, shop at the same stores, eat at the same restaurants. Maybe we have to take action to buy houses in minority areas and live in those house, or rent apartments in minority areas, so we can understand our fellow Americans because we live with them, interact with them, listen to them, see them. Maybe we have to do more than depend upon Affirmative Action to hire more minorities–maybe we have to take personal action at our jobs to do whatever ever we can personally to seek to employ minorities. Maybe we have to consciously consume more literature and entertainment that is written by, produced by, and even marketed to minorities, not just for our own enrichment, but to learn what our American family is talking about and listening to and influenced by.

      I think we can do things like sign petitions and join rallies and write letters and post on Facebook. That’s one way to slowly move public opinion. Maybe we urge the businesses we patronize to have more understanding and awareness of minorities. Maybe we boycott businesses that ignore minority interests. Maybe we do everything we can to avoid doing business with states that have these abominable laws which so cruelly dehumanize minorities.

      I think those are all good things. But I think real change isn’t going to come until we are living _with_ each other, seeing each other, and supporting one another.

      I dunno. That all sounds quite hard, but as far as I can tell, it’s the most effective way to learn to love each other.

  273. dmorency permalink
    17 July 2013 12:06 am

    I was shocked and angry at the verdict as anyone else with some level of intelligence and insight to the race issues involved in this case. I am ashamed of the white dominate culture and those who say racism is over. Thank you for the letter and your thoughts on the entire issue…I as a white female will never truly appreciate the racism suffered by my friends however I stand next to them and I stand proud and will continue to confront those people who are racist and will call the bullshit when I see it. My heart goes out to the family of the young man who died to soon….Zimmerman will have to watch his back for the rest of his life because we have long memories….

    • 17 July 2013 9:30 am

      I very deeply hope that no one, black, white, or of any race or ethnicity, will seek to harm George Zimmerman over this verdict. Violence begets only violence. We can never achieve progress when we are obsessed by revenge.

  274. 17 July 2013 12:06 am

    your words are not a soliloquy.

  275. Johnny permalink
    17 July 2013 12:14 am

    The reason there was a neighborhood watch was because of all of the burglaries in the neighborhood. Burglaries by black teenage boys. Zimmerman wasn’t profiling Martin because he was black, he was profiling him because he resembled the people breaking into neighborhood homes, including homes where moms were home with their children. It was a neighborhood scared of the night.

    Martin wasn’t killed because he was a black man wearing a hoodie. He was followed because he tragically fit the description of bad guys who had victimized that neighborhood, and he was killed because he was a thug who attacked an armed man, broke his nose, and continued beating him to the point where the armed man feared for his life.

    Those two facts get in the way of your narrative.

    I’m sorry you’re regularly treated with suspicion. That shouldn’t be. Slavery was such a horrific crime against humanity that the wound and its scar will be with us for hundreds of years. I’m sorry that affects you personally. You’ve joined folks like Attorney General Holder and Reverend Al Sharpton in warping the facts of this case to suit your narrative of grievance.

    By the way, I hope Spooner fries.

  276. 17 July 2013 12:20 am

    I appreciate your writings to the deepest part of me and am so sorry for the lost of Trayvon Martin. As confessed by a previous poster (Linda Gannnon) I also am ashamed at what you have been through simply because of the colour of your skin. As an Italian American I don’t know this treatment but that doesn’t mean I condone it. I don’t and never will and proud to say it. Brigitte Grisanti

  277. 17 July 2013 12:38 am

    I just finished listening to your blog and I feel I can’t move on without saying my peace. I wish I could speak for all people who aren’t black. I wish I could represent them with the way I live my life, but I know the only person I can speak for is myself. As you spoke for yourself, I will try to say what I need to say with the respect owed to you and your community as a whole. Some of it may sound presumptuous, but I hope you’ll read it in its entirety and consider it all and not just those parts that might rankle.

    The first thing I’ve written that might quirk an eye is the phrase, “listened to your blog.” You wrote it. This is part of what I have to say. You see, I am one of those people that apparently makes you nuts. I claim to understand what bigotry is, and I have experienced it firsthand. I was raised being told the story of the civil rights movement, and before I was in middle school I knew what Brown V. the Board of Education was. My dad’s a history teacher after all; I have to do him justice. I knew the stories of Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and Marten Luther King. They were taught to me like super heroes who fought for justice of the oppressed.

    Of course I was taught the fight was over. I wonder sometimes if people of color understand why so many white people do this. They’re ashamed of the truth. They want the fight to be over. They want equality to be real. They want to see the things you experience as the mistakes of an earlier generation. But I know what it is to be suspected by parents who assumed I’m a pedophile because I’m a lesbian. It doesn’t take a genius to understand black people deal with the same thing. You might say it’s different; you can’t cover your blackness and hid it. If you saw me you’d laugh at that statement. I get called sir more than ma’am and I don’t take offense because it is an honest mistake.

    To start from the beginning I have to go back to when I was a little girl. I always say I can’t tell the story of coming out without telling the story of growing up with a learning disability, and vice versa. Maybe you’ll understand when I get to the end. I was diagnosed when I was near the end of the first grade. I coul