White Supremacy Unaware of Its Own Existence

trayvonmartin1[Ed. Note: This guest post was originally published in Free Press Houston and is republished here with permission from the author. Also, while the SCR editorial staff supports this piece, please note that it does not reflect the views of all of our writers.]

When blacks respond to continued injustice by peacefully protesting, many white people are annoyed, and say things like, “Ok, enough already,” or “They’re the ones with the racism problem, we’re already over it.” USA TODAY asked, “After Zimmerman Verdict, Can Nation Heal Racial Rift?,” as if victims can heal during ongoing abuse. Some white people imagine the debate is only about the details of the case, ignoring the larger patterns. Some point out that it is illogical to focus on one case when there are so many other cases and causes that go ignored, which they see as more useful or important.

Race doesn’t exist genetically. Though appearance and skin color factor into our perception of race, it is still a social construct with no genetic boundary lines. Racism, however, exists, and in America we have a system based on white supremacy. It brought black people here as slaves for hundreds of years. Then it set black people “free,” but without rights for another hundred years.

During the civil rights struggles, it was forced to give blacks some rights around voting, discrimination, and desegregation, but never went through a reckoning for slavery. Recently, our political system started taking away some of those rights again. Blacks are profiled, stopped, frisked, imprisoned, and sent to jail for the same actions that whites get away with. Black prisoners in the South are picking cotton in the same fields their ancestors worked as slaves. 58 years after the murder of Emmett Till, we’re still acquitting men who kill black teenagers. White supremacy is so ubiquitous that many white people can’t see it.

Some white folks, instead of watching and listening to the messaging of the protesters, choose to remain baffled, asking, “They want Zimmerman to have been convicted, even though the jury found reasonable doubt?” They are quick to ascribe superficial motives. They find it hard to imagine that the protesters are reasonable people with just demands, such as equal treatment in the criminal justice system.

Florida and Texas have problematic stand-your-ground laws that allow people to shoot others, even when they could have easily retreated, if they feel unlawfully threatened. The superior, and more universal principle, self-defense, allows the use of an equal and opposite force to deter an imminent attack. Both of these (along with not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity) are granted unevenly by juries in our racist system. Getting rid of a few bad laws won’t fix things, because the deeper problem is that a significant percent of people don’t give black folks the benefit of the doubt. Since the law was lenient to Zimmerman, it should be lenient to black people too, like Marissa Alexander, who got a twenty-year sentence in Florida for firing a warning shot at her abuser. Cops, security guards, juries, and the public give the benefit of the doubt to white people more than to blacks. When Zimmerman saw Trayvon, he didn’t see a kid coming back from the store, he saw trouble.

Black racism against whites exists, but without the power of a racist system tilted in its favor, the racism has little impact. If a black father dislikes his daughter’s boyfriend for being white, it would be hard for that couple, but such problems are not in the same league with the injustices found in white supremacy. The facts are that white households have 20 times the net worth of black households, black people go to jail eight times as much as whites for drug charges, and white people who kill blacks are far less likely than blacks who kill whites to get the death penalty.

Many whites point out that Zimmerman is not white, as if somehow that proves race is irrelevant in this case. However, in the streets with a gun in his hand, and in court with legal fund donations from whites around the country, Zimmerman represented the machinery of white power. Zimmerman, like Obama and many other people of color, held a position in the white system. Throughout history in America, different groups have gained access to the “white” designation by finding a role for themselves within white-patriarchy. So, for example, Irish weren’t considered white originally, but they took on roles as police, enforcing white hegemony, and won access.

Regardless of how long Zimmerman will continue to be supported and protected by the white power structure, so far, he has been acting as its proxy. In 1956, one of Emmett Till’s (also acquitted) killers said in an interview, “I’m no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers — in their place — I know how to work ’em. But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice.” Zimmerman’s family has asserted that he is not racist. It’s true that Zimmerman didn’t use the n-word when he said, “fucking punks… these assholes, they always get away,” but aside from the language, what else has changed? END


Post by . This entry was posted on Monday, July 22nd, 2013. Filed under Posts.

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