Monday, July 15, 2013

I Am Not Trayvon Martin

 I can wear a hoodie and be an ally, but I cannot be Trayvon Martin. I'm white, and while my roots are in welfare programs and understanding what it’s like to be a woman clutching her keys in her hands when she walks at night, I still have privilege and America treats me a lot differently than it does people from other racial backgrounds.

I am not Trayvon Martin. I am a white girl working on a CRT paper at Panera this past May, indulging in free coffee refills, and trying to stay warm in the freezing AC with my college hoodie..

If you've been reading social media in the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict, then you may have come across some frustrations in relation to how allies to the Black community are reacting, because some people are sympathetic but may not 'get it'.

Currently, the social media trend is to post a photo of yourself in a hoodie, sometimes with text running across the picture stating “I am Trayvon Martin”.

However, that picture looks a lot different if you are not Black.

Here’s the crux of the issue: There are allies – some great, some well-meaning but not ‘getting it’, and some who shouldn’t consider themselves allies to begin with – who have been wading into the conversation in the wake of Zimmerman’s acquittal for the murder of young, innocent Trayvon Martin.

Some social media sites in the Black community have showed frustration for allies who are not ‘getting it’ – because let’s be real, if you are not black then you have no idea what it feels to be Black in the white supremacist structure of the United States of America.

 Black Girl Dangerous, posted on Sunday July 14th that they wanted a “POC-only space” for the day in order to process thoughts, because white allies were being unintentionally harmful in the space. Then there’s an image going around on Facebook that is called “Talking to White People About the George Zimmerman Trial Bingo”.

That’s why I find the Tumblr “We Are Not Trayvon Martin” so refreshing. The blog is composed of entries from people who are primarily White, Asian, Latin@, GLBT who are all acknowledging their privilege*. They are recognizing the greater issue of systematic racism in America while bringing about a greater call for action.

If you’re trying to process the Zimmerman verdict, like I am, I hope you find that Tumblr blog to be as helpful as I have. Additionally, I view this as an excellent educational resource for those of us who work with students. It structures the conversation in a way that helps those with privilege better understand how to be an ally.

Check it out. Maybe submit a post of your own. Contemplate how to talk to your students about this. Discuss.

I am not Trayvon Martin. I do not understand what it means to be Black in America. My identity as a low-income white woman provides me insight into understanding oppression and anger at these systems, yet I can never truly understand experiences outside of my own no matter how much I may emphasize with those experiences.

But I'm here. I'm ready to fight. I'm fighting.**

*Note: The recommended Tumblr page is being constantly updated. I have seen some problematic entries but for the most part I feel this is a contribution to discussing privilege, race, and justice in America.

**How do you participate in social justice efforts? We all participate in different ways. An article titled "An Open Letter to White People About Trayvon Martin" provides some examples. The leaders of any justice movement should be those affected by the issue at hand, however there are are opportunities for allies to fight and contribute to change.

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