On Trayvon, Racism, Grief & Action [Reflection/Blog]

On Trayvon, Racism, Grief & Action [Reflection/Blog]

Share this:

As of this writing, it has been more than two weeks since the verdict in the trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin and I am still sad and shocked.  The entire way the case was handled, from the 40 plus days it took to arrest the accuser, to the way the case unfolded in court, was disheartening to me.  A 17 year old African American boy was murdered because he looked suspicious and while many feel the defendant had a right to defend himself against the boy, no one seemed to think the Trayvon had a right to defend himself against the defendant.

Regardless of where we all stand on this issue, I am sad because it really hit me just how far we have to go in this county when it comes to race relations and racism.  For example, I have seen it time and again, when there is a white murderer who kills many (in movie theaters, schools, etc), he is labeled by the media as “quiet,” “a good guy,” with some sort of “mental health issue.”  However, when Trayvon was killed, it was him, who was labeled, particularly in online comments, as – a “thug,” “suspended from school,” “not an angel.”  The level of hate language surrounding this murder has been absolutely absurd to me.  I remember people initially talked about his style of dress (a hoodie), as if dressing a certain way automatically means something bad will happen to you, almost as if you deserve it.  That’s abuse culture, where the victim is to blame for their own victimization, and it’s ridiculous.  How badly one person treats another is never the fault of the victim.  NEVER.  And the fact that many think it is okay to kill an unarmed teenager (or anyone for that matter) is troublesome.

So I’m sad.  I’m sad because it has hit me so strongly how people see African Americans as “other” and unworthy.  I’m sad because it has been this way since my ancestors were forced onto this land, and it didn’t matter how they dressed or what they did, their very skin color was problematic for others, and I don’t see much difference today.  I have even seen people comment that Black people kill Black people all the time or Black people say the N-word, or Black people dress has hoodlums (hoodies on, pants sagging), etc.  They say these things as if that excuses the poor treatment of African Americans by White people and other groups, by laws and judicial systems and other institutions.  The fact of the matter is African Americans have some work to do internally as a community, which is no different then how other races/cultures have work to do within their own communities.  Having said that, the work we have to do internally does not excuse in any way poor treatment by others.  It never has and never will.  Each of us has a God-given right to be on this planet and to be respected and treated as an equal, no matter who we are or how badly the problems are within our “own” communities.  Having discriminatory and racist laws and practices only divide us as a whole.  Acting on stereotypes and prejudices divide us as well.  It’s time for things to change.

First step: recognize how you feel.

For me, I think I’m vacillating between stages of grief.*  For so long I have been in denial and even bargaining as it pertains to racism.  I mean, I had friends of different races/ethnicities when I was younger.  Then college came and I met white people from different parts of the country who I could tell were not used to seeing my complexion and it became painfully obvious how it would no longer be easy to make friends as I once did.  I even remember being called a “nigger” during my college years by a white guy who didn’t look much older than me.  I think I was in denial about racism because I made friends of other races, so that must mean racism is a thing of the past, right?  I’ll answer that for you.  No.

I now feel angry and sad.  I’ve already described the sadness.  The anger is from knowing that racism is alive and keeps rearing its ugly head in different societal arenas and mindsets.  The anger is because there are still people who want power over others.  The anger is because I want to help change this awful dynamic but am unsure how.  I do believe acceptance will come when I know I have done all that I can do to help change the things I can.

Second step: brainstorm ways to get involved.

Do we have conversations about racism intra- and inter-racially?  Do we work to change certain laws?  Do we move out of the country?  I’ve read some comments of racist people suggesting that – nice try!  I’ve been brainstorming and have begun researching organizations to get involved in.  Sigh!  I can’t even believe in 2013 there is still a fight for equality and an end to racism.   Just had to pause for a moment to reflect.

Third step:  Plan a course of action?  Get involved?

I’m going to take it one step at a time.   I’d like to be very thoughtful about what I do and how I serve.  I’ve got work to do.  We’ve all got work to do.

In what ways will you aid in ending racism?

On August 3rd at 11am at the Thurgood Marshall Judiciary Building in D.C., we will rally to highlight laws and practices that disproportionately affect minorities.  I’m learning the steps as I go but I think I’m off to a good start.  Join us if you can!


*See www.grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/ for explanation on stages of grief by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler