|Elizabeth Parker and Andrae Brown|
In 2007 it was discovered that Michael Vick, an African American football player in the NFL, was participating in organized dog fighting. As a result, people from all over the nation were in an uproar. Members from diverse communities rallied together to express their disgust, moral outrage and call for action. The protestors were passionate and relentless. Communities of people, from all over the nation used all their resources, including the media, to pressure the government and the NFL. There was no rest until the justice they were calling for was served. This level of sustained intensity and passion was something that we had rarely seen before and have not seen since. Vick served 21 months in prison as a result of their efforts. Although Michael Vick eventually returned to football, the outrage from the fan base and Atlanta community influenced the Atlanta Falcon ownership to trade him to another team.
We want Michael Vick type justice for Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old kid who was shot and killed on February 27, 2012, while walking in his own neighborhood by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain. Zimmerman shot and killed this unarmed teen after labeling him "suspicious." As it turns out, Trayvon Martin was doing nothing but walking to the store for a snack. It is clear that Zimmerman engaged in racial profiling to label this young Black man as a threat—and Zimmerman's suspicions ultimately led him to take the adolescent's life. What is more astounding is that Zimmerman was questioned by the police and released. It appears they merely took him at his word without any attempt at a thorough investigation into the loss of this young life clearly not deemed to be worth the effort.
We want Michael Vick type justice. We want George Zimmerman arrested, tried and sentenced for stalking and murdering Trayvon Martin. We want an investigation into the protocol that we used the night of Trayvon's death. While we are calling for justice in this particular instance, we know that this is bigger than George Zimmerman. We know that this is bigger than the Sanford police. This is about who we are as a nation. This is about all people across communities and races taking a stance against racism.
We are a nation that claims that we value equality yet we are also a nation that judged Trayvon on what this he was wearing at the time of his death. We are a nation that looked at Trayvon's teenage missteps as justification for his murder–despite the fact that Zimmerman had no knowledge of this prior to the shooting and, most importantly, despite the fact that this had absolutely nothing to do with his murder. We are a nation that continues to point the finger at "black culture and black music" in order to validate incidents like this.
I know in my heart that this is not all of us. I know there are many people of all races that know that what happened to Trayvon Martin, and countless others like him, is wrong. I know that there are many of us that see past the tactics used to distract us. Past the propaganda used to keep us apart. I know there are many white people who are asking themselves, "What I can I do to change this? What can I do to support people who are living this injustice? How can I show that I am a white ally?"
I have come up with a list of things that you can do as a white ally for justice. This is by no means exhaustive, but is meant as a starting point to help guide our work as allies.
|A small crowd showed up at Peninsula Park, March 31, to rally in support of justice for Trayvon Martin. Opinion co-author Andraé L. Brown was among those present.|
7 Things You can do as a White Ally
1. Be loud- We need to show that many of us don't support violence and hatred. We can not be quiet when injustice itself becomes loud. We need to be louder than injustice. We need to show that people who believe in equality and justice are a powerful force. We need to understand that when we stay quiet we are supporting the status quo. We are allowing the injustice to remain.
2. Use your social media- There have been many powerful clips, songs, and articles written about Trayvon Martin and other tragedies. Post these on your facebook/blogs/ twitter etc. to let the people in your life know where you stand. Educate those around you the dangers of racial profiling.
3. Create your own forms of social protest. Use your art, writing, poetry, music, etc... to bring attention to this and other tragedies. Many people from the African American communities have already done so. White allies need to also contribute to the movement in this way. We can use our creativity and passions to show our solidarity.
4. Know your history- It is important to understand this country's bloody history to understand where we are today—as painful as it might be. The Trayvon Martin tragedy is part of a violent legacy that has been perpetuated against Black men in this country. This is not an isolated incident. It is connected to this country's racist practices towards Black men specifically and towards people of color, in general. It is directly linked to a history lynching and the long lasting legacy of Jim Crow. We need to understand this in order to change this.
5. Talk with your friends and family face to face. Educate others on why this is important to you. Interrupt racism when you hear it. Help those around you understand that we are all hurt when human life is devalued. We all suffer when we deny others their humanity.
6. Attend functions put on in your community. If it is a primarily African American function, practice your listening skills. Understand that you might have to prove that you are a safe person to talk to. Don't minimize the impact that race has on people's lived experience. Don't minimize or compare experiences. Talk from your heart. Listen with your entirety.
7. Contact local, state and federal government. Twenty-four states have Stand Your Ground Laws including Oregon. This law allows for the use of deadly force if threatened in both public and private spaces. Once this defense is taken it is up to the prosecution to prove that death was not imamate for the defendant. In other self-defense laws, you can still be found guilty if you could have walked away but choose not to. In some states, including Oregon, "the duty to retreat" is not required. What this means is that you have a right to kill someone if you feel threatened, even if there are other options available to you at the time. In Trayvon's case, Zimmerman felt threatened by a Black kid walking alone in his neighborhood. He is claiming this was enough reason to kill him. We cannot allow laws that protect racist crimes to remain. Demand a change.
In 2007 we saw what a group of outraged and relentless people could accomplish with Michael Vick. We want to see that now. We need to show our resilience and our resistance to this type of injustice. We have seen the power of white people using their voice to seek justice. We want to see the same type of passion and commitment in this case. We need to be outraged and stay outraged until we see change, until we see racial equality, until this type of injustice has stopped. We cannot let this fall by the wayside. We need to stand. After we stand, we need to keep standing.