I've been thinking a lot, and trying to work up the energy to write more about the Zimmerman verdict. It's all so overwhelming and saddening and fucking tragic that I don't really know where to start.
Digging through my blog feeds, I came upon this powerful piece by one of my heroes, Melissa McEwan. It was written about a month ago. I'm a bit behind on blogosphering.
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton will never get their son back, but George Zimmerman will get back the gun he used to kill him. That is what justice [sic] looks like for the death of an unarmed teenage black boy in the United States.
She addresses how horrific the judgement is for society in general, and how it's less an anomaly than it is an emblem of people's (conscious or un) white supremacist perspectives. She talked about the responses people had across the nation to the verdict (white folks setting off fireworks? Really? Ow my heart), and about the behaviors that turned up on social media. I'm not on Twitter and have been somewhat avoiding this topic in general because of being too heartsick to handle it, but while these behaviors in this specific context are news to me, they're not particularly surprising.
This is how white supremacy works. Any response to intolerable provocation will immediately be framed using racist narratives that mask white provocation, dominion, and privilege—and oppressors and provocateurs who deal out death for rebellion are heroes.
In the wake of the verdict, white people identifying as allies took to Twitter to ask for "dialogue" about the verdict, demanding that black people mourning set aside their pain to hand out cookies to white people who aren't "like that." (Pro-tip: If you ask for special recognition for not being "like that," you are like that. If the shoe doesn't fit, then don't wear it, and STFU.) I hope we all appreciate the metric fuckton of irony in seeking "dialogue" as a silencing mechanism, because a white person can't sit with the discomfort of having to face the realities and cost of the white supremacy from which we benefit.
In the wake of the verdict, white people were fucking mean. Even white people who were ostensibly on the side of justice. White people were fucking assholes. (And if you weren't, good for you, but if you make this thread about how not an asshole you are, guess what? You are an asshole!) And there will be no accountability for that, either, unless we start holding each other to account.
She's so right on so many levels, and this tendency (which is not a unique 'white person' response, but shows up across various axes of intersectionality) to, when being informed about some injustice, immediately demand that the person on the receiving end of that injustice recognize and praise you for not being a bad person.... is really shitty. It's making it all about you, and it's adding yet another layer of social burden on the person who already has the short damn end of the social contract.
White people: Be mad about this verdict, because it is a grave injustice. But be just as aware about how your privilege and a white supremacist system ensures that this verdict is not an anomaly, but an emblem. There is no neutral for the privileged class in oppression. Either you're engaged dismantling white privilege, or you're enabling it. Apathy is a luxury conferred by privilege, and it is not a neutral position. If you're mad about this verdict, then get all the fuck in.That.
There is no neutral for the privileged class in oppression. You can't be neutral on a moving train.
Thank you, Liss, for saying these powerful and so necessary words.