Last night, I was sitting in my backyard with friends, finishing up a dinner of New Zealand meat pies, which I'd spent hours making as a treat for my husband and our friends, who are also New Zealanders. It was a beautiful evening, the sort of evening that makes me love living here. One of our friends heard his phone's news alert, and checked, and told us the verdict. We all stared glumly at our empty plates for awhile, and then Petunia came out of the tent Mr. Snarky had set up for them to play in (his plan to keep them out of my way in the kitchen). She was pretending to be a robot, and was so cute that we all laughed. And then our evening went on as if nothing had happened.
That is white privilege. I can be saddened and even sickened by the verdict, but I can, in the end, go on with my life as if nothing has changed, because for me, nothing has.
I do not for a minute think I have anything to say about the Trayvon Martin case that hasn't been said better and more eloquently by others. But I feel I must acknowledge my privilege.
Here are some of the things others have said that you should read:
Jelani Cobb at The New Yorker.
"The familiarity dulled the sharp edges of the tragedy. The decision the six jurors reached on Saturday evening will inspire anger, frustration, and despair, but little surprise, and this is the most deeply saddening aspect of the entire affair. From the outset— throughout the forty-four days it took for there to be an arrest, and then in the sixteen months it took to for the case to come to trial—there was a nagging suspicion that it would culminate in disappointment. Call this historical profiling."
Cord Jefferson at Gawker:
"If you’re a black man and you don’t remain vigilant of and obsequious to white people’s panic in your presence...then you must be prepared to be arrested, be beaten, be shot through the heart and lung and die on the way home to watch a basketball game with your family. And after you are dead, other blacks should be prepared for people to say you are a vicious thug who deserved it."
Greg Younge at The Guardian:
"Zimmerman's not guilty verdict will be contested for years to come. But he passed judgement on Trayvon that night summarily.
"Fucking punks," Zimmerman told the police dispatcher that night. "These assholes. They always get away."
So true it's painful. And so predictable it hurts."
There is also this post spelling out the hypothetical case with the races reversed.
And this tweet:
Man. RT @shadcraft21: No degree I can earn, no accolade I can win is gonna change the worldwide perception of people who look like me.
— Serpentine Fire (@CJStarchild) July 14, 2013
This is wrong. And white America needs to fix it. Much like we cannot expect women alone to fix the problem of our absence from positions of power, we cannot expect African-Americans to fix the problem of how white people view and treat them. The people with the power have to own the problem and address it. It is uncomfortable and difficult and we have the privilege of being able to ignore the problem most of the time if we want to. But we need to fight the discomfort and fear and work to fix the problem. Ultimately, we're the only ones who can change this.