White Female Jurors and Florida Justice
I am white and female, like the almost-white jury that acquitted Zimmerman of murdering Trayvon Martin. But I am also an anti-racist feminist. My head spins. I grew up in a family dedicated to civil rights and lived in communities that ostracized us because my father taught at Black Atlanta University, or when my mother worked with Black women on welfare at the South Side Community Center in Columbus, Ohio. My sisters and I were seen as worse than black; as race traitors.
When I write about race I think it is complex, fluid, unchanging and also changed—and that whiteness matters as structurally privileged, always. Being Black is frozen in slavery and also evolves in incredibly new ways—and it is always implicated with gender, sex and class meanings as well. I am not using “white” or “Black” as pre-determined meanings. We know that Clarence Thomas would have his own take on the trial, despite his color. But color matters most when it is said to not matter.
Race and Gender
During the trial the 6-woman jury was described as such with little or no mention of their race. They were not described as five white women because whiteness has a silent neutrality—you name race when it is other than white. One juror is described as Black/Latina so that may also have allowed for a lessening of the “whiteness” description for some. After the verdict the jury is more often described as white as well as female but with little attention to this fact. There is little examination of the relationship between being white and female, or what (white) motherhood might mean to and for these women, or their fears of young black men, as they sat in judgment of Trayvon Martin.
We know little of these women and my attempt to think deeply here is not to form some kind of personal attack or demonization of them. We know that 3 of the women are gun users, that 5 are mothers, and now we know given the CNN interview with juror No. B37 that 3 of the jurors started out in deliberations for acquittal, 2 for manslaughter, and 1 for murder. And Ms. Anonymous also tells us that she feels equally bad for Trayvon and George; they “both” got themselves into a regrettable situation that they could not get out of; and race played no part. Yet she speaks disparagingly of Rachel Jeantel for an assumed lack of education with little regard for who she really is.
The entire interview is stunning. Trayvon is dead but yet her feelings are “equally” extended to both victim and assaulter. Zimmerman is the predator and race mattered in who he chose to surveil, but race is e-raced here. The erasure masquerades as neutrality and fairness. Maybe given the silenced racism of the trial these jurors in the end cannot really allow themselves to wonder and imagine Trayvon as their own son. Why? Because he is Black and they are white and/but race supposedly does not matter. So the possibility that their gender—being mothers—that might be helpful to having them see the unfair danger that Trayvon was put in does not get put into play. Their race—white—silently, “objectively” trumps their gender.
I am white and female and a mother. I asked my lawyer spouse what would he have done, as a (white) male when he was 17 if he thought someone was tracking him. Would he run and try and get away? Would he turn around and challenge the aggressor? Before he could answer I said that I thought as a female I might run, no matter what, fearing that I would be overpowered. I was/am not sure—but I do think men and women think differently about assault, and aggression. So I was trying to think like I was Trayvon—what would he have done to get away. No matter what, he was trying to protect himself, and save his life. I assume he was terror filled. That he was terrorized because he was a young black boy being stalked by a white (Hispanic) man.