This is a rally in New York in solidarity with the family of Trayvon Martin. The Million Hoodie March.
Trayvon Martin was a young black man who was killed unjustly in Florida. If you haven’t read any articles, I will point you at the New York Times. It has the view of the story I like the most. ThinkProgess.org keeps an updated chart of information. Go ahead, read them and then get right back. Then I read an article at the Good Men Project as it was talking about how Black men enjoy flying on Southwest Airlines because no one wants to sit next to them on a flight, giving them more leg room. However, this particular perk came with other questions. Do you experience other times when such isolation and covert racism can be a problem? I read the comments for the article (and while I know better than to read comments, I couldn’t help myself). And those comments irked me, a whole lot. I try not to let covert racism reach me in my heart. So I wrote:
Is this really news to anyone? Oh wait, it is if you are not a Black man. I have experienced this phenomenon my entire life. Whenever I ride any form of mass transit, the seat next to me will remain open unless the person is more infirm or potentially more threatening than I appear to be. On airplanes, unless seating is assigned, the seat next to me remains open. I have even tested the idea of walking down the street and not deviating from my flight plan. People walk around me and anyone I am walking with, even if I walk against the flow of traffic. This subtle act of fear, built around racism regarding Black Men, has turn me from being 5 feet 9 inches of a highly educated, well spoken, unassuming, non-threatening, well-dressed Black Man into the Most Dangerous Man Alive. It would amuse me if it wasn’t such a sad statement about our society. This trick works no matter where I lived in the country. This is such an isolating condition. Imagine what the workplace is like when this “untouchable” state is active. Corporate work is hell when you are an “untouchable.” (And before someone rants and tells me about the castes of untouchables in other cultures, I know they exist and that is why I mentioned it.)
Someone at the publication decided to move my comment to its own section and everyone wanted to give me their opinions on my experience. Their comments varied from mild to condescending. I was prepared to ignore them until I did more research into the death of Trayvon Martin. At this time, more news had become available and I was emotionally distraught. I have an eight year old son who look suspiciously like Trayvon did as a young child. I lost my composure and wrote what I was feeling. At first I had not planned to press send. I was writing to release it to the ether and planned on pressing delete. I realized that was just as much of the problem as anything else. I did not feel empowered to speak my mind. To hell with that!
“Being” While Black
Now in light of our recent tragedy of Trayvon Martin, anyone willing to look at me, yes, I am the guy that wrote the selected comment and tell me that “Being or Walking While Black” is not an obstacle in our current supposedly “post-racial” society is simply not paying attention.
If you were not aware, Trayvon Martin was a young Black man in Florida who was shot because “he looked suspicious.” If you were a White person who told me that I should yield to people coming down the street, or a Black person who told me I should work to be happier so that I mind the racism less, neither of those answers will address the reality that as I move down any street in at least fifteen states in the US who have similar “Stand Your Ground” laws, I could be accused of being aggressive, belligerent, or hell just being there is all it takes for me to find myself shot and my shooter walking away, as long as he said, he was “engaged in an act of self defense.”
Let’s add to that, the tendency of law enforcement to grab young Black men off the street, crime or not and harass them at will. I have dealt with that all of my life. “Driving while Black, Walking while Black” now I can add to it “Being while Black” as a reason to deprive me of my social rights, respect, or even my life without any consequences to any White person who can mouth the right legal words to escape. Does this make me angry? Hell, yes. And if it were happening to you or your sons, you would be livid. But it’s not so for most of you, you don’t give a damn.
Now all of you who would put words in my mouth about how I should do things in this society remember this: NONE of you have to walk in my shoes. You do not have to fear every time you walk out your door, it may be the last time, through no fault of your own but through the racial stigma associated with being a Black Man. I do not have to do anything. I simply have to exist for someone to decide that I might be a threat and that threat needs to be neutralized. Know that when the system has gathered the last Black Man from the streets, and put them in the prisons or the morgue, they will come for you next. This is not just about my Blackness. This is about power and control. This society needs a demon, a boogeyman for people to fear while they are being manipulated, led about and exploited as the natural resource they are. The next time you consider the phrase “human resources” it should give you a chill.
Turn your back on me and my travails, it is after all the American way. Black men are the most unemployed members of our society, even when their skills and training are comparable or superior, most imprisoned, no matter the type of crime, we are over-represented within the penal system, most under-educated, we are plucked out of the school system, called unteachable by the fourth grade and fast-tracked into the penal system. I challenge all of you snarky folk with something to say about “perceived racism” or my reaction to it, to work on the “actual racism” visibly inherent in society.
Otherwise when you see me coming down the street, get the hell out of my way. I am fighting the system because I have no choice. It is trying to kill me and everyone like me. I don’t have time for you and your petty fears, my life is on the line.
And more importantly, so is my son’s.
I’m glad you wrote this. I was always told as a child “my life is at stake”. That statement has never been more true than today. As a mother of a teenage son, I teach him this same message. The plan is to kill them (our seed) before they grow. Be blessed and stay vigilant.
A very powerful read. I think many people can relate (on some level) to what you wrote and to how you feel, including myself. It is a disgrace that people judge others for who they are now and who they have been prior–and some judge so much that horrible actions take place. Our world, unfortunately is not safe, nor is it often kind for many people of all colors, pasts, heritages, and beliefs. However, I truly believe that we need to stand firm to the core of who we are and act in ways that are still loving and kind or we can continue these trends. Even in attempting to achieve justice and to transform the “systems” in place, we can do so in a manner that is respectful. We never want to stoop ourselves because of these people who disrespect and harm others. (I can only write this because I am in the process of this for the past 3.5 years.)