Earlier this week I posted my thoughts on the results of the Zimmerman Trial, I suggest if you haven’t already, check it out. Since then, I’ve received a range of responses–either via blog, Facebook, twitter, or even face to face–of people questioning how useful it is to even have a dialogue on the injustices that occurred. With all the other conflicts going on–The Arab Spring, the Newtown Shooting, and the Boston Bombings–it becomes clear that, according to some, the Zimmerman Trial, in its singular moment, may not hold as much urgency as a mass revolution against dictatorial rule, civil wars, or genocides. Yes, to an extent that is true, but that does not mean the events leading up to and after this trial do not hold as much significance or that they don’t produce any dangerous outcomes.
To those who do not see this case as one of significance: Perhaps you forgot it took one court case to reinforce the racialization of American slavery, to establish Jim Crow, and to turn the other cheek on mass incarceration. Each of these injustices took only one case, one case each to establish racial dominance.
In the words of black scholar, W.E.B Du Bois:
“To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.”
In the scholarly work, The Souls Of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois refers to being black to being a problem. One has to realize the history of the African-American was one where they we’re always acknowledged as an inconvenient truth. Even when it was the African American’s equality being discussed, the name others used to label said discourse was “The Negro Problem.” It wasn’t a problem keeping them as slaves, or separated under Jim Crow; the problem was debating whether or not to free them and give them a sense of person-hood. The Trayvon Martin case was just another reminder that blacks are still seen as “The Problem”, only this time, many have given up and the post-Zimmerman trial responses are proof of this betrayal.
If you feel that people should not bring up the injustices of the Zimmerman verdict, you must not know what it means to be a problem. It must be easy being privileged, to conveniently pick what you choose to advocate and to decide what issues you give more importance to than others. I wish I knew what that felt like–to not be a problem, that is. But actually, I also wish you knew what it felt like–to be the problem.
It’s easy for you to tell African-Americans to remain calm. It is not you whose worth is being constantly redefined through different definitions of worthlessness. It is not you who, from birth, had a greater chance of ending in a prison than a college–all because of a trait you had no control over.
If you only see this case, and not its role in the bigger picture of society, than you haven’t opened your eyes. But it’s not your fault, because it is not you who can be hunted down, who is granted no humanity in the court of law, or who can’t wear a hoodie without being attacked based off the decision of one case. Remember: Black America is allowed to be upset. This bleak reality may not be your future, but it is theirs. So remember your privilege and how that alters your perception of what issues matter and which ones don’t–to you. Remember that you’re watching from the sideline, while others are actively living it.
We don’t choose when to bring up race, it already exists. We can’t choose to avoid reality–because it’s already around us.
Sure, you may be progressive. You may care about the issues occurring around the globe, but with your position, your argument values people of color as being just as worthless as the other side does. You see their struggles as something to wipe under the rug, even though their happening in your backyard.
It’s important to know that when you remain complacent, you’re not remaining on the outside, you are one of the main contributors . Through not standing up to the problem, you become the problem.