Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Fleeting Whiteness of George Zimmerman

Yesterday marked one month since Trayvon Martin's murder at the hands of the now infamous George Zimmerman. We've worn our hoodies and marched with the symbolic Skittles and iced tea in hand. We've signed petitions, cursed Geraldo Rivera's idiocy, and praised LeBron and the Miami Heat's symbolic support. But most of all we swore revenge on the man who killed Trayvon Martin, hoping to find some measure of justice by demanding George Zimmerman's capture and incarceration.
Indeed, the fact that a grown man killed an unarmed and harmless child had everyone from Barack Obama to Rick Santorum agreeing that something went horribly wrong that evening in Florida. Even the usually silent mass media was initially exclaiming Justice for Trayvon, before recently resorting to their typical, tired smear campaign to vilify the black victim and exonerate the white shooter. Yet, even if Zimmerman is eventually arrested, it would merely alleviate a particular symptom of a larger cancer that is white supremacy in America. That’s right, not 'profiling', not 'stereotyping', but WHITE SUPREMACY- the 'if-it-aint-white-it-aint-right' ideology that permeates all of our institutions from schools to the courts. Even if Zimmerman is eventually tried and convicted, we need to continue asking critical questions about power and privilege if we are to demand true justice in the arena of race relations in the United States.

Questions like...
What turned Zimmerman from a God fearin man to a Black fearin man?
Does it make a difference whether Zimmerman is White, Hispanic, or Latino?

The fact is in this country we are taught whiter is nicer.
That black is wack, 

unless u can spit on a track 
or run track,
or run fast on a basketball court.

Otherwise u in court

after a quick stop and frisk

or even a brisk

iced tea

but please, its not that simple...

Perhaps we'd have a better chance at getting Zimmerman arrested if we took him for a spin in Arizona, where cops could stop him and demand his proof of legal US residency. Or maybe we'd have a better shot at getting him behind bars in the South Bronx, after a quick stop and frisk for looking suspicious. But wait! Zimmerman's white no? The fact is, despite a kosher last name and some lighter melanin from his father's side, as a light skinned Latino Zimmerman's whiteness is a fleeting privilege granted and revoked by the system as it sees fit. Despite the fact that he could potentially be mistaken for an undocumented immigrant or street criminal in other contexts, in the case of Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman's white(r) privilege served to protect his freedom while simultaneously devaluing the life and excusing the death of a black teenager. In fact, Zimmerman's stake in white supremacy both allowed him access to the safe, gated community he called home AND precipitated the fear that caused him to assume Trayvon was a threat to that community. So Trayvon had a target on his back not because of a hoody, but because of his relative blackness. Zimmerman is free not because of any Stand Your Ground law, but because of his relative whiteness. Despite recent muckraking reports that aim to smear young Trayvon as the aggressor, it is clear Zimmerman was the antagonist, committing a cold blooded murder out of fear and contempt for America's favorite boogeyman- the black male.
Until we begin to call out white privilege as the real guilty culprit in these types of incidents, we will continue to merely tend to the symptoms, as opposed to finding a cure for this cancer of white supremacy and capitalism. We must confront the historically engrained institutional racism in our courts, schools, and media outlets. Otherwise, we will continue to sign gushy moveon.org petitions and attend 'protests' co-opted by the spineless Democrats. Perhaps instead of reacting reflexively to these incidents, we can better spend our time organizing with our neighborhood friends, classmates, and co-workers into affinity groups that propose:

1. Direct Action against these racist institutions
2. Education on the political economies of slavery, Jim Crow, and the current mass incarceration model
3. Re-education on the holocaust that wiped out over 100 million natives at the hands of their European conquistadors
4. Creation of safe indoor spaces for young people of color in our communities, free of police terror and gang violence
5. Media literacy training to view mass media thru a critical, anti-racist lens, and create alternative media-makers

For those petty individuals that choose to benefit from the idea of white supremacy, they are only feeding the divide and conquer mechanism that keeps billions poor and a small global elite in power.

If I had a son, there is a high probability that he'd look more like George Zimmerman than Trayvon Martin, and although my son would go thru life with relatively less hurdles than a black youth, id want him to understand his privilege, take responsibility for it, and act accordingly to deconstruct racism and the institutions that uphold it. Otherwise, he too would be as complicit as the George Zimmerman’s of this world.

Justice for Trayvon! Justice for all!

G1 of Rebel DIaz


  1. This is extremely well-written, G1!! Thank you! You have identified quite well the toxic nature of white supremacist ideology as you describe the ways that white privilege gets reinforced by this "white is right" mentality. You have correctly located the problem as resting not only with the easy target of George Zimmerman but {more importantly) within the ways that our social structure is arranged at an institutional level to reinforce white supremacy. Until we make these connections between institutional racism and interpersonal racism, we will fail time and time again at our efforts to dismantle racism. We need to focus on Zimmerman only insofar as his vile actions allow us to look beyond this racist fool to the structural arrangements within our institutions that allow him and MANY others to get away with terrorizing the Trayvons among us. ALL of us need to realize the impact of white privilege on our lives in order for us to boldly call it out and reject it where we see it. Black and Latino communities are best able to emancipate themselves from mental slavery when they recognize the impact of white privilege on their lives and FIGHT IT! (For the alternative, we need only to look at Geraldo Rivera to see how self-hate manifests). Whites (& others who "pass" for white) MUST REJECT the unearned assets they receive simply on the basis of their whiteness and join the movement which DEMANDS that ALL of our brothers and sisters in this struggle FINALLY receive the equal treatment they have always deserved, yet have never truly received. THANK YOU for fostering this important conversation G1!!!! <3