Prologue: I was originally motivated by Michael Dunn’s outrageous statements about rape, and his own victimhood, but as ever, the writing wants what it wants, and I’m pretty much just the scribe. What the writing wanted was to talk about the real victims, both those above and below ground, and their realities. A luta continua!
One ever feels his twoness,–an American, a Negro; two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
W.E.B. DuBois – The Souls of Black Folks
DuBois wrote those words 111 years ago, but it’s especially in times like this that I wonder whether we’ve come far from what he was talking about: our “twoness.” We are still a people who float around, most of us used to inhabiting two or more worlds, many of us comfortable in either, some of us comfortable in neither, or only one, but completely conversant in others and their version of reality in ways that they will never be of ours.
It is, as I said to a friend last evening, as if we exist in parallel universes when a white juror in the Michael Dunn case can honestly believe that because nothing was said about race during deliberations that race had no impact on Dunn not being held accountable for the murder of Jordan Davis. Just as race had nothing to do with George Zimmerman getting off scot free, while a black airman with no criminal record was sentenced to 25 years in jail for defending himself with a gun after being attacked during a brawl where he was a bystander. And race had nothing to do with Marissa Alexander similarly being denied the protection of Florida’s “stand your ground laws.” And finally, and shockingly, to be sure, race has nothing to do with the fact that TWENTY SIX … pause and reread that number: 26 children and teens have been killed in Florida, alone, by people who went on to claim the stand your ground defense.
It is privilege, as discussed at length in the post that preceded this one, that permits people at a certain remove — afforded them by race, or class, most often — to have no idea what goes on in the lives of people who don’t share that same status. And, as someone mentioned to me earlier, we live in a society that privileges the fear of whites over the lives of young people of color. I mention 24 children and youths killed, in Florida alone, but also point out the recent cases of Jonathan Ferrell in, Charlotte, NC, and of Renisha McBride in a suburb of Detroit, MI. I do so to point out a number of things: 1) this isn’t just about Florida; 2) it isn’t just about the south; 3) it isn’t just about young black men (though they are disproportionately targeted).
I’m going to close [for now] with one more “it isn’t just.” I’m setting it apart because it goes directly to the issue of privilege, and does so in a way that might help us all to see things differently in this space of murder, mayhem, and privilege. It isn’t just about the Trayvons and Jordans who were minding their own business, or doing what kids do. It isn’t only about the Jonathans and Renishas who were looking for help. It’s about those of us who may literally be, or just be regarded as, “a little different.” We know them, we love them, we’re related to them, we are them, and depending on our connection: we fear for them. Please read the linked story about an African American man who is autistic, and how the atmosphere we live in, one where it’s open season on young African American men, scares his sister nearly to the point of paralysis. Read, and understand so that it isn’t just us, in our twoness, alone and afraid for our brothers, our sons, our nephews, our cousins and friends. So that we are no longer left alone to solve a problem that we did not create, but are victimized by. Every. single. day.