The great divide

Today I read an article that said there is a big split between African-Americans and Whites in the belief of whether or not George Zimmerman should be charged in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.  That same split exists when asked if there is too much publicity concerning the incident.  This is not surprising.  Having started my educational career in North Carolina at a time when schools were still segregated, I’ve seen the seething underbelly of racism as the schools in our hometown were forced to integrate because the white school burned to the ground.  Back then people didn’t hide how they felt about black people.  We knew that by a certain time of night that we were not to be in certain neighborhoods.  We were told that when you go into a store you always get a bag and a receipt.  Even though times changed and the hostility was no longer overt it never went away.  After I had children, after having lived in an integrated military community I had to sit my daughter down before we moved back to North Carolina and tell her that some people were not going to like her simply because of the color of her skin.  She was in the second grade.  She just couldn’t understand what I was trying to tell her.  It made no sense to her that some people wouldn’t like her just because of what she looked like.  About two months into her schooling in North Carolina, sadly,she understood what I was talking about, because of the way some students and even teachers treated her. When my son was in the sixth grade he came home and told me that he was asked by the resource officers to open his locker, turn out his pockets and take off his shoes.  Needless to say I was angry and so I went to the school to talk to the principal about it.  The principal said that he was acting nervous.  I said of course he was nervous he’s a little kid.  I added that this kind of thinking could cause him to lose his life.  The principal replied that my statement was an” exaggeration”.  I reminded him that “black boys are killed daily for much less.”  For years as black parents we’ve had to give our children, especially our sons, a different set of rules for behavior in public to prevent them from being “suspicious”.  Just a few years ago my son was harassed by an overzealous  member of the Southport, NC pd during the NC Fourth of July Festival.  Two years in a row this particular officer continued to force black youth to move from a public thoroughfare because they were “blocking” it only to have it then fill with white youth and it not be blocked.  Perhaps the problem was that they were “blacking” the area.  This office followed my son and told him in my presence that he wanted to put the cuffs on him.  This officer was later incarcerated himself for his own misdoings, but my point is, because white people don’t experience this type of harassment they would prefer to believe that it doesn’t exist.  That a person will only be harassed or arrested if they are doing something wrong.  We all want to believe that, I wanted to believe it too when I was put in handcuffs and treated like a criminal because of someone else’s typographical area.  The truth of the matter is, as people of color we will always look suspicious to our lighter counter parts.  Why?  Because they have been taught to believe that we are. When you do or have done something that is wrong and you want to justify it you blame the victim.  Long ago when slavery in america became exclusively african it became necessary to find away to assuage the guilt of the slave holders for the deplorable treatment of fellow human beings.  They came up with the notion that they were less than human.  When likening people to “dumb animals” it makes it easier to deny them human dignity.  This idea is still being felt all these years later and people are still trying to justify the treatments of people of African descent by people of European descent.  You would think that in 2012 you would not have to compare what happened to Emmit Till with something that happened two months ago.  I wish I  had a solution.  I wish that all elements of Dr. King’s dream had become a reality.  unfortunately we are still judged by the color of our skin instead of the content of our character.  I’m not trying to say that Trayvon Martin was  an angel, I didn’t know him but I suspect he was a normal 17-year-old  much like my son was at that age.  Whatever he was, on February 26, 2012 he was a kid walking home from the store with a bag of skittles and a tea talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone wearing a hoodie, much like my son would’ve done.  My son survived his teenage years, Trayvon Martin did not.

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~ by Diva2de on April 6, 2012.

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