To my friends and family on Facebook who keep posting stuff to me on how George Zimmerman was innocent, Trayvon Martin was a thug, and that you also cannot understand why black people are so upset over the loss of life of some kid in Florida.
You’re not listening. You’re not listening to the people across the nation who have had this experience, multiple times, in their lives and the lives of their families and friends. You’re not listening to the mothers and fathers who do not know, day to day, whether their kids leaving for school in the morning will make it back home without harm. You’re not listening to the people who keep telling you stories about how they are stopped and frisked and halted and harassed and jailed and convicted at rates far beyond their population ratio in these United States—even though actual crime rates for their population is below that of the majority whites. You’re not listening to well-known TV and movie stars, members of the armed services, retired and active, professional athletes, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, ministers, mothers, healers, who are under suspicion every single day of their lives when they enter “our world.” You do not know what it is like to not have someone meet your eyes on a bus, to not have someone want to sit next to you on a bus, to be ignored in restaurants and when calling for service. You’re not listening to their continual tales of “it’s not right when this happens,” and you’re not seeing their disappointment and even anger when their stories are ignored, again, because it’s not interesting to you or doesn’t matter to you.
We have a prison population of blacks in America which is larger, by percentage, than that of South Africa during the worst period of apartheid. We have a situation where horrendously large numbers of African Americans are incarcerated, at huge expense, in invisible prisons. We have an unseen black middle class trying to say to us “We are normal people, just like you”—and we have the ugly assumption that blacks are all criminals and thugs and welfare queens, lazy and ungrateful robbers of “our” hard-earned prosperity.
They have been trying to tell you, for decades, what it’s like to be an American only by proxy, and only when it’s convenient. We will tax them and control them and jail them, but we will not let them alone to live as they would, without our approval or judgment. Simply to live as they will.
Recently our government—the government of us and them, but of “We the People”—declared that voting restrictions in areas historically known for suppression black voters are no longer needed, because–well, because. And almost immediately conservative legislatures rushed to roll back their own laws protecting voters’ rights, to enforce voting restrictions which will result in voter disenfranchisement. Of your fellow American citizens. And they tell you this, but you don’t listen.
Now we have a horrendous trial in Florida of a man who killed a 16-year-old kid. Admitted by his own words. And whether you think the trial was just or not, the outcome is that the community in America which identifies with Trayvon is trying to tell you just how crushing this is, to again be marginalized and dismissed, to hear again the gleeful voices that once again a man got away with murdering a black kid.
You know, it’s not that you are right about George Zimmerman, and you need to correct people to tell them that George Zimmerman is innocent and Trayvon should have done—something—to avoid the confrontation.
At this point, you know what would help? If you would just shut up. Stop telling us how glad you are Zimmerman got off. Stop telling us that Trayvon deserved to be killed. Stop telling us how white people have problems, too. Stop telling us how hard you have, how someone you know told you of someone who didn’t get into school because a black or Hispanic got Affirmative Action. Stop talking about how resentful you are that lazy black mothers on food stamps and welfare are taking YOUR MONEY, especially when you have NEVER said anything about corporate welfare or farm subsidies or oil depletion allowances—things which cost billions in tax revenue.
It’s especially galling when you say these awful things about people you don’t know, living lives you don’t understand, and then tell us how “Christian” you are, how wonderful your church is, how much you love your worship of the living God.
The people I know and interact with, who hear what you say, but never are heard by you, are tired and sad and angry.
Right now, if you want to show your good faith that these people are Americans, are citizens, are people, it would be good if you took this time to listen. Turn off your crazy radio and TV. Stop reading your paranoid websites. Stop listening to crazy men whipping up your fears about scary black and brown people.
I’m not really asking you to change. Really. I’m just asking you to listen. Show those people that you don’t understand and don’t value that you are making the effort to listen.
It would go so much farther with them—with us, really—if you could just do that.