(ThyBlackMan.com) “It’s not about race.”
We’ve seen and heard those words said many times over the last few weeks. As an intelligent black man, hearing these words repeated so often gives me the impression that black people aren’t the only ones that need convincing, as if repeating the mantra enough will make it a fact. Being judged is a natural part of life so I won’t deny anyone’s right to an opinion, however, it’s important to realize that as a community, all of our opinions need to be considered before a grand consensus of “It’s not about race” can be accepted with confidence. If the majority of Black people state the same ideas about the bias in our judicial system, then maybe the system needs to be examined in-depth so that we all can come to a better understanding and help our community grow and heal.
Take jury selection, for example. During this process, if the case involves either a black defendant or a black person being represented by the prosecution, notice how the attorney that is on the opposing side uses all of their peremptory challenges to remove as many black potential jurors as they can? Think about that next time you watch or participate in that process…think about the attorney’s motivation for removing those jurors. Deep down inside, did they expect that black juror to be biased towards their “own kind”? If that’s not the thought that motivated their removal request, then what is? Is it because all of us black people are connected and will automatically accept
By that token, what’s to stop jurors of other races from doing the same thing? A white juror could completely accept a white defendant’s version of events and give little to no regard to the black victim. In fact, many would argue that that’s exactly what happened with the Zimmerman trial, based on Juror B37s own words during her post-trial interview.
I have no doubt that Juror B37 spoke the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth as she knew it…after all, ignorance does not lie. It has no need to lie since ignorance is unable to accept the idea that it is wrong or offensive to others until it is called out from multiple directions. Just ask Amandla Stendberg, who at the age of 13, portrayed “Rue”, a character from Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. Despite being an avid reader, I don’t indulge in much fiction so I’ve never read the books, however, the series has a very large and vocal fan base. One would expect such devoted fans to pay attention to details, such as the writer’s own description of her characters. When some ignorant fans discovered that the character would be portrayed by a black actress, there was an immediate backlash, as if to say to Hollywood “How dare you cast a guilty black person as an innocent.” A few of these “fans” commented that the character’s fate was no longer sad to them since a black child was cast in the role.
The stunned reactions and lies that were given once these people were made aware that the character was black all along was quite telling about the core of an ignorant person. As much as they loved the story, they were simply unable to accept a black character in the role of an innocent or someone that they were moved to feel compassion for. This inability to view a black person as innocent, likable, and valuable is what’s meant when we say that it IS about race. If this is how people react to a fictional character, one can only imagine how many black faces were judged guilty from the moment that they showed up to court…or anywhere else, for that matter.
You’d think that Amandla would have been shown a little compassion or sympathy since she was barely a teenager…but when it comes to black life and guilt, age doesn’t matter at all. Take 9-year old Quvanzhane Wallis, who dared to show up to the 2013 Oscar ceremony with an exuberance and confidence beyond her age…and for that, she was called a cunt. Now ‘cunt’ is a pretty harsh word to unleash on an adult, much less a 9 year old child. Quvenzhane is black, however, and therefore she was guilty, so the person who called her that didn’t think twice about it until they were called out by the public.
Imagine being Amandla’s parent and having to explain to her that certain people’s negative reactions to her character had nothing at all to do with her performance and everything to do with something she can’t change: her race. Picture Quvenzhane’s parents having to explain to their 9 year old the meaning behind being called a cunt. I can only speculate on what those conversations entailed but what I do know in my heart is that due to the actions of the ignorant, both of those little girls lost something inside themselves that can never be replaced. They had to grow up and learn a harsh lesson about the world around them. Who knows…that may have been a lesson that their parents wanted to protect them from but that choice was taken away from them.
The fact that not even our children are deserving of compassion in the eyes of many hurts me deeply. The bias that exists in the heart of the ignorant and unknowing is a lot more dangerous than overt racism. In the past, we had to deal with racist actions. Today, we have to deal with prejudiced hearts. That’s not an easy battle to win because when the heart is involved in decision-making and judgments, it’s very hard for an outside influence to convince that person that they are wrong.
Since Juror B37 was kind enough to allow the world insight into her thoughts while deliberating over the George Zimmerman trial, let’s examine one of her quotes regarding Zimmerman himself: “He had a right to defend himself. If he felt threatened that his life was going to be taken away from him or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right.” So as long as HE felt that his life would be taken away, he has a right to protect that life, right? Let’s examine that.
Imagine, if you will, a crotchety old white man yelling at some teens near his home who weren’t following the rules regarding where they could hang around. A black, well-built father in his early 40s overhears this discussion and confronts the old man, telling him that the teens could play where they wanted. They argue for a bit before the old white man reveals that he is armed (presumably by flipping up his shirt) and then turns and walks back towards his home. At this point, the confrontation should be over.
The black father, however, decides that the confrontation isn’t over at all and decides to follow the old white man and attack him, grabbing his gun hand and his shoulder and dropping the older man to the ground, with the younger black man landing on top of him. They wrestle for a while until the older white man shoots the black man, in front of witnesses (including the black man’s child). The black man succumbs to his injuries and dies.
In this example, was the black man responsible for his own death, since he was the one who reinitiated the confrontation and struck the older white man first? Should the older white man be protected by the Stand Your Ground law? According to the jurors in the George Zimmerman trial, he should be, since he “had a right to protect himself.”
You might be surprised to find that this scenario isn’t imaginary at all…but it wasn’t an older white man who was forced to shoot his attacker: it was older black man by the name of Trevor Dooley. The younger man wasn’t black, either…he was a white man by the name of David James. Now, knowing that the person who reignited the confrontation and struck the first blow was white, do you still think that younger man was responsible for his own death? A Florida Jury didn’t and neither did the trial Judge…Trevor Dooley was denied Stand Your Ground protection, found guilty of manslaughter, and sentenced to 8 years in prison.
So we have George Zimmerman with no eyewitnesses to back up his stories and he was found not guilty. Trevor Dooley had plenty of eyewitness that confirmed that not only that he turned around to go home but that the victim attacked him first…prosecution witnesses, at that. It didn’t matter…Trevor was a black man that killed a white man and that meant that he was Guilty.
I grieve with the victim’s family but if it’s really not about race, then the James Family should’ve felt the same heartbreak that the Fulton/Martin family felt from watching their loved one’s killer walk out of court a free man. That’s a harsh thing to say but the truth often is. Take Paula Deen, for example…when she was questioned on her use of the n-word, she didn’t just say a hesitant “Yes”…she said “Yes, of course.” Now, “of course” can be taken many different ways but in my eyes, “Yes, of course” would be the answer that one gives to someone who should have known better than to ask such an obvious question to begin with. She said it with confidence and even added more grease to the frying pan, so to speak, by sharing her fantasy of a plantation dinner party straight out of 1860. She shared her harsh truth with the world and it cost her dearly.
We try to teach our children that honesty is the best policy. In actuality, though, our world and our justice system runs on lies. Lies are the reason that we have jails, attorneys, and court systems. Lies can fill a person’s mind and heart with ease and contentment when there is nothing else available for consumption. Lies are easy to accept and free to give and receive. A lie would have saved Mrs. Deen a lot of heartache and trouble…but the truth? Truth costs and the price is often higher than one would anticipate having to pay. Sharing your truth can end up costing you family, friends, money, employment, romance, reputation, peace of mind, and yes…the truth can cost you your freedom.
The only reward that one may receive for sharing their truth is respect. These days, however, that’s a currency that most in this world have no use for because at the end of the day, respect often will not put food on the table or keep you warm at night.
So before you tell us that it’s not about race, take a step back and listen before making your judgments. Hear us and feel the pain of what we see and feel every day. Try to understand what it’s like to be someone else in this world and understand that we ALL have a valid right to have our perspective acknowledged and our voices heard.
Staff Writer; Kahle Todd
May connect with this brother via Facebook; K. Todd.