Thursday, March 22, 2012

No Apologizes: On The Killing of Trayvon Martin And Being "Good"

The Black Snob wrote about Trayvon Martin. It is one of the most piercing, wonderful pieces that I have ever read.

No Apologizes: On The Killing of Trayvon Martin And Being "Good"

In the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin, there's no safe place. There's no real excuse to cling to. None of the usual dismissals work or fit. It's just bad. Real bad. And sits there and stares at you with it's cruelty and unfairness and ugliness and says, "Take this."

Take this load. And pick it up.

Just take it. And accept it. And choke back the lumps in your throat. As it has happened before. And it will happen again. And again you will be told to "take this."

Take this burden and just accept it as your burden. It's just "how it is." You're all statistics. Take these statistics. And black people get shot everywhere everyday by everyone. Police. Non-police. Crazy people. Bigots. Their parents. Other kids. Just take it. It's part of your Life In America, Black People. Accept this tragedy and go through the motions of appealing to people's decency and demanding justice and having protests and press conferences and crying and asking why and demanding answers and then eventually getting that bad dead cold thing that just sits there and says, "Take this."

Here's your load. Pick it up.

Pass it along to the children, so they can carry a bit of it too. Let it weigh down on their worlds. Let it rob them of their childhood and innocence. Tell them to take it, so they grow up faster and accept the unfairness in life and just give up. Be cynical and fatalistic. Be cold when it happens to the next person. Or be cold themselves when they do it to another person. And as they rob that person of what was once robbed of themselves and that person asks them why or looks for recourse or retribution or answers, they can stare back unblinking in the shadow of our common oppressors and say, "Take this load and pick it up."

But I'm sorry. I'm not going to pick up this shit anymore. It's not mine.

A long, long time ago when I was young my parents told me I had to be the best to make it in this world. Averageness was something only the white and the male could afford and as a black woman, I was neither. You had to take pride in how you dress and how you spoke and how you behaved. You had to be "good," because good things happen to those who are good and bad things happen to those who are bad. And that's the lie your parents tell you because no one should tell the truth to you when you're that young. You really don't need to know. Otherwise you'd never bother.

Who wants to deal with someone already jaded at age six?

And so I was good. I was so very good. I didn't curse. I got good grades. I've never been in a fight in my life. The one time I got Saturday detention was because I was chronically late for a third period class in an over-crowded school where the only time you could go to your locker was during lunch to switch out books for the second half of the day and my locker was on one end of the crowded school, far from the other.

My teacher didn't believe me when I told her I couldn't leave lunch, go to my locker, then wade through the hallway crammed with kids to make it on my class on time.

She told me I was lying. She said she walked it once just to see what I was talking about and timed herself. But since she had to be in class waiting for me and other students, I highly doubted she did that at the height of the lunch rush.

It didn't matter that I loved my Spanish class and was an A student and never caused trouble and had no reputation for someone who would ever be tardy for anything as I was obsessed with being "good." She just didn't believe me. My mother had to get involved and my locker was eventually moved to a place easier for me to navigate to.

I was never late for third period Spanish again. No one apologized.

That same year, the eighth grade, my history teacher moved my seat in the front of the class to the back with a pair of boys who harassed me, teased me and made trouble with me every day. Then, because I'm near-sighted, my vision worsened and I needed new glasses. I couldn't read the blackboard. I told my teacher of both, the harassment and the inability to see.

He, oddly, agreed I was being harassed, but thought I was "weak" to complain. As for my inability to see, he told me I was lying.

Even though I wore glasses. We got a doctor's note from my optometrist that I needed new glasses and should sit up front until they were ready.

The teacher suddenly decided everyone in the class could sit where ever they wanted.

He never apologized.

My mother, far more blunt than I, called it what it was. I was black. My teachers were white. The school was mostly white. It was racism.

The rest of this excellent piece is at the link above.

1 comment:

Brian said...

This piece was so so good. Hit home with me.

I feel as if I have been carrying this big bucket of $*** around for most of my life. Despite making HS honor role...I am not sure how many times in those last 2 yrs. Despite doing a decent job w/ my education. Despite excelling at just about every job. Despite not having even a parking ticket on my record... Despite working side by side with authorities everyday... keeping the peace...chasing criminals for a living (although I really really hate my job).. the truth is... when I leave work and remove the uniform.... i'm just another guy who fits the description (even though I don't wear the hoodies, the jerseys or any sort of hip hop generation attire whatsoever...) I still feel like a guy who fits a description of a suspect somewhere. I think Dave Chappelle talked about this at length in one of his routines. It's part of the reason why I keep myself fairly secluded... (in addition to my normal introversion and my slight social anxiety). I never feel safe... even when I carry my public safety ID.

Back when I was poor....well, poorer than I am today... (because i'm still broke), when I had a really beat up vehicle... and lived in a mostly white area of St. Louis County... the County Police (and tiny muni departments too) would pull me over often. (Well often for me... I counted at least 6 times in a span of a couple of years). No real justification. Just wanted to know what I was doing in the area. I F****** LIVE HERE!!!!

One even watched me leave my apt... go to the apt office to pay bill... and enter my car again... just to stop me right away (he admitted no traffic violation involved)... just ran my plate and it came back to another vehicle. Turns out, his dispatcher made an error on 1 digit. I was just out to do laundry that day. (one of the few times that I leave apt).

None of the traffic stops resulted in anything. On one stop, on my way home from work, a small muni dept officer saw me in uniform, told me to have a good one and went about his business. The others... I just showed my public safety license (for trained security officers here in St. Louis)... no problem... except for one occasion... where officer needed to make his quota.. Got ticketed for not coming to a complete stop (BS...) I made that ticket disappear.... basically unbeknownst to the young officer I had a connection in his department, lol.

These things are nuisances for me (so far) because I have to take time out of my day to get things in order. And I have more than enough stress already. For some... it's worse.

But Danielle Belton spoke to something real for me.