Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Trayvon Martin Tragedy and the Cooptation of Fear

I started writing this blog entry, this memorial, a month or so ago. Trayvon Martin is still on my mind. In 2005 Florida became the first state to pass a “Stand Your Ground” law under Republican governor Jeb Bush and under the Presidency of George W. Bush. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law” permitted a gun toting George Zimmerman to hunt down and murder a black teenager whom he felt was a threat to him. The one aggressively carrying the gun is the one entrusted with the determination of threat. This situation is reminiscent of the permissive lynching of black men or teenagers like Emit Till whose death at the hands of some white men was justified on the basis of a perceived or contrived threat to white men’s wives and sisters. White men who felt that black men and other men of color were a threat to them or their sisters, wives, daughters, mothers, aunts, and nieces could murder said black males in cold blood on their own word that a black male delivered a threat via a glance or whistle.  Such constructed and contrived feelings of some among the majority and of those who identify with the majority based on similarity of skin color or other physical features continue to be in some places the sole basis for assaulting and murdering people who are ostensibly other.  These others have the misfortune of transgressing the imagined and constructed boundaries of space and place reserved for whites only. An out of place other who transgresses spaces reserved for the majority must be put back in his or her place or eliminated as an example to others who think the world is their playground.  For people like Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin had transgressed space allotted for white people like him and needed to be put back in his place. So Zimmerman pursued the young teenager that carried ice tea in one hand and skittles in his pocket.    
I reject the feelings of fear usurped by Zimmerman as one who identifies with the majority and takes a stand against a young teenager who is ostensibly black and therefore out of place. I reject the usurpation of fear by the majority or those who identify with them as a basis for determining whether one is a threat.  I reject this usurpation of fear because despite the history of violence in this country perpetrated by the white majority against the Native Indians and black slaves and free(d) blacks, representatives of the majority culture (and those who aligned themselves with it) have co-opted and usurped the fear that should logically and experientially belong to racialized, deracinated, colonized, and racialized minorities.  Despite White America’s history of being the aggressor and agent of violence against Native Indians and Africans shipped to America’s shores as slave, many white peoples’ fears of racialized minorities (backed historically by gun- and Bible-toting colonists and more lately by powerful lobbyist such as the NRA and wealth without conscious) have been given voice and legitimization. This same usurpation of fear phenomenon played out in South Africa and other places around the globe. I remember when Apartheid ended in South Africa, the greatest fear was the fear of retaliation by blacks against whites and/or Afrikaners.  Never mind the perpetual fear that terrorized “blacks” and “colored” people during Apartheid’s bloody reign. The people who should be fearful are not permitted to express their fearfulness in any rhetorical and/or public way. But those who have been the perpetrators of violence are licensed to continue committing acts of violence against those they have historically victimized.
I reject this usurpation of fear because my feelings of fear as a black female are seldom acknowledged or too of ten considered to be without foundation despite the majority people’s not so distant history of violence against black people and against women in general.   There is stark contrast between Zimmerman and Marissa Alexander’s cases. Both live in Florida. One is a “white” Hispanic male and the other is obviously an African American female. Zimmerman killed a young teenager whom he felt was a threat to his life.  Marissa fired a warning shot at her ex-husband who had a history and record of abusing her. Florida’s “stand your ground law” allowed Zimmerman to avoid initial arrest. The same law provided no shelter or defense for Marissa who was sentenced to 20 years in prison on May 14, 2012.  Fear for her life, despite past abuse and threats, was not an adequate defense for Marissa to fire a warning shot at her abuser. But fear of an unarmed “black” teenager by a male who identifies with the majority in a racialized society is enough to keep him out of jail until the human public pressed for a proper investigation and arrest.

If anybody should be entitled to feelings of fear in this society it should be racialized minorities and women. Yet, they are not the ones who vociferously lobby for the right to carry guns. I reject the cooptation of the fears that racialized minorities should more legitimately be entitled to express given the history of violence perpetrated against us in this country. Native Indians were victimized violently when their lives, land, culture, dignity, and human rights were (and continue to be) snatched from under their feet like a worn out mat.  Africans and African Americans were enslaved, murdered, raped, disenfranchised, lynched, discriminated against, and continue to experience racism and de facto separate and unequal treatment in education, housing, health care, and jurisprudence.  Women have been the inordinate victims of sexual and domestic violence globally and continue to disproportionately, experience sexual and domestic violence.
Our right to (but decision not to) live in constant fear is co-opted when a white majority and/or those who aligned themselves with them pass laws allowing them to kill another human being because they feel threatened or fear for their lives. Their fear is justified and ours is paranoia.  Not surprisingly an organization like the NRA, a majority white male group, is the primary financial supporter of and lobbyist for the law that made Zimmerman believe he could hunt down and shoot Trayvon Martin with impunity.  When the murder of a black teen like Trayvon Martin by someone hiding behind the shoot-and-ask-questions later law receives the media attention it deserves, the NRA accuses the media of “sensationalizing” the event.  Executive VP of the NRA Wayne LaPierre called the media coverage of this case “a national disgrace.”  At an NRA rally, Ted Nugent called our duly elected President of the United States of America, President Barack Obama, “vile and evil” and said that he would be dead – sowing fear and violence. But Nugent and other card-carrying (and non) members of the NRA promote the idea that they need to defend themselves from the rest of us. This trivializing of the victim’s tragedy by the perpetrator’s perceived legal and racial privilege is another way of co-opting the legitimate fears of many minorities and women who associate more with the victim, and rightfully so. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

An Old Ode Old to You who Want to Know

This is an old ode old to YOU who want to know or who imply
That I am gay because YOU see on my Facebook page
A post in favor of my gay brothers and sisters

Because YOU can’t bring yourself to believe that a heterosexual black Christian preacher girl
Would take such a stand unless she was something you could despise
Or unless YOU in your mind could make her Other than YOU
I would not have YOU to be ignorant, my brothers and sisters
But I do not have to be gay to stand with
Other human beings who want the same rights that
We heterosexuals have

YOU want to know, fellow Christian, who despised me and decided I was/am
Less human than YOU because I have darker skin
YOU want to know brother/sister Christian, YOU who slight me because I say I am
Called to preach but I am the wrong gender for YOU to
Respect me and ask me to preach except on Women’s Day, No matter how well I preach
And how the Spirit uses me.

YOU want to know who am I to claim to be a Christian and to stand with my fellow human beings who believe God loves them as they are and made them as they are
YOU who lied about me, talked about me, tried to pull me down
Just yesterday

YOU want to make me what YOU despise
Because I stand with other human beings who want the rights YOU and I have
YOU want to know because you forgot or you conveniently dismissed
How many heterosexual men and women have abused women and children
Because they are perverse heterosexual men and women, many of who are
Like YOU Christians who hate and oppose gay men and women having rights
Rights they opposed and some still oppose for blacks and mixed couples

YOU who preach hard and long against gays as an abomination before God
And then YOU, self-proclaimed heterosexual preacher, have secretly sodomized, raped, fondled, cuddled with and loved others of your same sex
I remember the youth pastor, a married man with children, in Maryland who was found
Out… YOU know what I’m talking about

YOU know, YOU remember….Let me refresh your memory
About the pastor’s daughter in California who not so long ago raped and murdered
The little girl who attended her Sunday school class
YOU know the not so LONG ago priests/preachers who have abused the children
While YOU in the pews look the other way, support them
Or explain it away by claiming they must have been gay
As if gays are the only people capable of committing such sexual crimes

YOU know the church has its own “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy….
Always whispering about this one and that one
Yet the church roles and rolls on

Don’t YOU know that my grandfather was a heterosexual male, married four times
Don’t YOU know he was a deacon in the Baptist church
Don’t YOU know he was the one who molested me and raped one of his own estranged daughters

YOU in the church, YOU who lied about me to my face without blinking an eye
YOU who continually stretch the truth but never admit to lying
YOU in the church, who dismiss the hungry and homeless by claiming they don’t exist
YOU who gossip, spread rumors, create confusion and dissension
If YOU say gays are an abomination before God because the Bible says so,
Then YOU have more in common than YOU care to admit
But you stand your ground as if your ground is holier….
And YOU want to know what?  What is it YOU want to know?