Riding with Death: Defining Anti-Blackness

Riding with Death by Jean Michel Basquiat.

Riding with Death by Jean Michel Basquiat.

Black people only have one recognized right in this world — the right to death. This right is not the right to choose when or how we will die, it is not a coveted right. This right is also not the same guarantee of death that all living beings share. That everyone will eventually die is not to say everyone shares the same relationship with death. The anti-black world positions black people in close proximity to death so that the threat of gratuitous murder awaits us at every corner. This is the price of living Black in the Anti-Black world.

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After the Verdict: “Where do we go From Here?” Black Studies For Everybody

Black Studies protest, May 1968 University of Washington.  Image by Steve Ludwig. Courtesy of Antiwar and Radical History Project.

Black Studies protest, May 1968 University of Washington. Image by Steve Ludwig. Courtesy of Antiwar and Radical History Project.

Some people can’t understand why people concerned about racism—especially African Americans–are so upset about the George Zimmerman verdict.  Some folks think that there is no evidence to suggest that Zimmerman’s even a racist since he is Latino.  These misunderstandings reveal there remains an empathy gap when it comes to White understanding of Black experiences.

George Zimmerman is a White, second-generation Hispanic who felt empowered to racially profile Trayvon Martin.  His light skin, accent-free English and fear of Black men inspired something in the millions of white Americans who reached out to support him during the trial. His acquittal stunned us because it highlights how some people of color embrace anti-black racism.  Zimmerman’s privilege allowed him to disavow the idea that race was involved in the shooting at all.

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After the Verdict: “Where do we go From Here?” End Racial Profiling

Image courtesy policymic.com

Image courtesy policymic.com

On a cold, February night last year what inspired George Zimmerman to ignore a police dispatcher’s warning? Why was he sure that Trayvon Martin, 17, was a “suspicious” character in his gated southern Florida community? We’re still reeling from his acquittal, but this is the 5th part in a series that addresses the crucial question that remains on everyone’s mind: “Where do we go from here?”

Racial Profiling is the culprit here. The ACLU defines it as “ the discriminatory practice of law enforcement and private security practices that disproportionately target people of color for investigation and enforcement.” This happens to People of Color everyday in America.  Racial profiling creates a hostile, unfriendly environment for Blacks and other members of communities of color by keeping racism less a relic of the past and more of an incessant struggle.

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Every 28 Hours

Trayvon Martin against the backdrop of others killed by police or vigilantes. Image courtesy: socialistworker.org

Trayvon Martin against a backdrop of others killed by police or vigilantes.
Image courtesy of socialistworker.org

Last month, the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin stunned communities throughout the U.S. and around the world. The gross miscarriage of justice which allowed Zimmerman to face no consequences for stalking and murdering a teenage boy prompted outrage, confusion and sadness. Trayvon Martin was the latest victim in a lengthy history of racist terror against Black people in the U.S. From the horrors of enslavement, to Jim Crow era lynchings, to present day policing and vigilantism, Black bodies in these United States are haunted by the ever-present threat of assault.

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After the Verdict: “Where do we go From Here?” Repeal Stand Your Ground

Dream Defenders occupy Florida state capitol. Courtesy Pensacola News Journal.

Dream Defenders occupy Florida state capitol. Photo courtesy Pensacola News Journal.

“Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.” – Malcolm X

The trial of George Zimmerman and his slap-in-the-face acquittal have us all reeling, but let’s channel our outrage into productivity for social change.  Trayvon Martin and his family still deserve justice. This is the fourth post in a series that addresses the question on everyone’s mind: “Where do we go from here?”

Stand Your Ground is the policy that allowed Zimmerman’s actions to be vindicated that night in February 2011. According to Florida law:

“A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” (Emphasis is ours.)

How did a policy that was crafted to protect the vulnerable and defenseless become used to justify the killing of a child by a grown man? This is because of the inherent racial injustice of Stand Your Ground. In states with this policy, Whites have a 354% likelihood of being cleared for White-on Black murder.

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After the Verdict: “Where do we go From Here?” Real Gun Control

Courtesy KissFM104.com

Atlanta Vigil for Trayvon Martin. Courtesy KissFM104.com

We are still shocked, heartbroken and aghast at the criminalization of Trayvon Martin and acquittal of a known violent man. Instead of stewing let’s use our pain as the momentum for activism. This is the third of a multi-part series that addresses the question on everyone’s mind: “Where do we go from here?”

How was a man with a pattern of violent behavior and record of mental illness allowed to possess a weapon and conceal it? How is he still allowed these rights?

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After the Verdict: “Where do we go From Here?” Improve our Mental Health

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This is the second of a multi-part series that offers suggestions to the question on everyone’s mind: “after the verdict, where do we go from here?”

Did you know that George Zimmerman was on a psychotropic drug the night he killed Trayvon Martin? Zimmerman was prescribed Temazepam and Adderall, which have known side effects of aggressive behavior, anxiety and hallucinations. While we know that people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of crimes than perpetrators, we still wonder what role these drugs played in Zimmerman’s fear and anxiety that night when he called 911 from the safety of his car. We can’t say for sure if Zimmerman is mentally ill or not, but present in many of the current national and international debates on gun violence is the sometimes subdued , sometimes pronounced question about our collective national mental health.

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After the Verdict: “Where do we go From Here?” Stop Domestic Violence

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Marissa Alexander, mother of two and domestic violence survivor. Image Courtesy of WCTV.

Much has been said about the death of Trayvon Martin, the trial of George Zimmerman and the ensuing acquittal . We are hurt, angry, saddened and confused at the acquittal of George Zimmerman and the denial of Trayvon Martin’s boyhood. This is the first of a multi-part series that offers suggestions to question on everyone’s mind: “Where do we go from here?”

Apparently, George Zimmerman’s record wasn’t relevant in the case of Trayvon Martin, despite that fact that his girlfriend took out a restraining order against him. Earlier that same year Zimmerman was charged with resisting arrest and battering an officer. It seems this man has a known violent history which, given his eventual killing of a child, makes us question if his  history would have been relevant if his and Trayvon’s races were swapped?

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The Premature Death of Leadership Development

A version of this post was originally published on April 10, 2012

For one reason or another, I have been groomed to be a loyal follower of Tupac. I have always been a fan of his music, poetry, acting, rhetoric, and overall message. As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, I even took a class on Tupac titled, The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur led by an amazing and brave former professor of mine, Georgia Roberts. Now, as a graduate student in New  York City, I’m taking a class on leadership development. Recently, we were given the opportunity to either write about a leadership development topic that interested us or the leadership development journey of a real person. Naturally, I chose Tupac Amaru Shakur.

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Lessons from Trayvon

Trayvon Martin (1995-2012) and Emmett Till (1941-1955).

A version of this post was originally published on March 21, 2012

The February 26th killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman has rightfully sparked outrage in communities around the country. The heartbreaking situation Trayvon found himself in is one many black men can relate to, and the details surrounding the events have shed light on ongoing racial injustice in the United States. In a powerful and moving piece in the New York Times, columnist Charles M. Blow says:

As the father of two black teenage boys, this case hits close to home. This is the fear that seizes me whenever my boys are out in the world: that a man with a gun and an itchy finger will find them “suspicious.” That passions may run hot and blood run cold. That it might all end with a hole in their chest and hole in my heart. That the law might prove insufficient to salve my loss.

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