Tag Archives: racism

Trayvon Martin: When “Suspicion” Leads to (Wrongful) Death

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On the evening of February 26th, Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old high schooler who was visiting family in Sanford, Fla., was returning back from a trip to 7-11 to the residence he was visiting in a gated neighborhood.

He was a young, Black man who looked “suspicious” to self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman – a man who had a violent past, himself, according to other neighborhood witnesses.

Zimmerman follows Martin in his SUV. He calls the local police dispatch for back-up because Martin looks “suspicious.” Dispatch assures Zimmerman that they would be sending someone to handle the young man and instruct him to remain in his vehicle. Zimmerman ignores orders and exits the vehicle, armed with a 9 mm gun. There is an altercation. Someone screams for help just before one single gunshot is fired. That someone was Trayvon Martin, shot to death approximately 70 feet from his father and step-mother’s home.

It was dark.

He was wearing a hoodie.

He was armed with an iced tea and a bag of Skittles. 

Trayvon Martin suffered one fatal gunshot wound to his chest. He was listed as a John Doe and his body is transported to the coroner’s office, while his family reported him missing.

Once Zimmerman was in police custody, he admits to shooting Martin, claims self defense during questioning, and is released.

Meanwhile, it’s March 17th. There is no one charged with Trayvon Martin’s murder – 3 and a half weeks later.

The State’s Attorney has taken up the case – but only after public outrage of the incident. Still, no one – not even Zimmerman – has been arrested in connection with Martin’s murder.

I just wonder: what was Trayvon Martin doing that made him seem so “suspicious” to George Zimmerman? Was it his attire? Was it the questionable way he was carrying his ba g of Skittles and bottle of tea? Was it because he was a young man of color strolling around in a gated neighborhood?

Furthermore, what was it that made George Zimmerman ignore orders from dispatchers and exit his vehicle with his gun in tow? I mean, Zimmerman had an over 100 lb. advantage on 17-year old Trayvon Martin. It’s not like he was approaching a posse of young Black men loitering, or “posted up” in the gated neighborhood. No. Trayvon was by himself and was headed back to the place where he was staying. He was supposed to be in the neighborhood.

If you think that’s unbelievable, just think about the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other instances of young Black men and other men of color gunned down innocently by police, or those falsely believing they have the same power as law enforcement and seeking vigilante justice – much like George Zimmerman.

A few of those young men come to mind:  Oscar Grant III (2009), Sean Bell (2006), and Emmett Till (1955). The list goes on.

What’s sad is that it took a couple of weeks for mainstream news outlets to headline this case of wrongful death. What’s even more tragic is that I live in a society where suspicion justifies excessive force, unwarranted searches, and wrongful deaths of too many other nameless and faceless men of color. What’s deplorable is the fact historically in America, Black men and boys (and other men of color) have been viewed as public enemy number one and have been treated as such.

It pains me to hear the haunting 911 tapes recording Trayvon’s last stand with Zimmerman. Warning: it entails an innocent, unarmed child screaming for help.

In 1955, it was the way that Emmett Till allegedly winked/cat-called/spoke to a white woman in Mississippi. Today it was the suspicious looking clothing Trayvon was apparently wearing: a hoodie and sweatpants/jeans.

Is that all it takes to get murdered as a young man of color?

I thought it was just drugs, neighborhood/turf violence, HIV/AIDS, and incarceration that was taking them away from us. Turns out its police brutality and vigilante justice that also makes that list.

As a sister of a young Black man and hopefully, as a mother of one in the future, this grieves my very soul. Trayvon Martin could have been my cousin. He could have been my brother. He could have been my son. It saddens me that I have to warn my brother about the dangers of looking “suspicious” and make sure he’s mindful of these things to save his life. It angers me that one day in the future, I’m going to have to have the same talk to educate my sons.

Who knows what Trayvon Martin would have become? His life was cut short because of a wrongful assumption and it seems like justice is dragging its feet.

But what a lot of people neglect to realize is that what happened to Trayvon Martin is not a “Black issue.” It’s a Human Rights issue. Everyone should be outraged.

But for those of us who are filled to the brim with righteous indignation, it’s time to DO something. Today, I called the State’s attorney’s office (who is now handling the case because apparently the Sanford, FL police department can’t be trusted to do an appropriate investigation) to express my concern and disappointment at the fact that no has been charged for this murder. I urge any and everyone who feels the same way I do to not only sign the online petition going around, but to also call and express your concerns [407.665.6410 or 407.665.6000]. This is an issue too big not to make a move on.

Trayvon Martin and his family deserve justice.

“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” -Frederick Douglass

What do you think about this entire shebacle? Weigh in the comments section!

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The Plantation...Where "Rev." Peterson wants us all to return...

Right on the heels of this year’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s life, work, and legacy, comes what I can only label as a bunch of Uncle Tom-foolery. After being asked to comment on the verbal sparring between South Carolina Republican presidential candidate debate moderator, Juan Williams and Presidential candidate Newt “I love to chide Black people about getting a job instead of collecting a welfare check” Gingrich, the African-American uber-conservative “Reverend” Jesse Peterson defended Gingrich’s earlier comments. He argued that Gingrich’s proposed suggestions were spot on accurate. In fact, he takes Gingrich’s ignorance suggestions to a whole deeper level, saying:

“One of the things that I would do is take all black people back to the South and put them on the plantation so they would understand the ethic of working…I’m going to put them all on the plantation. They need a good hard education on what it is to work.”

There are so many disturbing things going on with his remarks, that all I could do was literally shake my head and hang it in shame. In my opinion, this is self-hate at it finest. I’m not sure whether all of this vitriolic, divisive, racist rhetoric going on this campaign season is a joke or if it’s the sad reality of how some of our GOP candidates (and their associates/supporters) REALLY feel about people of color. Are we being punk’d?  I know the muck racking gets unusually out of hand come campaign time, but this is the worst I have ever seen. And all this even before the South Carolina primaries, which is a known place for “down and dirty politics.”

…But, never mind the fact that “Reverend” Jesse Peterson is Black, himself. So is he going on this little field trip, too? Methinks he should. Because while he argues that Gingrich was “100 percent right” in his assessment of the plight of African Americans, and that Blacks “don’t want to hear the truth,” I argue that neither Gingrich nor Peterson have a clue. But oh, how all of that could change if “Reverend” Peterson was placed on a plantation…by himself. Why you ask?

1). Perhaps “Reverend” Peterson’s tune would change if he experienced the inhumane treatment and cruelty in nearly EVERY form that African Americans had to experience for centuries on the very plantations he wants us all to revisit. Maybe Peterson forgot that slaves were sold like head of cattle and considered 3/5th of a person according to the Constitution. Maybe Peterson forgot that slavery was not a positive experience for those enslaved because families were torn apart, women were raped, and men were emasculated. Maybe Peterson forgot that slavery was hard, arduous, back-breaking labor for men, women, and children that reaped absolutely no benefits for those who labored – be it in the Big House or in the field.

2). Maybe Peterson should take up plantation living to go back to the days where having a sense of autonomy and independence were only things dreamed of. Seems like he needs to revisit that experience in order to really “appreciate” getting crumbs from the GOP’s table. Since slaves aren’t compensated for their labor, but instead rely upon their masters to provide everything like food, shelter, and clothing, perhaps Peterson would enjoy having his very life depend upon the “benevolence” of his masters. Hey, at least he wouldn’t have to worry about those pesky bills, right?!

3). Living on the plantation could be great for Peterson because then, he could get a grip on reality. It may be the case that Peterson could gain some insight on the fact that plantation life is nothing like Gone With the Wind, or any other romanticized notion of sprawling mansions, sunny skies, green pastures, and happy, obedient slaves singing Negro spirituals.  Maybe plantation living would serve him well so he can remember how far African Americans have come in order for him to even have a forum to freely speak such ignorance and foolishness.

What do you think about “Rev.” Jesse Peterson’s recent comments? Weigh in the comments section!

Uncle Tom-foolery At It’s Finest: 3 Reasons Why “Reverend” Jesse Peterson Should Go Live On a Plantation…By Himself

“You Ain’t Cute…”: The [Attempted] Annihilation of the Black Woman’s Self Esteem

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...contrary to what some may think.

I just had to do it. I had to share my 2 cents on the ridiculousness that is Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa’s recent piece of hotmessness “scholarship” that appeared on Psychology Today‘s website, titled “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?”

I thought this was a cruel joke. A hoax. But, tragically, it wasn’t. Psychology Today really did have the unmitigated gall to post this very “unscientific” article on its website on Sunday. Then, all at once, they yanked it. Still, cached versions of it have been making their way around the Internets all week. Is this 2011 or 1811?

First, Redskins lineman Albert Haynesworth declared that he didn’t even like Black women in an effort to deny charges of sexual assault [that’s a whole other post] , and now we Black women are considered “far less attractive than white, Asian, and Native American women” according to this dude Dr. Kanazawa. Awesome.

Actually, my problem is not so much with Dr. Kanazawa. After all, this is the same guy that made a living off of publishing some other questionable eugenics scholarship promoting racial stereotypes. I mean, how can you take someone seriously who claims that Asians are biologically smarter and that people of African ancestry are intellectually inferior? C’mon son. So let’s ignore his shenanigans for a sec.

My problem is with Psychology Today. Now, I understand that the purpose of publishing scholarship (or an abbreviated form of it) is to get us to a higher understanding of ourselves and our overall environment. Some scholarship has even shaken up some realities and made people upset (Exhibit A: the earth being round instead of flat). Yet, just because it upsets people doesn’t make such discoveries less true. But Dr. Kanazawa’s conclusion about Black women is an entirely different matter. I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure that the study lacks internal/external/construct validity of any kind. I mean, how can  the word “objective” and the concept of attractiveness even be in the same sentence? Essentially, the author of this study fails to outline his methods in a way that scientists are supposed to. I mean, who were the respondents? How many respondents were there? How was attractiveness operationalized?  More importantly, though, how is Dr. Kanazawa defining “Black”? It’s a feat in itself that he fails to even address. Black women come in all hues, shapes and sizes. Essentially, the study has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. Still, Psychology Today decided that it was okay to publish such sub-par scholarship. It makes me question the credibility of the magazine and those making these decisions.

As a friend so eloquently pointed out to me, the larger issue is the social consequences that could result from articles like these. In a world where 8 year olds are being taught to hate their bodies and get botox injections [I wish I could make this up], where it’s still necessary to have “Black” issues of Vogue magazine, it seems to me providing a forum for Dr. Kanazawa’s conclusion creates a harsh environment for young girls and even grown women, especially Black women in this case. It’s just not a good look for fragile or even not-so-fragile self esteems. I mean, how can you scientifically assess attractiveness, anyway? Is that not one of the most subjective concepts ever? Beyond that, Psychology Today’s choice to publish this article signals to me that the Eurocentric view of beauty and attractiveness is what should be praised, while anything else is inferior or “ugly.” I suppose the editor-in-chief ignores the fact that women who lack melanin frequent tanning beds, spend hundreds of dollars on botox injections for their lips, and get implants for their hind parts to become more “attractive” and to obtain more aesthetically pleasing features that many Black women and other women of color tend to have naturally. But, I digress.

Call me crazy, but between Steve Harvey’s books schooling Black women about how to act like women, but think like men to trap, hog-tie, and hoodwink  find, keep, and understand a man; the marriage and mating “crisis” among Black women being publicized and even broadcast on news outlets with reckless abandon; and this article, it seems like there’s a calculated attempt in 2009-2011 to discursively annihilate our self-esteem. I mean, if you’re uglier than your non-Black peers and are ignorant of the ways to maintain relationships and/or marriages with the unavailable and/or un-marriageable pool of Black men that you may desire, what hope is there?!

Yet, all of the above are just mere attempts. We know what we’re working with. My self-esteem hasn’t gone down any from these attempts, and  the beautiful, educated, married, and successful Black women I know don’t seem to be affected in the least bit by them, either.

But, as I stated on my Facebook page, defamation like this must end. I’m tired of the myths, foolishness, and unfounded conclusions about and portrayals of Black women that clog up our precious media space. I called attention to this article not to give a racist dimwit “scholar” more shine, but to ignite some action among those of us who are fed up. On Monday, I e-mailed the editor in chief (click here for the contact info) of Psychology Today to express my disapproval and disappointment in the content they chose to post. Though the content has since been removed, the fact that it was even seen on the website is problematic enough for me. [If you care to read the article, here is a cached version]. So, I urge you, men and women alike, who feel the same way to express your opinions as well. Let’s show Psychology Today that we won’t tolerate these types of things to be spread all willy-nilly.

“‘De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see. Ah been prayin’ fuh it tuh be different wid you. Lawd, Lawd, Lawd’” -Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God