After 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed in February, the online response to his death grew to critical mass. Millions of people signed a petition, thousands showed up at marches across the country, and many declared, “I am Trayvon Martin.”

While supporters of Tayvon’s story crossed race, ethnic, and class divides, one woman thinks white folks who say they they are Trayvon are misguided. Although their support for his cause, as well as their willingness to fight injustice, may be genuines–they are not and will never be Trayvon Martin.

She explains:

I know you wear that shirt to stand in solidarity with Trayvon, Troy, and other victims of injustice. The purpose of those shirts is to humanize these victims of our society, by likening them to the middle class white activist wearing it. And once we’ve humanized the victims, this proves to us the arbitrariness of their deaths and thereby the injustice at play.

But the fact of the matter is that these men’s deaths are anything but arbitrary. The fact that the real Troy Davis and Trayvon Martin and countless other victims of oppression are buried under 6 feet of cold dirt while we middle class white activists are alive, marching, and wearing their names is an indication that our societal system is working exactly as it’s intended.

A more accurate t-shirt to display on my white body would be “I AM GEORGE ZIMMERMAN.” Zimmerman and I were indoctrinated in the same American discourse where we learned that the “other,” particularly black men like Trayvon and Troy, were less human and were to be feared. Society taught me that as a little white girl, I must preserve my purity and goodness, and that the presence of young single males threatened it. Society taught me that being in the presence of a BLACK man compounds that threat exponentially. I have been taught that male, black, bodies are an immediate threat to my safety and the well being of society as a whole, and Zimmerman was taught the same damn thing. We’re all taught it.

This video reminds me of Michael Skolnik’s piece, “White People You Will Never Look Suspicious Like Trayvon Martin,” in which he tackles issues white privilege and the downside of racism and stereotypes.

Although the specifics of the Trayvon Martin case are beginning to divide people along racial and political lines,  if we’re able to move past these divisions, this incident has the potential to open up real dialogue about how we talk about race and racism in our country.

What do you think about the video? 

  • http://itsoftenbeensaid.wordpress.com Sasha

    I watched this yesterday (“friend” posted the link on Facebook) and she has a very valid point and articulated it very well. *two claps*

  • omfg

    i’m not mad at her.

  • bluedove

    A very articulate and thoughtful young lady. I hope there are more self-reflective teens (no matter what color) like her.

  • yeathatsme

    preach!

  • Mistress_Scorpio

    Standing ovation. *That* is a true ally to the cause. All those Occupy folks who have gone around trying to take over the justice marches for Trayvon Martin need to see this.

  • Dalili

    Well now!

  • Tonton Michel

    That was very well thought out, and shows how insightful she is. I don’t need her validation, but I find it so SEXY when white women get it, sexiest thing in the world.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    blehh….

  • Pat

    Well…Amen…This is what “they” Need to understand and I’m glad she gets it..I hope others hear her clear and follow suit..

  • Yeahright2011

    Pretty much said what had to be said to the people who needed to hear it. Works for me.

  • smm

    Yes, I agree. She is a true ally, now if only more confused Black and White people could get it as well.

  • golden_girl

    I like when white people get real about what they are taught about ‘others’ growing up. I wish she could have explained how white girls are taught that they are pure. How does that conversation sound.

  • Mistress_Scorpio

    It’s a shame when a man’s assessment of a female’s insightful thoughts are reduced to a conversation on whether or not he considers her sexually appealing. Limited thinking men are not sexy, they are the not-sexiest thing in the whole world.

  • smm

    Yeah, it was a pretty STRANGE comment…lol!

  • Tonton Michel

    Who is this woman? I just have to know! I think I wanna marry her! ;-) I never believed in love at first sight before I saw his video.

  • Tonton Michel

    Maybe the question should be asked why are little black girls not being taught they are pure……

  • LadyLark

    It’s about time a white person said this outloud. Black people have been saying this for…ever. It’s nice to know young people can be smarter than society’s propaganda and just be human.

  • golden_girl

    OKAY!!!!! But this is my first time hearing that a group of girls are taught they are pure. I read that when u see black men to be very afraid…. I get that. How does a parent convey they are pure? Do they just come out and say it. You are pure little girl. Sounds creepy. Something creepy abou it.

  • hehe

    I see what you did lol

  • Mistress_Scorpio

    Obvious troll is obvious.

  • LadyLark

    I think she means it in social context…you know…the news reports missing little white girls (not black girls), or everyday tv commercials about cleanliness depicting them mostly, or getting better service (just about everywhere) especially from public service workers (911), etcetera. But too, think about how racist many (not all, but many) white people are in this country, she just said it, they’re raising kids like this…..I think she’s referring to the racist movie “Birth of a Nation.” That nation is this country. I once was a home health aide and the podiatrist (Indian man) came for the patient and her daughter said he looked dirty (b/c he was dark)…mind you she prefaced with that “I’m NOT racist” cliche’.
    She’s speaking contextually I believe.

  • Tonton Michel

    I saw it as pure as in being placed on a pedestal as virtuous, saint like and above all others. Allowing white men, and others who buy into this, to treat other non white women any sort of way that pleases them while protecting their own women from the same treatment.

  • Tonton Michel

    You’re jealous! That is so cute. Show me a video with a black woman saying the same and I’ll hit the “like” button.

  • Wow!

    “It’s a shame when a man’s assessment of a female’s insightful thoughts are reduced to a conversation on whether or not he considers her sexually appealing. Limited thinking men are not sexy, they are the not-sexiest thing in the whole world.”

    Damn. So there is something wrong with finding insightfulness attractive? Perhaps I am a pig, because that is what usually seals the deal for me. I too found her insightfulness attractive. Especially since this type of empathetic thinking is missing in a lot of black and white folks much older and better educated.

    Goodness. Some of the ladies on here need to lighten-up a little.

  • Are You Serious Bro

    “You’re jealous! That is so cute. Show me a video with a black woman saying the same and I’ll hit the “like” button.”

    *high fives Tonton Michel*

    LMAO oh the “ironing”

  • Bee

    Agreed. Gives me a glimmer of hope for our fairer skinned brothers and sisters.

  • Mistress_Scorpio

    Nothing wrong with finding insightfulness attractive. But it’s sad when men can’t participate in a conversation about what a woman is *saying* as opposed to whether or not they would like to fuck her. Tonto didn’t comment on what she said, he just commented that he thought she was sexy. It’s sad.

    And I’ll lighten up once society has made such a change that stories like Trayvon Martin’s are way in the past. I’m raising two black boys to be men in a world where they are in danger. I appreciate allies and I look down upon the unserious.

  • mamareese

    Whoa….ok I’m glad to hear honesty. The folks with the shirts, I don’t think anyone in other races are claiming to be them, I think they just want to show visually they support that cause…. And since you cant walk aorund saying hi I support this or that…..this is another way. The shirts and signs symbolize the injustice, I think there is nothing wrong with these folks wearing the shirts to support that cause. If that’s the case then stop wearing PETA shirts….you are not a skinned animal.

  • Tonton Michel

    Is she single? :D

  • minna k.

    Like button.

    Glad someone is using her brain.

  • Miss Higgi

    Her parents should be proud! She is very young to be so insightful… Sadly she represents a minority point of view.

  • Gordon

    As a poor white kid from a broken home who grew up in a tough, predominantly black inner-city neighbourhood. Where am I allowed to stand on this issue?

    Very weary of the assumption that every white youth is the product of suburban privilege.

  • Miss Higgi

    Point well taken. We are a complex people with so many experiences. While I hear your concern, bottom line is that in this society, realized or not, you are benefited by skin color alone. But clearly after race, poverty is the next wrung on which prejudice is based… You seem socially conscious however. Stay that way. Read Tim Wise. I am not sure if he discusses white privilege in terms of white poverty, but he definitely addresses it in terms of skin color…

  • Stand4truth

    I can understand Gordon’s perspective. Not every White person comes from a privileged background, just like not every Black person was raised in the ‘hood. And Tim Wise is an excellent example of how White people can have a more eclectic perspective on racial issues. Some accuse Wise of being a White apologist and way too liberal, but I don’t see it that way.

  • Falis

    Tonton,

    You kill me! LMAO

  • Mistress_Scorpio

    Keep shuckin and jivin, Tonto.

  • Dionne Roberts-Emegha

    Very thought provoking and eloquently put. Truth is, however, many middle class blacks are also indoctrinated the same way. As a black woman, I teach my child every day that I won’t approve of her hanging out with certain types of boys. When I see boys on the Disney channel like Rashon Fegan, I say “now that’s the kind of nice boy you should marry one day,” or that’s the type of girl mommy expects you to have as a friend. When I see girls dressed distastefully or boys wearing their pants to their knees, I say “their parents should be ashamed for allowing them to dress that way,” or “I better never see you looking like that or hanging out with people who do.” So, while she certainly has a point about our fears of a certain type of man walking down the street, specifically as it relates to black men, most people (meaning white people) are not George Zimmerman as she concludes, because while they may have feared a a Trayvon with a hoodie, most would never have hunted him down as if it were their God given right. In the end, despite our fears of certain types of people, 90% of us understand that anyone could fear our children on any given day and we would not want that to happen to our child. Every white person I know shares that sentiment. They would not want someone to shoot their child who dresses weird or scary under the auspices of Stand Your Own Ground. So that is why they identify with Tryavon Martin and not George Zimmerman. That is why they march.

  • Dionne Roberts-Emegha

    Golden, with all due respect it is not that difficult to understand the conversations that go on in white households because we have similar conversations in black households. Grandmothers and mothers given their brown skin daughters subliminal messages about dark skinned girls or boys, versus praising or complimenting lighter skinned blacks. I still hear many black mothers talking about being with a girl or guy with good hair or steering clear of “nappy headed negros.” This is not just coming from whites. We also teach our lighter skinned daughters that they are purer than darker skinned black girls, without having to say those words. Trust me, they get the point before they can walk. Middle and upper class blacks are very intentional about steering their children away from darker skinned blacks, especially if they are from a lower income bracket. Whereas, if your son brings home a lower income light skinned girl, you make allowance. We are very harsh on white households but we’ve learned to emulate them pretty well.

  • cabugs

    Very enlightening and well articulated comment, Dionne Roberts-Emegha. Thank you for being so candid.

  • http://themodernmedicineman d-rhyme

    Mrs emegha. That was my sentiment entirely. Some approval seeking and even politician like pandering also. Not Trayvon,, well no one was. Her parents now have to worry about all the young black males who just find her sexy. Sad.

  • John Ackerby

    My problem with what the young unknowing 17 year old in the video is saying is that she never once deals with the fact that Trayvon Martin banged another man’s head into concrete just because the guy was watching Martin. Her statements are ignorant and misguided at best but harmful at worse because she gives black people support in their wrongheaded and morally inappropriate conclusion that Zimmerman did something wrong. Zimmerman did nothing wrong. Martin caused the problem by attacking Zimmerman and banging Zimmerman’s head into concrete.

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