A Moderate Black Woman Stands Her Ground

In and other uncomfortable topics, Education, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant... on July 17, 2013 at 6:13 pm

First, allow me to apologize. I apologize to all of the people who are either angered or attracted by the title of this post. I may not say what you think I am about to say. I further apologize for my use of humor. I do not mean to make a joke of the entire situation, but I use humor as a defense mechanism. Needless to say, I feel like I am on the defensive right now.

If each person on this planet had a baseball card, the back of mine would likely contain the following stats.

  • 5’9.5″ tall, 175 pounds
  • Hometown: Decatur, Georgia
  • Socioeconomic status of birth: Working class
  • Age: 32
  • Race: Black
  • High School: Columbia High School; Decatur, Georgia
  • College/University: Agnes Scott College; Decatur, Georgia
  • Graduate school: Georgia State University (Master’s Degree in Education, 2006; Juris Doctor Degree, 2013); Atlanta, Georgia
  • Religion: Christian
  • Politics: Bleedingest of Bleeding Heart Liberal
  • Gender identity: Female
  • Sexuality: Heterosexual
  • Current occupation: Studying for the Georgia Bar
  • Friend group: Diverse

I think that many people who know me would identify me as moderate to liberal on most issues. In the aftermath of the murder of Trayvon Martin and the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, I have had to dig for the most compassionate, balanced, moderate stance that I could muster. But, that still leaves me angry, sad, and worried. Yes. The most moderate stance still means I am angry.

This is not about George Zimmerman. Something in my heart tells me that Mr. Zimmerman has had (and will continue to have) an unenviable life. This is not about him. This is not about the verdict in this case. The moment that this situation was submitted to the American legal system a verdict of not guilty became a part of the “what if” spectrum.

This, like a great deal of the things swirling in my head, is about me.

I am angry. I’m angry because all lives do not have the same value. The American legal system tells me that. The American education system tells me that. The American political system tells me that. The American employment system tells me that. I do not have empirical proof of that. I do not have scientific studies to back me up. I have the lowliest of all evidence: narrative proof. As a Black Woman (double whammy), I know and I have heard and I have told numerous stories.

I am angry because I looked at the crime scene photos. That’s right. I steeled my heart and looked at Trayvon Martin, sprawled out lifeless in the grass. Tall, lanky, handsome, clean cut and with his pristine Jordans on. Looking so eerily untouched; looking as if he could have blinked his eyes and stood up with the uttering of a simple “Lazarus, come forth.” But, he wasn’t untouched. He didn’t blink his eyes. He didn’t stand up. And, no one uttered “Lazarus, come forth.”

That’s not fair.

That’s not fair for Trayvon’s family. It’s not fair for the thousands of other families with young, brown sons and grandsons and nephews. Yes, brown. Not just African-American. But, there is a rub. This is not about racists with white hoods or pitch forks or slurs dripping from their mouths. They are easy to denounce. They are obvious. This is about an insidious, subtle little thing.

The thing that makes me go inside of my house quickly and lock the door and stay away from the windows whenever I see a sleek Mercedes driving my street at night.

The thing that makes me shake my head whenever I see a Black woman get into a car with a White man at the check cashing place at the corner of Austin and Glenwood.

The thing that makes me lock my car doors any time I, alone in my car, pull up to a red light next to a truck with a gun rack and a confederate flag displayed.

The thing that necessitates me walking into Neiman Marcus with my head held high, my eyebrow raised, and my back impossibly straight.

The thing that made Trayvon Martin, Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, Matthew Shepard, and Kathryn Johnston (despite the tragically different inhumanity of their deaths and the frighteningly arrayed motivations and identities of their killers) easier targets for violence.

Stereotypes. We all hold them and use them. And, we rarely challenge our own pet stereotypes and the prejudices that underlie them.

I have no right to assume that a Black woman getting into a car with a White man at the check cashing place is a prostitute and that he is up to no good. I have no right to assume that the Mercedes is driven by a coked-up, gun happy drug dealer. I have no right to assume that the people in that truck will drag me out of my little Honda and lynch me. The associates in Neiman Marcus have no right to assume that I will steal any of the (surprisingly tacky) clothes they have on display.

And, here is where I stand my ground. I will not retreat. I will not go to the wall. Regardless of what you say, I believe what I am about to say is right with every fiber of my being.

Every time I, personally, am afraid when I see a Black man approach me and I don’t challenge my own fear and examine it and debunk it: I am making it a little more possible for another family to lose their tall, lanky, handsome, clean cut son. Every time I, personally, think that a woman with a short skirt and a good body looks like a slut: I am making it a little more possible for someone to think that she “deserves” to be raped. Every time I, personally, snort and shake my head when a (frankly, very brave) young Black woman admits she has difficulty reading cursive: I am making it a little more possible for the American education system to justify the abandonment of more young Black people.

I already know the reaction I will get. Those deaths are not related! A self-defense murder and a brutal rape and murder and a homophobic attack on a young man and a mistakenly tragic execution of a no knock warrant? Absolutely unrelated, one might think. But, those needless deaths are all grounded in stereotypes that were petted and fed and nurtured and allowed to grow and then those fully-grown, flesh-thirsty, vicious stereotypes were used in different ways.

This is not about George Zimmerman. This is about me.

  1. […] written before about being Black. Today, I realized (after reading an excellent post on Black Girl Dangerous by Mia McKenzie) that I […]

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