Face It: Trayvon Martin is Dead Because Many White People Are Afraid of Black People
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
It’s been a while since we've chatted about the invisible knapsack of black privilege in the age of Obama. Tragically, the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman demands that we black folks engage in some “real talk,” as I like to say, about our special role in American society.
During the last week or so, I have spent a good amount of time listening to white folks talk about the shooting of Trayvon Martin. I have talked to friends, been invisible as I sat next to white people at bars and cafes, and eavesdropped on conversations while riding on the bus. I have watched Fox News and lurked on right-wing Web sites to get a fair sense of “real America’s” collective pulse on this issue. I truly care about white people. I am their best friend because I always tell them the truth.
After doing all of this research, I have come to a conclusion that may be a bit upsetting to some of you: Black people are scary. In fact, I have come to realize that as a black man, I am a member of a group that scares white people more than any other in America.
I think we should own this fact. Could it be that the disproportionate coverage we are blessed with by the news media has convinced white America that we are a threat to them? Always suspicious, dangerous and suspect? Is this fear a result of a deeply held, almost primordial belief that still lurks in the collective subconscious and racial id of whiteness: that black men are naturally more vibrant, masculine, dynamic, virile, and athletic than white men?
Who knows where this fear comes from? As black men, we are left to deal with the consequences; the mysterious ways of (some) white people are not ours to divine or to understand.
However, I am sure of one thing: regardless of how we may be dressed, many white people find us scary.
It could be our cool pose, our energy, or the mere fact of our existence that scares some white people. Black men are so scary, that even when wearing suits in order to mute the power of our habitus, we are subject to extra precautions and security measures by the police, as well as individuals like George Zimmerman who have nominated themselves the protectors of their communities. Ironically, for some white people there is nothing more terrifying than a dignified, intelligent, confident and attractive black man wearing a fine, tailored suit.
Given these facts, it is only reasonable that a hoodie would frighten white people–and those who think like them–such as George Zimmerman. In all, common sense dictates that people wearing hoods cannot help but be anything but terrifying.
Because he was 17 years old (and, we cannot forget, 6 feet tall), there are some white people who are quite upset that Trayvon Martin is being labeled a “child” or a “boy” in the news media. Given that American society treats black children as though they are adults, this protest is both reasonable and fair. We must be empathetic and understanding here: for the white gaze, a black boy (Ronald Reagan’s “strapping young bucks”) is always a growth spurt away from becoming a “giant negro” such as Willie Horton or a “superpredator."
One of our unique privileges in the United States is that we are forced into adulthood early; black people are spared the luxury of a purely innocent childhood. At an early age, we are made aware of the realities of race, “niggerized,” and forced to understand what it means to be a problem.