On the Zimmerman Verdict

[Content Note: Guns; violence; white supremacy.]

I thought if I gave myself a couple of days, I would know what to say about George Zimmerman being found not guilty of all charges in the killing of Trayvon Martin. But I am still struggling to find good words.

Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton will never get their son back, but George Zimmerman will get back the gun he used to kill him. That is what justice [sic] looks like for the death of an unarmed teenage black boy in the United States.

This crime was an act of terrorism. The verdict was an act of terrorism. People are terrified because of it. This is white supremacist terrorism. And no, it doesn't matter that Zimmerman identifies as a white Hispanic. The point is not whether Zimmerman is or isn't white; the point is that Trayvon Martin wasn't.

After the verdict was read, there were white people in my neighborhood who set off round after round of fireworks. Reports came in on Twitter from across the country that fireworks were going off in lots of neighborhoods. Just a coincidence, of course. While cable news breathlessly reported on how black people weren't rioting ("yet") as they followed the peaceful protest in San Francisco, there was no mention of the white people setting off celebratory fireworks around the country. There was little coverage of a white woman attacking 73-year-old black musician Lester Chambers after he dedicated "People Get Ready" to Trayvon Martin.

The violent riots that were expected, because you know those violent black people, never came. But what if black USians had responded to white USians provocatively celebrating the exoneration of a man who killed a black boy? We all know that the narrative would not have been about the provocation, but solely about the response. The exact. same. dynamic. of. the. crime.

This is how white supremacy works. Any response to intolerable provocation will immediately be framed using racist narratives that mask white provocation, dominion, and privilege—and oppressors and provocateurs who deal out death for rebellion are heroes.

In the wake of the verdict, white people identifying as allies took to Twitter to ask for "dialogue" about the verdict, demanding that black people mourning set aside their pain to hand out cookies to white people who aren't "like that." (Pro-tip: If you ask for special recognition for not being "like that," you are like that. If the shoe doesn't fit, then don't wear it, and STFU.) I hope we all appreciate the metric fuckton of irony in seeking "dialogue" as a silencing mechanism, because a white person can't sit with the discomfort of having to face the realities and cost of the white supremacy from which we benefit.

That is also how white supremacy works—white people centering themselves and engaging in emotional policing, the most basic form of dehumanization, to deny humanity to black people even as they mourn.

And naturally black people who failed to accommodate the requests to center white people's feelings were then rhetorically pelted with the ready-made racist narratives of white supremacy: Mean. Rageful. Too sensitive. Ungrateful. Can't recognize an ally when they see one. Etc. The same fucking garbage that any of the white women haranguing black women would rightly call out as hostile if it were a man doing the same fucking thing to them.

That is also how white supremacy works.

In the wake of the verdict, white people were fucking mean. Even white people who were ostensibly on the side of justice. White people were fucking assholes. (And if you weren't, good for you, but if you make this thread about how not an asshole you are, guess what? You are an asshole!) And there will be no accountability for that, either, unless we start holding each other to account.

White people: Be mad about this verdict, because it is a grave injustice. But be just as aware about how your privilege and a white supremacist system ensures that this verdict is not an anomaly, but an emblem. There is no neutral for the privileged class in oppression. Either you're engaged dismantling white privilege, or you're enabling it. Apathy is a luxury conferred by privilege, and it is not a neutral position. If you're mad about this verdict, then get all the fuck in.

Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton will never get their son back, but George Zimmerman will get his gun back—and he intends to carry it. Because he's scared someone will levy some vigilante justice on him. Whoops.

This is a deeply broken system. Apathy won't fix it.

* * *

There are so many women of color whose work has been absolutely brilliant over the past few days (and is all the time). I strongly recommend reading through their Twitter lines and listening hard to what they're saying: Trudy, Grace, Mary, New Black Woman, Sister Outsider, Lauren Chief Elk, Tami, Amadi, Angry Black Fangirl, Angry Black Lady, Zerlina Maxwell.

That's not a comprehensive list, clearly. But it should get you started.

Please feel welcome and encouraged to link to other great stuff you've been reading in comments.

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