“Trayvon Martin could have been me.” – President Barack Obama

This was an extraordinary moment in American history. Just extraordinary. Thank you Mr. President. Thank you.


source

The full, 18 minute video can be seen here, and the transcript is below. He talked about the need for us to remember historical context, he talked about institutionalized racism, he said it was unlikely that a white Trayvon would have met the same fate, and he actually said the words “If Trayvon Martin had been of age and armed, could he have stood his ground?” I’m overwhelmed by this.

Possibly the most telling moment in the above clip, however, can be found at the 1:19 mark, where the President of the United States slipped into present tense and, discussing people locking their car doors at the site of a black man, said: “That happens to me.” Remarkable.

The whole transcript is after the jump (source):

(more…)

That Rolling Stone cover with Dzokhar Tsarnaev on it.

People are upset. They’ve seen the latest cover of Rolling Stone, they’ve seen the improbably sexy shot of the Boston Bomber (if I recall, the image was originally a selfie that Tsarnaev himself instagrammed sometime before the attack), and they can’t understand how Rolling Stone would give a terrorist the rock star treatment, even as the American right wing is calling Trayvon Martin (a young man innocent of any wrongdoing, killed for being black in the wrong place at the wrong time) a thug.

But I honestly think — with great respect and taking enormous care to say all of the following informed by that respect — that Rolling Stone’s decision to run that picture was made in order to shake us up.

The copy on the cover, just below Tsarnaev’s cool-kid-scruffy chin, reads thus: “The Bomber. How a Popular, Promising Student Was Failed By His Family, Fell Into Radical Islam, and Became a Monster.”

Dzokhar TsarnaevI will admit that I was among those people who, in the days after the bombing, saw a wide variety of pictures of Tsarnaev, a teenager not that much older than my own son, and read his tweets, and presumed I knew something. Presumed him to be a lost boy, not a monster at heart. I was guessing he’d been physically abused by his violent, domineering brother and felt trapped and forced into doing something he wouldn’t have chosen for himself.

I now think something quite different, but it has been interesting (to put it kindly) to watch myself recover from having been duped by a sweet smile and a benign Twitter account. He looks like such a good kid, you know? And in that Rolling Stone cover, he looks like a rock star.

And that’s the thing: We don’t think that white kids who look like sexy young rock stars can be terrorists. We don’t think they can be monsters. We don’t think that they will go to a crowded, joyous public event and leave behind home-made bombs loaded with ball-bearings in order to maximize the mayhem and suffering. We don’t expect them to write notes calling their victims “collateral damage,” in retribution for American wars.

The American Muslim community has been roiled by the events in Boston, once again suffering the ignominious spotlight of fear-driven suspicion and hate. They know all too well what Americans think terrorists are “supposed” to look like, because nearly every time the American media uses the word, it comes with a picture of a bearded Muslim attached.

I am wrecked over the not-guilty verdict in Trayvon Martin’s case, but I know that I can’t truly grasp the depth of sorrow, despair, and anger that the African American community is experiencing this week. My son will never be called a thug when he wears his hoodie up, because my son is white.

But I honestly think that the editors of Rolling Stone were not aggrandizing Dzokhar Tsarnaev. I think they were challenging us: “This is your bomber, America. He’s a monster. Take a good look.”

Just as People magazine was challenging us when they ran their cover with Trayvon’s picture after he was murdered. They called it an American tragedy.

This is your child, America. Take a good look.

trayvon-martin-240

Black boys living lives.

It’s very important that we write and talk about the black boys who have been killed in this country as a result of racist laws, policies and attitudes. It’s very important that we remember and honor them and pledge ourselves to fight for a more perfect union for all Americans, that we do not allow those terrible, senseless deaths to have been in vain.

But when all we write about a minority community (whether it be black boys, or gay men, or refugee women) are tales of loss and woe, we run the risk of pathologizing and minimizing those lives. Trayvon Martin is, was, much more than the cultural construct we’ve been forced to make him, as are all the young black Americans who have died too soon, often for little else than being black. Black boys do not, a priori, live sorrowful lives — they live lives. They live. They do things great and good and small and petty and they laugh and cry and love their teams or their comic books or their poetry too much and don’t do enough homework and do so much homework that they get into Harvard and love their families and hate their families and they just – live. The pathology is not in their lives, but in the country in which they live those lives.

So in the wake of all the sorrow and anger surrounding the Trayvon Martin case (and all the cases that are stunningly, frighteningly similar), I wanted to post the following two items, about black and brown boys doing things great and good. One young man started his day last Thursday by helping an old lady move her couch, and wound up saving a little girl who’d been kidnapped; the other two (from what I can tell on Google and on the strength of his name, I’m guessing Gabriel Barralaga is Latino – but we’re not exactly chock-a-block with positive images of young Latino men, either) are struggling with the expectations we put on our young men and their bodies, and are facing down those expectations with words and remarkable skill. Please watch and read, and please pass on. These are boys deserve to have their stories told, too.

***************

Lancaster Teen Temar Boggs Hailed as a Hero in 5-year-old’s Abduction

Temar Boggs had a feeling he’d find the 5-year-old girl who was abducted Thursday in Lancaster Township.

He was right.

Boggs, a McCaskey freshman who lives in Gable Park Woods, had been hanging out with a friend at nearby Lancaster Arms apartments and helping move a couch when a man came by asking if they’d seen a missing girl.

They hadn’t, Boggs said, so they went to watch TV.

A short time later, his friend went outside and saw lots of police officers and people from the neighborhood looking for the girl.

…Boggs and about six friends joined the search.

***************

Beach Bodies (in spoken word)

Some thoughts on the Trayvon Martin verdict and Cory Monteith’s death.

trayvon-martin-2401) I was and remain absolutely gutted by the not-guilty verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. Legal expert Andrew Cohen does a good job of explaining how the system allows such outcomes, and Ta-Nehisi Coates is right when he explains that “The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is not an error in programming. It is the correct result of forces we set in motion years ago and have done very little to arrest.” The death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin, the death of 14 year old Damani Henard, the death of 22 year old Oscar Grant, the death of 17 year old Jordan Davis, the death of 13 year old Darius Simmons — these all reflect a society and a culture that have long demonized and dehumanized black people, warehoused many of them in conditions that breed despair, and then punished young black men for their own dehumanization. I cannot imagine what it was like to wake up the parent of a black boy on Sunday morning.

2) And that’s the thing: I really cannot imagine what it was like to wake up the parent of a black boy on Sunday morning. There is no way I will ever be able to feel that in my bones, never feel the resonance of history communal and personal, never know what it’s like to look at my beautiful boy and fear for his all-too American skin. I felt on Saturday night, as the news came out and the responses poured in, as if I were at a national wake, a national shiva call, that all I could do was bear witness and offer love. Mouth words that had no meaning and never could.

3) I suspect that Trayvon Martin would not want to be a symbol or have his name serve as a rallying cry. That he would rather fall in love, hang out with his friends. Eat those Skittles. But from this moment in American history, his death and his name will serve a national purpose, and if we work very hard, they will help us to perfect the union that failed him so badly. Trayvon’s death is bigger than him, because he is a portent of all that Andrew Cohen and Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote about, and a symbol of that bone-deep fear that far too many of my fellow Americans feel when they hold their boys in their arms.

4) The Saturday death of Cory Monteith, who played Finn on Glee, is a tragedy of an entirely different nature. Without yet knowing what killed a 31 year old alone in a hotel room [UPDATE 7/16/13: The coroner has ruled that his death was a result of a "mixed drug toxicity" of heroin and alcohol], the fact of Monteith’s addictions and repeated attempts at recovery suggest a powerful, and for me, agonizing picture. I’ve lost people, nearly lost people, and lived with people in the throes of addiction, and there is nothing glamorous or entertaining about it. Cory Monteith’s death was likely the end result of some pretty horrifying struggles, and given his efforts to fight his demons, his famously sweet nature, how much I’ve cared for the character he brought to life and who now dies with him, and the reactions of millions of people who loved Finn and Cory, too (many of them kids who he had inspired to seek a better reality for themselves) — his death saddens me deeply.

5) Some have complained about Americans paying more attention to Monteith’s death than to the Zimmerman verdict, often complaining in a way that paints Monteith as privileged and spoiled, as if it’s his fault that Americans pay more attention to their TV than they do to social justice. And sure: He was privileged, as a newly-famous white man, and he was probably some kind of rich. He was well-known and well-loved. And none of that mattered in his final moments. If I’m right and the death was somehow addiction-related, Cory Monteith’s final moments were not privileged. They were awful. My hope is that whatever it was, it induced sleep, and the end was painless. But the steps that brought him to that end — those were not happy steps.

6) It is possible to mourn Trayvon Martin and Cory Monteith at the same time. It is possible to look at both deaths as tragedies, and to hope that neither man died in vain — that we will wrench some new kind of justice from our justice system, that we will find better ways to reach people who are held in their pain and their addictions. That we will give our children, ourselves, and our nation new tools, tools that keep more people alive and genuinely healthy.

7) If you don’t like the way that some Americans — millions of whom felt they “knew” Cory Monteith, after years of hosting him in their living rooms — are more focused on the death of a rich, famous actor than they are on that of the young boy who was just walking home, take that up with America. Don’t badmouth a dead man for how badly he timed his terrible death.

“We must be concerned not merely about who murdered them…”

mlk martyred children*

h/t profragsdale; for the full speech, click here.

 

In grief and in memory, for Trayvon Martin & all American boys killed for being black: What is white privilege.

Trayvon MartinSomehow, the jury in the Trayvon Martin case found his murderer not guilty. I cannot begin to imagine either how or why, or what I would do if I were the mother of a black boy tonight. All I can do is re-up this, and send all my love to that poor boy’s parents, and all the parents of black boys in this country. This God-damned country — this country that we are damning with our own hands.

****************

When my husband and I came to Chicago from Israel so that I could go to graduate school, we had no intention of staying here permanently.

But then the second Palestinian intifada happened, and the Israeli government’s entirely irresponsible and deadly response to same, and we came to a conclusion: We no longer wanted to raise children in Israel.

At the time, we only had the one child, a round-cheeked toddler boy, but the fact of his boy-ness sharpened the point. Our choice came mostly out of a desire to educate him differently, to not sacrifice his up-bringing and our values on the altar of occupation and settlement, but there was an unavoidable sense of having also snatched our son from the jaws of war — because in Israel, of course, every 18 year old boy is drafted into the military. Girls go, too, but they don’t see combat. They don’t die.

I bring this up now because I’ve been thinking a lot about all the parents of African American boys who are holding their sons a little closer today in the wake of the horrible, heartbreaking Trayvon Martin case.

My aunt is one of those moms — white as me, but mom to a black man who was once young, a young black man who was stopped for jogging in his own neighborhood, a young black man for whom she would tremble a little whenever he went into the city.

Like every other parent of a young black man, my aunt knew that my cousin could be frisked, arrested, and even killed for little but his youth, gender, and skin.

Like Trayvon Martin.

Like Travares McGill.

Like Sean Bell.

Like Timothy Stansbury, Jr.

Like Amadou Diallo.

Like Oscar Grant.

Like Orlando Barlow.

Like Aaron Campbell.

Like Steven Eugene Washington.

Like Kiwane Carrington.

Kiwane Carrington was 15 when he was killed. Steven Eugene Washington was autistic. Orlando Barlow “was surrendering and on his knees.”

All were killed by people charged with protecting them, whether as law enforcement or law enforcement support of one kind or another. None were armed.

When I look at my boy — on the cusp of adolescence, at the brink of a teenager’s certainty and stupidity, about to try on the world in the guise of a boy-man — I can imagine what might have been: We might have sent him to the Israeli military, he might have worn that uniform, we might have sat by the phone and trembled in fear.

But we removed him and ourselves from those might-haves. We stayed in a place where just being a young man did not by definition mean offering yourself up to die.

For Trayvon Martin, Travares McGill, Sean Bell, Timothy Stansbury, Jr., Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Orlando Barlow, Aaron Campbell, Steven Eugene Washington, Kiwane Carrington, and countless others, however, there was never a choice.

These days, Americans spent a lot of time arguing about “white privilege” — if it exists, what it means, what its consequences might be.

But I think I know what white privilege is.

White privilege is never being frightened for my son’s life, simply because of the color of his skin.

****************

Please also see: 

For You, Who Used to Be – for Trayvon Martin: A beautiful poem by my online friend Sergi, in Trayvon’s memory.

What is white privilege, pt II: “If you watch the following and realize that you have never needed to share any of these tips with anyone you love, you’re living with a very particular kind of privilege.”

In memory of Trayvon Martin & all American boys killed for being black: What is white privilege.

Trayvon Martin was killed a year ago today [February 26, 2013 ]. In his memory and in the memory of all the African Americans killed simply for having the wrong skin in the wrong place, I’m re-upping the following, written in the wake of Trayvon’s murder. May he rest in peace, may his family find some measure of justice and peace, and may we take upon ourselves the burden of making this country a better place. Stories like this give me hope.

****************

Trayvon MartinWhen my husband and I came to Chicago from Israel so that I could go to graduate school, we had no intention of staying here permanently.

But then the second Palestinian intifada happened, and the Israeli government’s entirely irresponsible and deadly response to same, and we came to a conclusion: We no longer wanted to raise children in Israel.

At the time, we only had the one child, a round-cheeked toddler boy, but the fact of his boy-ness sharpened the point. Our choice came mostly out of a desire to educate him differently, to not sacrifice his up-bringing and our values on the altar of occupation and settlement, but there was an unavoidable sense of having also snatched our son from the jaws of war — because in Israel, of course, every 18 year old boy is drafted into the military. Girls go, too, but they don’t see combat. They don’t die.

I bring this up now because I’ve been thinking a lot about all the parents of African American boys who are holding their sons a little closer today in the wake of the horrible, heartbreaking Trayvon Martin case.

My aunt is one of those moms — white as me, but mom to a black man who was once young, a young black man who was stopped for jogging in his own neighborhood, a young black man for whom she would tremble a little whenever he went into the city.

Like every other parent of a young black man, my aunt knew that my cousin could be frisked, arrested, and even killed for little but his youth, gender, and skin.

Like Trayvon Martin.

Like Travares McGill.

Like Sean Bell.

Like Timothy Stansbury, Jr.

Like Amadou Diallo.

Like Oscar Grant.

Like Orlando Barlow.

Like Aaron Campbell.

Like Steven Eugene Washington.

Like Kiwane Carrington.

Kiwane Carrington was 15 when he was killed. Steven Eugene Washington was autistic. Orlando Barlow “was surrendering and on his knees.”

All were killed by people charged with protecting them, whether as law enforcement or law enforcement support of one kind or another. None were armed.

When I look at my boy — on the cusp of adolescence, at the brink of a teenager’s certainty and stupidity, about to try on the world in the guise of a boy-man — I can imagine what might have been: We might have sent him to the Israeli military, he might have worn that uniform, we might have sat by the phone and trembled in fear.

But we removed him and ourselves from those might-haves. We stayed in a place where just being a young man did not by definition mean offering yourself up to die.

For Trayvon Martin, Travares McGill, Sean Bell, Timothy Stansbury, Jr., Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Orlando Barlow, Aaron Campbell, Steven Eugene Washington, Kiwane Carrington, and countless others, however, there was never a choice.

These days, Americans spent a lot of time arguing about “white privilege” — if it exists, what it means, what its consequences might be.

But I think I know what white privilege is.

White privilege is never being frightened for my son’s life, simply because of the color of his skin.

****************

Please also see: 

What is white privilege, pt II – “If you watch the following and realize that you have never needed to share any of these tips with anyone you love, you’re living with a very particular kind of privilege.”

What is white privilege.

Trayvon Martin

When my husband and I came to Chicago from Israel so that I could go to graduate school, we had no intention of staying here permanently.

But then the second Palestinian intifada happened, and the Israeli government’s entirely irresponsible and deadly response to same, and we came to a conclusion: We no longer wanted to raise children in Israel.

At the time, we only had the one child, a round-cheeked toddler boy, but the fact of his boy-ness sharpened the point. Our choice came mostly out of a desire to educate him differently, to not sacrifice his up-bringing and our values on the altar of occupation and settlement, but there was an unavoidable sense of having also snatched our son from the jaws of war — because in Israel, of course, every 18 year old boy is drafted into the military. Girls go, too, but they don’t see combat. They don’t die.

I bring this up now because I’ve been thinking a lot about all the parents of African American boys who are holding their sons a little closer today in the wake of the horrible, heartbreaking Trayvon Martin case.

My aunt is one of those moms — white as me, but mom to a black man who was once young, a young black man who was stopped for jogging in his own neighborhood, a young black man for whom she would tremble a little whenever he went into the city.

Like every other parent of a young black man, my aunt knew that my cousin could be frisked, arrested, and even killed for little but his youth, gender, and skin.

Like Trayvon Martin.

Like Travares McGill.

Like Sean Bell.

Like Timothy Stansbury, Jr.

Like Amadou Diallo.

Like Oscar Grant.

Like Orlando Barlow.

Like Aaron Campbell.

Like Steven Eugene Washington.

Like Kiwane Carrington.

Kiwane Carrington was 15 when he was killed. Steven Eugene Washington was autistic. Orlando Barlow “was surrendering and on his knees.”

All were killed by people charged with protecting them, whether as law enforcement or law enforcement support of one kind or another. None were armed.

When I look at my boy — on the cusp of adolescence, at the brink of a teenager’s certainty and stupidity, about to try on the world in the guise of a boy-man — I can imagine what might have been: We might have sent him to the Israeli military, he might have worn that uniform, we might have sat by the phone and trembled in fear.

But we removed him and ourselves from those might-haves. We stayed in a place where just being a young man did not by definition mean offering yourself up to die.

For Trayvon Martin, Travares McGill, Sean Bell, Timothy Stansbury, Jr., Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Orlando Barlow, Aaron Campbell, Steven Eugene Washington, Kiwane Carrington, and countless others, however, there was never a choice.

These days, Americans spent a lot of time arguing about “white privilege” — if it exists, what it means, what its consequences might be.

But I think I know what white privilege is.

White privilege is never being frightened for my son’s life, simply because of the color of his skin.

***********************

Update – please also see: 

What is white privilege, pt II – “If you watch the following and realize that you have never needed to share any of these tips with anyone you love, you’re living with a very particular kind of privilege.”

For You, Who Used to Be – for Trayvon Martin

Internet friend and fellow Ta-Nehisi Coates commenter Sergi (also known as HappySurge and @SadBastardBar) left the following poem in our open thread yesterday, in memory of Trayvon Martin and all the other boys who have been killed, and will be killed, in the same way, killed for being young, male, and black. If you can participate in today’s Million Hoodies for Trayvon campaign, particularly if you’re in NYC and can go to Union Square at 6 pm, please do so.

As I’ve said elsewhere, Trayvon was first his family’s and his community’s boy. But he was an American. He was my boy, too.

May his memory be for a blessing יהיה זכרו ברוך

*********

For You, Who Used to Be

When you were born,
there was a bullet waiting
in a bigot’s gun.
The first time your mother held you,
the first time you saw your parents argue,
the first girl that bothered you
on the playground
before you knew what you two were supposed to do
with each other;
that bullet was always waiting,
like a guardian angel,
to kiss you when you fell
to covet grace before you and violence most of all.

Your math teacher scolding you in eighth grade, disappointed,
telling you homework was to be done at home
and she knew you knew;
what would she say different
if she saw you in your box?
A box promised for a grown man
that fits a boy instead.
When you wrapped your tongue
around another
and felt a clean hip under the ends of a t-shirt
before either of you knew or cared about where
the right t-shirts were bought and what socks to wear them with.
Would she have loved you different
if she knew?
Would bad beatless music have done
or would she change it to your favorite song
on a mixtape you would have listened to
together
on a road trip you got to go on
because your parents knew.

The bullet always knew it was waiting for you.
It was waiting to mark your last step.
No doctor said you could die
from walking, but you did.
A seventeen year old boy dead
by a bullet out a bigot’s barrel
and the police chief said he knew,
in his heart,
the goodness of the truth.
And he went home
and fucked his wife.
Not for the last time.
He called up his friends and got hammered on cheap beer;
not for the last time.
He went to work and got a paycheck he didn’t earn;
not for the last time.
And the bigot,
he gets a camera crew
because he knew
you were up to something
so he followed you.
And he was scared, but not because he saw it too.
He had carried that bullet.
And he will hear human voices again
and see girls again
and remember youthful scolding’s again.
And he will know what it is
to watch a seventeen year old boy fall,
robbed of everything
he had been told and felt
in earnest absence of the coming fact;
A boy whose parents never got a chance
to love him like they knew.

But it was not the hand
of Fate
or God
or righteous thunder
that struck you.
It was an ignorant man who feared you,
who never thought for a second about
why
he was fucking with this kid
who probably hadn’t even fallen in love yet,
who never thought for a second of his parents and his cousins
and every time they would mention his name in absence.

I’m thousands of miles away.
We will never have a conversation.
Nothing I wish for you will happen.
This bigot will walk each step in earnest fear.
Those cops will commend themselves
until they face public shaming
and so they leave the defiant commendations
for their family rooms.
And other boys will die just like you,
like it was destined,
like it was not law or ignorance,
bigots or incompetence,
but a bullet waiting.
But it wasn’t.
They were supposed protect you
and they robbed you
and you can’t be put back
where you go.
You go in a box too heavy for you
that fits you too early
and the police chief,
in his heart,
says it was waiting for you.

*********

For Sergi’s poems, click here.

For Sergi’s songs, click here.

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