In Peril

Courtesty of News National Post.com

Courtesty of News National Post.com

What in the hell went wrong?

How did this happen? Why did this happen? How did an admitted killer walk out of the courtroom a free man?

I am not going to attempt to dissect the trial, the minds of the prosecution or the jurors. There are others far smarter than I who can take on this exercise, I am sure they will.

On March 31 of last year, I wrote this Trayvon and Me, his murder came on the heels of the anniversary of my assault and I was compelled to compare the two events. Last year, one of my offenders was Released as an Inmate after serving his entire twenty year sentence, the other two were released to parole after serving twenty years of their thirty-five year sentences. Yesterday I received from Texas Victim Services notification the second of the two has been violated and will be returned to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence. This means both will now be back in prison after less than 6 months of freedom.

I found myself sitting on the stairs reading that letter my mind returning to a justice system that does not seem to serve justice equally. While my fury ran red hot at their release to parole, I cannot help how I feel as a victim, I find I see beyond my victim status in light of current events and weep for lives wasted. Young lives wasted by society’s inattention, by poverty, by misery, by bigotry, institutionalized racism; by a Drug War focused on those who could not fight back one that irrevocably broke families and communities. Lives devastated by thirty years of economic destruction of the hope, opportunity and finally of the middle class.

I wrote about their original release to parole here and here.

I haven’t always had a compassionate heart; yesterday I found my heart had less fury and more empathy more compassion.

With all this being said, the more vital topic remains how will the killing of Trayvon Martin and the “Not Guilty” verdict of George Zimmerman change the national conversation?

  • Should we be talking about Stand Your Ground? Eric Holder said it best in his recent Keynote speech to the NAACP when he noted SYG fixed a problem that did not exist and talked about the conversation he felt compelled to have with his own 15-year-old son.

  • Should we be talking about guns, conceal carry and how NRA and ALEC have pushed an agenda, one that is dangerous to all of us but most especially to Black and Brown young men.
  • Should we be talking about Racism and Bigotry in this nation? I believe we must have these discussions. We must stop hiding our head in the sand, stop saying, “I cannot be a bigot I have a Black / Brown / White friend”. The truth, racism is making a strong comeback and as a nation, we are showing our true colors. We might not like it, in fact might hate talking about it but the results of the 2012 AP Poll cannot be ignored. I have not included the comparisons from 2008, in all cases the increase averages 3%.2
Image youlikes

Explicit Anti-Black

Implicit Anti-Black

2012

2012

All Americans 51%

56%

Republicans 79%

64%

Democrats 32%

55%

What does this mean? First, it means despite opinions to the contrary it is not getting better in the land of the free and the home of the brave. It means, despite having elected our first Black President, bias and bigotry runs deep in America and those who held power for over two hundred years, are truly not prepared to share it, not prepared to see it slip through their hands. It also means, despite all of our good intentions, many of us still cross to the other side of the road without intending too, we still unintentionally profile and thus we perpetuate stereotyping and allow racism to continue as both an emotional response to our fellow citizens and an institution.

I responded to a question the other day on Facebook: “Why does the media refer to President Obama as Black when in fact he is bi-racial”.

Ann Dunham and a young Barack Obama

Ann Dunham and a young Barack Obama

My response, it is history and tradition, the history of our nation going back to Emancipation, Reconstruction, The One Drop Rule and Racial Integrity Laws. The person I responded too and many others did not like my response, in fact, they ripped into me calling me names (many of them true) and attempting to debate my premise. They could not; it always helps to know history. This unfriendly discussion though led me to understand how poisonous some are in their anger, to deny a history that is less than 50 years past. I was stunned by the virulence of some of the responses and finally left the discussion in dismay.

What in the hell do we do?

I don’t have an answer; I don’t think any of us do. I know this; young men in communities across this nation are dying every single day. Most of them are Black or Brown, their mothers weep beside their graves. It is unnatural to bury a child. With the expansion of the Castle Doctrine, many feel a target has been placed directly on their sons, directly on their husbands, directly on their fathers, directly on any male that isn’t White or at least can pass. I am not sure I don’t disagree with this assessment of what SYG really means, I am not sure I don’t disagree that it isn’t simply a license to commit murder.

ALECNRA

I also know this; we must begin to talk about what ails this nation. We must pull our heads out of the sand and out of our own proverbial asses, if we don’t we fail. We fail our children we fail ourselves and we fail the future. We must change the laws that encourage vigilante justice and while SCOTUS has told the police they may not profile based on Race, any citizen may do so with impunity and then shoot to kill because the streets are now his castle and he has no duty to retreat. We must change what ails us. We must remove the targets from the bodies of our young Black and Brown children, from our husbands, our fathers and all others in our lives.

We must begin to heal this nation.

I leave you with this beautiful song, that I dedicate to all the young men who leave the house each day with the potential someone will find them threatening and do them grave harm.

2012: http://surveys.ap.org/data/GfK/AP_Racial_Attitudes_Topline_09182012.pdf2

2008: http://surveys.ap.org/data/KnowledgeNetworks/AP_Election_Wave6_Topline_W6%20ALL%20weight5_091808.pdf2

Additional Reading:

The Defense of George Zimmerman https://lizboltzranfeld.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/the-defense-of-george-zimmerman/

Comments

  1. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Valentine, top quality stuff here. TOP quality. And you write it very well.

  2. “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.” Quote by Confucius
    ~~~~

    I cannot personally change the way the world has become. But I can change the way I perceive the world. I can change my attitude toward it, I can change the way I act in it I can change the way I think, I can change the way I behave.
    I am personally responsible for MY actions.

    Quote by ME lol Love and Light… Brill posting Sue xxx

    • Love the quotes, thanks. Yes, it is on us individually to change, it is our actions and reactions which drive how the world perceives us and ultimately how we perceive the world. How strange. I continue to hope though for parents, like my father. Parents who step away from their own upbringing to make positive change for their children. Parents who refuse to pass on the legacy of hate, bigotry and prejudice to the next generation. In the end, this is what it will take.

      Thank you Sue. Hope you wonderful garden is blooming with foods and fairy granddaughters.

      • Bless you Val, yes we have all been guilty of passing on prejudices, as we as cultures pass on our beliefs down to our children etc etc… Stepping outside the BOX opens your eyes to see the world in a different light… and when one understands there is no right or wrong religion, For Religion is man made..
        Its what we do with our beliefs that count…
        At the heart of all of our differences is taught LOVE. not Hate, if we could all but try to love each other and treat each other as we ourselves would wish to be treated and live from our Hearts not our heads, then the world would heal very quickly..
        But we let ego rule and material control us via its greed..
        We have a long way to go… But I live in hope that if we teach our Children and grandchildren the Laws of the Universe not the laws made by man, then maybe our world one day will find peace..

        I have my granddaughter all day tomorrow again… hence making the most of my spare time today.. Lots of freezing done yesterday and made soup.. trying to get a post together of sorts… My blog looking more like a Market Garden lol these days but its keeping me out of mischief lol
        Hugs xx

  3. Val: Beautiful post, and much more magnificent because you have all the reason to be unforgiving and judgmental given what you’ve gone through. I expected the verdict but I was still stunned when it happened. I am hoping that this will force a retooling of the “stand your ground” laws, our obsession with guns, and a purposeful discussion about racism in our country that has been fermented by 265 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow Laws, and 40 plus years of our leaders burying their heads in the sand regarding the damage of 265 + 100 + 40+ years of soul-crushing poverty and being made to feel like aliens. Keep “passionately” speaking the truth, my friend. We all need to hear it: both the forgiveness and the ability to weep for the loss of life of an innocent.

    • I remain unforgiving of those who did me harm, only because to the best of my knowledge they are without remorse for their actions. This however does not change my compassion. The two are not the same, they were then and remain victims as much as I.

      As we all must agree, there is no going back and changing the crushing weight of the past. We can not undo what was done. Not with reparation, not with Civil Rights Acts, not with Affirmative Action; not with any legislative action. We can only heal human dignity through our acts as human beings, with empathy, compassion, great love for our fellow man and the willingness to listen to historical context address what is wrong today and stand up for what is right.

      I hope I never lose my passion for what is right. I hope i never lose my voice.

  4. I always enjoy reading you Val. You are so positive and so passionate. I hope you never quit.

    • I suspect Tom, I am unable to quit. For any of us with a voice and passion if we quit we accept defeat. That is unimaginable.

      As always I am grateful you read.

  5. Unfortunately, both racism and poverty are alive and well. Unfortunately, I I have no clue were society can start … well, aside of some form of reconciliation approach. … Great song! 🙂

    • I think Frank we start with ourselves. I don’t believe any of us are free from some form of internalized bias, it is fed to us through what we see every single day. Media reinforces attitudes even when we don’t realize we are absorbing these ideas, we are and then we have inner dialogs with ourselves.

      I love that song also.

  6. I’m so confused over the verdict.

  7. –Val,
    your passion is radiating from this computer. I feel it, babe.

    Healing? OMGosh, we need SO MUCH Healing that it’s overwhelming, isn’t it?

    Lets just begin with “RESPECT.” When we do this…everything else will follow.

    Xxxx LOVE

    • Respect is a great place to start. I think though it is also self examination, each time we catch ourselves with those inner dialogs.

      Love Back XXX

  8. Val, Once again a great, thorough post about a very frustrating subject matter. Here’s another take on it that is definitely worth watching:

  9. I’m not old enough to have heard these words when they were first spoken, but I was very young when I did here them, and they are words that have stuck with me, and have inspired and informed my own life. Being a white man, I’ve not experienced racism. I agree with your remarks in a comment above, there’s no reverse racism, just racism. But, I’m gay, and, I know a little bit about discrimination and hate. I also believe that unless one is Other, be it race, orientation, gender — unless one has been on the receiving end of hate, one does not understand racism. I cannot claim to know what racism feels like, but, I have a reasonable understanding of what it means. For many white people, they’ve never experienced any of that kind of hate, never known what it was like to be Other. So, I think that’s why many don’t see racism as a problem.

    But. back to the words … I heard them when I was young, maybe 8 or 10. I can remember seeing it — old newsreel footage, a black man addressing a crowd, talking about a dream. And these words struck me, and stuck with me:

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

    I don’t think I even knew what racism was at that point, but, I did know that some of the kids at school treated the black kids poorly, meanly. So, I didn’t understand racism then, but, I understood the sentiment of the words of MLK.

    I look around, I see all the disgusting attempts to rile up racism, especially in the past few years, since we elected a black man to the highest office… I look around and think of MLK’s dream.

    I like to think that his dream is still alive. But, with recent events, from Trayvon, to voter disenfranchisement, I begin to wonder….

    I like to believe we’ll get there … I hope we’ll get there.

    • John you make an excellent point about ‘other’. You are exactly right, unless we are a think we cannot understand their experience but if we are ‘other’ we can understand our own experience and it certainly informs us, perhaps gives us empathy.

      MLK made a profound statement that day. We, as a nation have made some steps forward but since the election of Barack Obama we have also seen our national fear of ‘other’ rise and with it bigotry come to the forefront.

      I just added a link to another really wonderful blog about personal responsibility for racism within our own hearts. I hope if you get a minute you will read it.

  10. I am too tired to say much coherently, but I read this and loved it. I am so tired of people believing that their individual experience–or the lack of hate they believe they feel–is the universal experience and thus avoiding discussion. Wishful thinking doth not reality make. I feel like the sooner folks understand and embrace that, the better we will be to each other. But as long as we hide behind statements like “But I have a black friend!” we will be forever stuck.

  11. Just because SCOTUS told the police not to racially profile, it meant absolutely nothing because for any given arrest a policeman can always say “No, your honor, I did not racially profile that man”.

    • I know this is true, but at least it was a single small step in the right direction to say ‘you must not do this.’ Whether it had any real postitive impact, well that is an entirely different discussion.

  12. I wonder whether racism will ever diminish, let alone go away.

    As Singapore prepares for its National Day in August, the local TV station (government owned and funded) is planning to run a series on our recent history. It is somewhat clumsy and definitely not subtle. All the good guys who battled the Chinese Communists in the 1950s and 60s are portrayed as a particular race – you know Singapore and no prices for guessing which race. The contributions by the minority races are ignored – the majority of the police on the ground and casualties back then were Malay and Indian.

    I’ve married across racial lines. Our daughter is engaged to marry an African – we praise and thank the Good Lord for making us so.

    Peace and blessings,
    Eric

    • I remember well my time in Singapore and the difficulty we sometime had there. As much as we both loved it there, for me especially it was a challenge. Like you I do wonder if we can entirely eradicate prejudice, but I can only set my personal goal towards that end.

  13. I was brought up by parents who looked on all colours as a variant of common parents who we all shared in the beginning. It was not just a philosophical position in our house but in practical terms our home welcomed all and we children felt very comfortable mixing with people no matter who or what they were. Probably that’s why I found it easy to work with and under people of different races in my 30 years working overseas. But I have to say that while I have friends on my list who I count as cherished brothers and sisters who are not white I have experienced reverse racism in my adult journey. I’ve been roughed up by a group in Washington DC for example which was not provoked and understood from the comments it was racially motivated, and experienced rejection in Asia. However I didn’t ever think those rejections represented everybody’s thinking in that racial group and it didn’t stop me seeking ways to break down that prejudice which obviously must have had some background to it. The bottom line is there is a little bit of racism evident in all colours and cultures so I agree with you. Let’s seek to break down those prejudices from either side by getting to know each other and seeking understanding of our various backgrounds and positions. My experience in that isolated incident in Washington DC has not tempted me to negatively stereotype the race of people who those foolish teenagers belonged to at that time. I felt sorry they were like that rather than cherishing anger.

    • I tend to see Racism as a more institutional thing, prejudice / bigotry as more individualized. I don’t believe in ‘reverse racism’, there is only racism.

      Each of us has some, each of us carries some in our hearts whether we act on it or not, whether it is implicit or explicit. We are bombarded by information constantly, we absorb it daily, it can’t be helped. I think it is what we do thereafter, how we act and react to that information. Whether we stay aware, challenge ourselves and our premise.

      Like you, I continue to try at least to let go.

  14. Well said as always, Val. It is time to figure this out.

    I wan’t surprised by the verdict. Because, frankly, the stand your ground law permitted Zimmerman to do what he did. The law, and those who enacted it should be brought to justice, just as much as Zimmerman should have been.

    We have become a more, not less, bigoted society. I fear for us all; not just my Hispanic son, or my African American nephew or my Indian niece and their children. I fear for a country where some folks think it is OK, no, Christian, to hate those who look different.

  15. Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it. Quite simply, this nation is too self-important to be humble enough to learn whence we came.

    I fear for my grandchildren more than for my children.
    xxx

    • I hope for my grandchildren and yours. I continually hope you and I will find a way forward toward a better solution. Surely pragmatism, knowledge and insight is a start; isn’t it?

      XX

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