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It's not paranoia if they ARE out to get you
March 27, 2012 4:46 AM   Subscribe

"While the following narratives are personal -— thus exposing my vulnerability -— I believe sharing them is necessary in order to help break the silence around racial abuse."
The Trayvon Martin murder (previously) has led to an outpouring of personal stories detailing the environment of fear and special rules people of color must live by to survive in America.

If you want to discuss updates or specifics of the Trayvon Martin case, please use the previous thread. I created this thread for discussing the broader topic of the fear people of color in America face on a daily basis that is described in the personal anecdotes linked above.
posted by j03 (18 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Heya, I appreciate you having given this another go but the more inside on this is prescriptive in a way that's basically at odds with normal mefi posting protocol; if you want to give this a shot tomorrow without the "how to use this thread" directive stuff that'd be more okay; as is, not so much. Feel free to hit us up at the contact form if you want clarification. -- cortex



 
See also icouldbetrayvon.com for individual stories.
posted by Zarkonnen at 5:29 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


B-B-B-But we have a black president. That means racism is over, amirite?
posted by Renoroc at 5:42 AM on March 27, 2012


The first black president has made it harder to talk about race in America
posted by BobbyVan at 5:49 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


That means racism is over, amirite?

There are always two types of "fooists" in a fooist society. There are those who are being fooist because society expects one to be fooist. Then there are the people who actually downgrade people because they're foo.

When you get a sea change that removes some of the society's default fooism, the first class becomes less fooist, because society now expects that. The second type? Becomes *more* fooist, because society is now looking somewhat askance at them, and of course, who do they blame for that? The foos, of course.

The funny thing is this. There will always be fooists of the 2nd type. Parts of the human psyche are irrational. They key to eliminating fooism is to find out how to make fooists of the first type stop being fooists. When society as a whole declares that fooism is wrong, when everybody except the core of 2nd type fooists believes that, that's when you've beaten it -- and the few 2nd type fooists remaining are just cranks.

Basically, the fooists you need to really worry about are the ones who think "That doesn't seem right....but, well, ok if everyone says so." Get those people over their fooism, and you can win.

I will admit that it is easy to be a 1st class fooist.
posted by eriko at 5:56 AM on March 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I hope that Trayvon Martin's death is the thing that finally brings racist abuse into "official" "public" speech.

Before the Catholic Church abuse scandal broke, everyone I knew was aware that many priests abused children and were protected by the church. It was a common source of gallows humor. It wasn't in doubt. But somehow it wasn't in "official" speech. Oh, you could say it in public all you wanted, and plenty of people would believe you on some level, but it wasn't something that you could say in public and have it be...I don't know...performative speech, where anything would actually happen in response.

All of this that people of color say about not trusting the police, about being abused and assaulted....I've been hearing and reading that stuff literally since I was old enough to pick my own reading material. And yet somehow it's still not "official"...every time something like this happens and becomes news (and it happens without becoming news very often), the whole "the police abuse people of color, and white people in general are active or passive participants" thing bursts upon the scene like a new discovery. I don't think it's purely that white people are all so individually committed to racism that they literally don't believe what's being said; I think that white socialization is such that people can hear and believe and yet not be moved to the slightest action, just as with the priest abuse thing. I do also think that there can be a tipping point where the [white people] moral consensus shifts - I only believe this because I feel like I've seen it happen a couple of other times, not because of any inborn faith in white people.

I wish there was some kind of "how to feel" training - although the internet has been very helpful to me in that regard - because I think that what goes on in white people's heads is a blunting of feeling. I know that I myself have...hm, not felt viscerally all kinds of serious racist things and it seems to me like a blunting of feeling. That is, I can push past it and feel actual feelings. (Not "know what it is like"; obviously I don't "know what it is like", but to feel for someone, to feel emotions about their suffering). I suppose that if you're in a position of privilege, you have to be socialized to blunt your feelings, or else you couldn't be committed enough to maintaining your position.
posted by Frowner at 6:23 AM on March 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


The first black president has made it harder to talk about race in America

On the one hand, I see what she's saying. On the other hand, it's not like we were having an abundance of useful conversations about race before Obama became president. There was no dearth of people who claimed that racism wasn't really a problem anymore, or who believed that talking about racism was just a way to whine, or who thought that if you just "didn't see" race, that racism would disappear.
posted by rtha at 6:24 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Related: One man's journey through the looking glass. Black Like Me, 50 Years Later from Smithsonian Magazine.
posted by hippybear at 6:26 AM on March 27, 2012


. . . amirite?

Can we please stop doing this?
posted by ryanshepard at 6:32 AM on March 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I wish there was some kind of "how to feel" training

It's called talking to people in real life. I would say excessive exposure to the Internet is the opposite of helpful, especially when it's taken seriously as a tool of enlightenment. It's an insulated environment.
posted by michaelh at 6:32 AM on March 27, 2012


(Oh, I should add that "official" "public" speech - actionable speech - is always "what [majority] white people believe to be true". Which is a function of white supremacy.)
posted by Frowner at 6:34 AM on March 27, 2012


I would say excessive exposure to the Internet is the opposite of helpful, especially when it's taken seriously as a tool of enlightenment. It's an insulated environment.

See, the funny thing is that the internet has been really helpful for me as a white person, not least because it disabused me of some of the really stupid notions that I had grown up with. ("Reverse racism", anyone?) Also because it did provide a sheer volume of material and allowed me access to some [blog/tumblr/etc] conversations among POC activists that it would have been grossly inappropriate for me to sit in on in real life.

As far as "feeling" is concerned...I wish I had a lot of faith in 'real life' to teach feeling, but I've definitely seen some cold and cruel racist behavior among real life people, and lots of refusal to listen - even white people refusing to listen to their friends of color about stuff that hurts them. I think, based on my own experience at least, that many white folks have to do some more focused and intentional reflection and learning. Which is pretty sad.
posted by Frowner at 6:40 AM on March 27, 2012


I would say excessive exposure to the Internet is the opposite of helpful, especially when it's taken seriously as a tool of enlightenment.

Like Frowner I also disagree. I am now subscribed to Bad_Cop_No_Donut over on Reddit, and I make an effort to browse and watch every few days at least. It isn't purely about victimized black people but that is a big part of it. It is also about the brutal idiocy of the war on f=drugs, the new war on videotaping police abuses, and in general the abuses police are perpetrating on citizens in (mostly) America every day.

It boils my blood and makes me frustrated, and there's nothing I can really do about it. But I feel like I have to bear witness, if nothing else. I am an older white male and an expat to boot, I get all the breaks pretty much wherever I go. But I need to be angry and aware, even if nothing else. I am ready to vote the fuckers out when my vote counts, and I am ready to man the barricades with my brothers and sisters should it come to that. For now, I maintain full awareness through the Internet.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:10 AM on March 27, 2012


Posted by Frowner: "I suppose that if you're in a position of privilege, you have to be socialized to blunt your feelings, or else you couldn't be committed enough to maintaining your position".

At times like this, I reread: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack By Peggy McIntosh . Twenty plus years later - it is still relevant.

The feeling you can explore is outrage. Outrage against racism. Outrage that crimes like this continue.

Outrage can create amazing activists.
posted by what's her name at 7:12 AM on March 27, 2012


Why is it always about race? The neighborhood vigilante who killed Trayvon is obviously mentally disturbed. He has been taking the watch a little too seriously for some time. The local police have him calling several times per week in the months prior to this murder. Always the eager beaver and armed to the teeth. Zimmerman should have been evaluated and had his gun license revoked. However we are talking about Florida, where guns are as much a culture as a right. Yes perhaps the trigger for Zimmerman was the fact that Trayvon was black, but it could have easily been anyone "acting suspiciously" that day. Zimmerman's psychosis was on track for something bad to happen.
posted by Gungho at 7:20 AM on March 27, 2012


But I need to be angry and aware, even if nothing else. I am ready to vote the fuckers out when my vote counts, and I am ready to man the barricades with my brothers and sisters should it come to that.

We have different goals, I guess. It's difficult to be constantly angry when you're actually spending time with black people because they aren't constantly angry! They're real, complex people which is apparently inconvenient for you politically. The Internet is just about the only way to get that source of unrealistic, abstract rage and it has nothing to do with everyday local justice, fairness or neighborliness you can actually affect.

I go on about police brutality and we've had some big white-cop-kills-unarmed-black incidents here that led to some of the solidarity you normally see online, but come on. People are people, not ideas to be used.
posted by michaelh at 7:21 AM on March 27, 2012


Gungho, I think we’re talking about race because it’s still unclear, but increasingly probable that George Zimmerman uttered a racial slur as he got out of the car to confront Trayvon Martin.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:24 AM on March 27, 2012


Supposing that mentally disturbed people can't be racist--which I am very far from allowing--there should have been an investigation, with warrants and everything, into Trayvon's death and Zimmerman's guilt thereof. There wasn't. The local police thought it would be too hard to get it past the Stand Your Ground law that didn't really seem to apply by my reading.

Those police smell racist to me.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:24 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope something good - like a good discussion of this topic and hopefully some movement forward - comes of the Trayvon Martin tragedy. Reading these stories - and hearing people that I know talk about what they have gone through - makes me feel so helpless, though. I can only control my own thinking and reactions, and maybe I can speak up in some situations. But it's such a big issue and the type of behavior that's being described is so widespread, that I feel very powerless to do anything about it.

Also, if it wasn't for a formative experience when I was in college*, I think it would be hard for me as a white female to even get close to "getting" the way people of color have to live. It's hard to put yourself in someone else's shoes, even if you really do want to try to understand. Talking about it and reading about it can only get you so far, unfortunately.

*Atlanta. I was going to a party with some friends from the international student association, when we were stopped at a sobriety checkpoint. While the driver was being checked, one of the cops asked me to step out of the car, so I did. He goes "Are you OK?" I answered that I was fine, why wouldn't I be? Whereupon he glanced at the car and raised his eyebrows, and I realized that he asked because it was me - blondie mcblondie girl - in a car with four African/Caribbean guys. I was absolutely stunned at what he was insinuating, and it really opened my eyes. My friends and I ended up having several long discussions about this issue, and I've never been able to forget some of the stories they told me...
posted by gemmy at 7:25 AM on March 27, 2012


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