March 21st, 2012
There is a whisper growing that I want to address before it turns into a distortion of the Treyvon Martin case at hand. There will be people who tell you this is not about race because Zimmerman is Hispanic. Here’s what there is to know about how Black vs White plays out per the racial ambiguity of “Hispanic” people: Hispanic/Latino is an umbrella term for Spanish speaking people *from* South/Central/Caribbean/Latino American countries. It is important to know this distinction in order to understand that just because you were born in Argentina and speak Spanish, that doesn’t speak to your RACE or in some cases even: Nation. There are Hasidic Jew communities in Argentina, there are Chinese communities in Cuba, etc. Historically Latino/Hispanic people are largely *OF* African, European, and/or Native Indigenous descent. Some of us are more African than European (Sammy Sosa, Tego Calderon), some of us are more European (Marc Anthony, Fidel Castro), some are more Native Indigenous (Selma Hayak, Roberto Duran). And while racism in our “Latino” nations plays out differently than it does here in the US, it occurs there enough that YES amongst ourselves Latino people recognize there are White Latinos and Black Latinos. Racism plays out to the effect even, that some of our darker Latinos go all out to deny we have Black Blood and some of our lighter ones go all out to deny we have White blood (thus there is hatred for each other, and there is self hate; much the same way we have here as a mixed race society). Zimmerman is a WHITE man, he is a WHITE Hispanic. Some will want to blanket this fact to say, he is a human, color doesnt matter.. well.. it did that night.. and Trayvon’s plight will not be subordinated to our discomfort with dealing with race! Zimmerman killed a black man because he was black. He is as good as a skin head or a kkk member, to, me!
The moment I found out vigilante killer George Zimmerman was “Hispanic” I foresaw an opportunity for reactionary apologists to dismiss the Trayvon Martin murder as one without racial implication.
Race is an uncomfortable issue in our societal discourses, as we’ve all been conditioned to reject racism as ‘un-american’. And because when people refuse to confront a reality, the result is an atmosphere of denial, denial is what I expected.. And despite an overwhelming recognition of his death being over the color of his skin, over the course of the past few days, denial, isn’t something I’ve been able to completely elude observation of.
For one thing, I am behooved to highlight that Treyvon Martin was murdered over NBA All-Star weekend. That was a month ago. Yet it is only within the past few days that we’ve seen an uproar over what is increasingly seeming to become American society’s worst nightmare: reminder that racism is not only still with us from out of peoples mouths, or individual actions.. but that it still permeates and plays out within the ranks of our trusted authorities in government and law; that it still dictates to us whose lives are valuable and whose lives are expendable; who we can expect will be afforded a status of privilege and who will be subordinated in our society.
Let’s not play this down to Zimmerman alone. The greater tragedy in all of this is THE STATE’s reluctance to take action; which speaks in overtones, to a justice system which still favors the interest of white middle and upper class communities over the lives of Black Americans. Had the roles been switched; had Zimmerman been a Black man and Treyvon Martin white, there is little doubt Zimmerman would be defending himself from behind bars.
Had Treyvon Martin’s family remained silent, like many families do; dejected to accepting the conclusion that hell, he in fact did happen to be in a neighborhood ‘he wasn’t s.u.p.p.o.s.e.d to be in‘ (thus, there no reason to waste money on a lawyer for a case that would be thrown out… as many do); We wouldn’t be talking about Treyvon Martin today (AS WE FAR TOO FREQUENTLY IN THE FACE OF AN INNOCENT BLACK MURDER, ARE NOT SO MUCH AS AWARE ENOUGH TO!). Meaning, there would be a Trayvon tomorrow, and the day after, and we’d have no power to stop this tide of genocide which happens beneath the breath of the few fortunate African Americans who ‘make it’ and provide “land of the free” fodder for hypocritical rightists who spew racial epithets behind the wheel yet fold their hands with an arrogant brow against charges of racism.
If it weren’t for we, THE PEOPLE; Trayvon’s family; activists and ally lawmakers, everyday people on facebook and twitter (white, black, asian, latino) we wouldn’t be having this conversation. And some people rather prefer it that way! …The rest of us, for better or for worse kind of understand “it” to be what it is, and either avert to the latest on Snooki’s pregnancy, or scream out into the night, not with visions of grandeur as to what hollering and protesting might do (we know that tomorrow there will continue be Trayvon Martins; if you grew up in the ‘other America’ you know that!) but with an unwavering commitment to continue to fight; to resist, to insist, with our fists in the air or fingers on the keys, primed on reminding ourselves there is more work to be done.
Denial, doesn’t live here…
But it is still here. Reeking of a certain death in the room, that doesn’t so much point to the body of a 17 year old boy as it does the intention of police who stood over his body to take his killer’s alibi at face value without further investigation; their motion to test Trey’s body for drugs and leave it unclaimed for two days while the untested man who took his life (a convict with assault on a policeman to his record) walked free and till this day carries his gun; the continual refusal to arrest him despite tapes which show HE to be without a doubt the aggressor, the stalker, the initiator of a struggle documented on the audio of Martin’s girlfriend’s phone records to come in the midst of a conversation with a boyfriend she would later find went dead on the line for walking through a gated community with ice tea and skittles in hand. A death, which reeks of the first two officers on the scene being the same two officers present for a controversial shooting some years back, one with the same racial implications, yet without the same public backlash; a death reeking of a police captain whose son walked free following his attack on a homeless black man, until the story (it was recorded) went viral and as is the case today, the public demanded justice. This certain death, reeks a state governor who hasn’t said a word in the victims defense. Reeks even, of a fellow black man in all his influence in voice, with an authority vested by the millions of black people who put hope in him to if not turn this historical scenario around; to address it, at the highest rank in the universe… remaining relatively silent on a modern day lynching.
Denial, thwarts the integrity of even the most righteous of us in this, our nation of the ideal.
The fact that the state has gone the extent they have to protect him, and the fact that the overwhelmingly white American community he did the bidding for in FL have been his collaborators invites us to consider that despite his ‘ethnic’ otherness, white Hispanics today can/are/will continue to pass and generate institutional racism. There was a time when Irish whites were not accepted by Anglo whites, same for Italians when they first came and many other ethnic white groups. But that’s precisely how “whiteness” came to formation… a communion of the various fractioned white groups into an identifiable hegemony. Their skin. <Bacon’s Rebellion. It is the specific moment in US history in which the elites recognized they could no longer relegate marginalized whites to the same status as blacks. And it is by all historical indications, the seminal moment in history marking the birth of the term “white”. Before Bacon’s Rebellion, white as a ‘race’ is not found in any historical journal or manuscript so much as identifying a “white” people within a nationhood context. In the same manner Irish Americans, Jewish Americans, Italian Americans attached to ‘whiteness’ then, white Hispanics in America attach to it now. And they look down on Mexicans for their indigenous pronounced features, etc. They are the new white
It always smooths’ it’s way in does denial; prevents us from having the whole conversation. Keeps us from understanding and leaves us to approach dealing with future events, from a perspective which remain incomplete per the past. Different events, same circumstance; that’s where we’re at. Moving stuck.
Sensational moments in history have taken shape. We can reflect on them and determine that they’ve no doubt had an impactful influence on the world today. But racism is not a phenomenon which perpetuates itself in a vacuum; it’s not something we whether to the good or the bad, engage in some sort of social lab. It is a personal, social, institutional, material, spiritual, human condition we can for the most part challenge ourselves at a given moment to be accountable for; but cannot with a contemporary campaign of any nature eradicate.
And in order to check it we’ve got to be willing to identify it in balance and recognize the multiple prisms through which light on an event like the murder of Treyvon Martin, projects from.
Barack Obama’s election has for many ‘liberal’ whites even, symbolized generation towards a post racial society. When a Treyvon Martin is shot are liberal whites willing to re-assess and challenge the notion that the rise of a black man into a position of power *over a system whose mechanisms regulate the potential for post-racism* will bring change? And will whites in doing so, start by showing all cards?? Or will we revert to our privilege, give a tear and a few bucks, but plead five on what WE can do short and long term, in our everyday lives to transform the system?
There is a possibility George Zimmerman walks free, and the State will pose: on the grounds that he was not out of compliance with the neighborhood watch laws designed to give communities like Sanford, THE SOVEREIGNTY to police themselves. Will progressive blacks reflect on this and this time go beyond relying on promising politicians as usual, in a move towards designating THEIR OWN sovereign rights in the same vain: replacing the occupying force of municipal police with gun carrying citizens; ensure that if nothing comes of the death of Treyvon Martin in terms of justice for him and his family, that the very same institutional constraints on his ability to be afforded such.. be capitalized upon to represent justice on broader terms??
Ultimately, where our white citizens take it from here is a question for white citizens to answer. Where our black citizens go.. that’s a question for our black citizens.
And this isn’t something anybody needs to be told riiiight? This is something we already know?
What is important to note against the many complexities of race ANYWHERE is that EVERYWHERE that there are African blooded descendants of slaves, there is a “social contract” against them. And what i mean by that is, regardless if it was the Irish who came and were called niggers they soon recognized Blacks at the bottom of a construct (hierarchy) which existed in terms of political/economic access. And so not to be the nigger any longer the Irish attached themselves/appeased to the white skinned folk who came before them. This is the same thing that happens whenever ANY group comes here, including Latinos (notice many who say they are “not black” listen to the context.. what they are saying is they are not “American Black”, and the way they conceptualize a distinction is by noting stereotypes. subconsciously though the intention is to prove to whites and non blacks that they have potential to be ‘better’ than that) people come here and automatically “know”. Even continental African immigrants come and assume that attitude. So when you refer to it as a kind of psychosis you are not kidding, it is so embedded in our culture it is in the air. And there is a reason for why this contract exists.. as i stated in an earlier post, the system (national and even global) that we live in today (material international market capitalism) evolves from direct beginnings with the exploitation of resources and enslavement of people in Africa. You can literally do research and you will find there is a class distinction between Africans who migrated around the world BEFORE the 1400’s (for them to have done that they practically had royalty and today even some of their descendants carry affluence) and African people who migrated here on their own AFTER the 1800’s (perhaps not as royal as the pre 1400 African migrants, but in many cases statesmen and their children or business people); in contrast to Africans who date their blood to the African slave trade (stripped of everything from language to record of existence, recognized as property, broken from family) a broken family is a big deal, it is to start over from scratch, a stripped name, you cannot follow it back to some inheritance in the old country. etc. And so African Americans of slave descendancy who began to own the name “negro” did so in and of itself as a notion of micro-nationhood.. to identify one another as those sort of ‘lost people’… it is not until waves of consciousness came along that blacks who identified as Negro began to question why they were doing it and resist that term, but there remains even today a double consciousness and youve heard everyone from the honorable Malcolm to Tupac allude to their people as Negro or Niggas. This same phenomenon happened in all of the Americas. My great-grandfather who is my grandmothers Black side, it is told to us “came from an orphanage” my great grandmother who just died last year and was white as an eastern European Slavic woman it is told to us had a grandfather who supervised a plantation (not in those words.. my grandma more like translated it this way: he would ride on a horse and manage over the farm). Here’s the whole negro matter in Latino context.. I can trace back and be clear that my great grandmothers side had some class distinction, had some kind of status. So far as my great grandfather it is very murky and perhaps because he strayed from his larger African family thus bringing little remnant of African culture in our home. He was the first light weight boxing champion of PR so him marrying a “white” Puerto Rican woman and having mixed little babies who knew nothing of such slang as “Mojeto or negrito” etc. not a big coincidence; surely most his friends were white Ricans who accepted him for his athletic status etc. But why didn’t they accept with that, his slang & other nuances that he hid and destroyed; didnt invite into my grandmothers tongue, etc? Because he was a “negro” and he knew it. To say that Zimmerman is “Hispanic” and to have that encompass the Treyvon Hernandez’s Treyvon Ortiz’s Treyvon Rivera’s of our lands, is a flawed analysis. I can actually put it much more easier for you: When I say there are white Hispanics and there are black Hispanics, you can be sure the Black Hispanics understand what i mean
The morning after I posted a status to seed a discussion for not only Latinos, but for Blacks and Whites as well; an MSNBC guest analyst saw the need to remind it’s mass of viewers that “Zimmerman is Latino” and hear this: that “this is not a Black and White issue, this is a Black and Brown issue.”
I want us to reflect on what such a statement infers…
My war is with George Zimmerman and every George Zimmerman at our barbecue; those of us who CHOOSE to distance ourselves from Black society and strive to ‘make it’ by attaching to whiteness.. It is our George Zimmerman’s who, in their quest for acceptance internalize a hatred for Blacks and overcompensate to the tragic ends we see in Treyvon Martin’s murder.
I’m pretty much exhausted at my attempt to explain how a ‘black_brown conflict’ perspective is objectively skewed. You can read my status updates for a holistic context around how so.
…But I will pose the following:
I identify as Brown because I embrace solidarity with my African heritage and blood; because my spirit embraces remembrance of the native indigenous ancestry of my lands.
And I will continue to be Brown, because of that. It is something I embraced the power to choose!
In all my light skinnedness (having been confused for everything from greek to arab)… It is not a CHOICE I have always made.
As much as it a choice, Treyvon Martin, never had…
RIP little Brother.