Making Peace with the P-Word Part II: Race, Privilege, and Trayvon Martin

Originally, I had intended this post to discuss the issue of Racial Privilege by going in a different direction. It was going to be more disconnected, more philosophical, and more intellectual.

But now that changed.

It all changed the night George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin.

It changed not just because a black kid was stalked and killed because he was buying a pack of skittles, not just because his killer got off under claims of self defense and “Stand your ground”, even though he initiated the conflict, but also because the the internet has responded with the voice of racism apologists.

Let’s get to the core of the matter. George Zimmerman followed and initiated the conflict with Trayvon because Trayvon fit a stereotyped profile in Zimmerman’s mind. And this was not the first time Zimmerman has done something like this. He has a pattern of similar aggression towards women. But in this incident, Zimmerman was not looking for a sexual encounter, rather he was looking to find himself a hoodlum, and saw Trayvon. He was young, black, and wore a hoodie, and that was enough for Zimmerman to feel he could target the young man. This was an issue of racism. If Trayvon did not fit this stereotype in George’s mind, he would have been left alone and would be alive today. But because he was was a young black man, he could not walk to the store at night and come home alive.

Privilege exists when one group has automatic access to a right or resource that another group either has to work harder to access, or has no access at all.

And lets look at the law that protected Zimmerman: Stand Your Ground. After George started the conflict, Trayvon fought back, and George shot him.  At first, Zimmerman was not even charged with a crime until pressure was put on the local law enforcement. This law is very open to subjective interpretation. In its application, people have been more likely to use it successfully depending on the race of their victim. If you kill a black man, you have a 73% chance of being allowed to apply it, kill a white man, and its down to 59%. If you are white and your killer claims stand your ground, you are more likely to have your killer go to jail than if you were black. In Trayvon’s case it was even worse. Trayvon was defending himself against George when he was shot. George started the fight. Yet it was George’s right to self defense that was upheld, not Trayvon’s.

Zimmerman bro

Privilege exists when one group has automatic access to a right or resource that another group either has to work harder to access, or has no access at all.

Would Tayvon liked to have had the right to walk to the store without getting targeted by Zimmerman? Of course. Would his family liked to have the right to see their son’s killer go to jail for the killing? of course. But that was made more difficult for no other reason than the fact Trayvon was black.

Privilege exists when one group has automatic access to a right or resource that another group either has to work harder to access, or has no access at all.

But the proof of the privilege lies not only in the basic requirements met above, but by the lengths people are going to protect their privilege. Remember this picture?
This is not Trayvon Martin. This was a blatant lie passed around to justify the killing by justifying the stereotype Zimmerman. The argument they are making was that Trayvon wasn’t some innocent kid. They are making this argument by posting pictures that try to prove his fits the Stereotype that George had. But think about that for a second. Trayvon still was not breaking the law that night. He was legally buying skittles. Even if he was some notorious gang hitman, that night in question, he still wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was just walking back from a store to buy skittles and George thought he didn’t belong there. George had never met him before, never researched his background or history, he just saw Trayvon and declared him guilty. The people posting these fake picks want you to be complicit with George, don’t want you to see that George targeted a kid because George didn’t think he belonged in his neighborhood. They want you to agree with George that the kid didn’t belong in George’s peaceful neighborhood. They are willing to lie to do that.

Here is it put more succinctly

This is where we start to get into the dark side of privilege. As I mentioned in the last post, claiming privilege is not about getting you to give up rights. It is about people asking that they just be allowed the same rights. The problem is, those who enjoy privilege will fight to keep this inequality. To them, their privilege is a right. To them, they have a right to their inequality. So when the privilege is challenged, they begin to lash out and pretend that they are the victims. They claim they are having their rights taken away, but in truth, they are trying to preserve the inequality they enjoy.

Since Zimmerman’s acquittal, many have been trying to point out the racial elements of this case. Many more have been trying to blatantly deny the racism present. But again, let me remind you, Zimmerman target Trayvon because of the stereotype he fit in Zimmerman’s mind. Zimmerman was initially not charged because of a law that has been found to protect people who shoot black people more than it protects people who shoot white people. When the jurors considered the case, some sympathized with George’s desire to stop “those people” without even stopping to question if there was something wrong with labeling Trayvon one of “those people.” This is the definition  of Prejudice. But people are trying to claim otherwise, because if they can make it not about race, then they won’t have their privilege challenged.

This transforms into claims of reverse racism. Claims that white cases are not getting the same attention. They want you to think that Trayvon is getting special attention because he is black, and that George is getting crucified because his victim happened to be black, and not white. They justify these claims by pointing out cases like this. Of course the ideas that this case is not being covered is a lie. This and the other cases being pointed at are well covered, that’s how people know they are there for a comparison. But beyond that, these are false comparisons. Robbery cases, terror cases, etc, are all being brought up as bring ignored. They are saying that the only reason Trayvon’s case was covered was because he was black. but lets get this straight. Trayvon was killed not because Zimmerman wanted Trayvon’s bike, not because he wanted Trayvon’s wallet, but because Trayvon fit a stereotype in Zimmerman’s head. Any murder, any death is heinous, but Trayvon’s killing was a death to enforce privilege. But Zimmerman is not being vilified because his victim happened to be black, rather he is being vilified because he chose his victim because he was black. That is the important part. That is the part people are trying so hard to deny and distract you from.  Yes killing anyone is wrong, but specifically targeting a stereotype puts a whole population in your crosshairs. And when the law protects this, a whole population is put in danger and the law condones this.  Think of the implications, Zimmerman target a boy who bought a pack of skittles. That boy is dead, and the law protected his killer. What does that reinforce?

zimmerman2Can you see why this is so fundamentally scary? Can you see why it only enforces a dangerous privilege that puts so many innocent people at risk?

If you can’t that’s because you know one day you won’t be shot for wearing a hoodie. You have that privilege. But many young men don’t. You know that if you are walking down the street, people won’t automatically believe you are a threat or a criminal just because of the way you dress on a cold night. But as you deny the racism involved, as you fail to examine why you want to be able to just look at a person and declare guilt or threat, you create a world were one group has to work harder to just buy a bag of skittles and not get shot, and have the killer acquitted.

Privilege exists when one group has automatic access to a right or resource that another group either has to work harder to access, or has no access at all.

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One thought on “Making Peace with the P-Word Part II: Race, Privilege, and Trayvon Martin

  1. I’m going to bookmark your site and also preserve looking for brand spanking new information

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