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Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil

So the right wing lost their shit over an impromptu speech that President Obama gave on the Trayvon Martin verdict on Friday. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you watch the whole thing.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d87h9nAajqM[/youtube]

The freakout was centered around the assertion that this speech was President Obama’s attempt at race baiting. I have to say that the right wing in America never fail to exceed my expectation of ignorance. In this case, the ignorance runs eighteen levels deep.

Let me start by saying that these attacks are rooted in the belief that if we don’t talk about racism, it doesn’t exist. That’s only true if you benefit from the white (or whitish) privilege that allows you to never experience racism. But it’s not even true for those people, since they feel the need to proactively shut down the conversations about racism. Those conversations intrude on that privilege, and they can’t have that. When a black man tells you about being followed by security in a store and you respond by putting your fingers in your ears and screaming, “LALALALALA”, you are not just ignorant; you’re choosing to be proactively ignorant. The only reason you wouldn’t want to hear it, is because it makes you uncomfortable. And the only reason it’s uncomfortable for you, is because you know that it’s really happening. If you genuinely believed that it doesn’t happen, you would be completely nonplussed by these stories. When someone quotes bible verses to me, I’m completely unaffected by their words because I don’t believe that the bible is anything other than mythology created by primitive people who were trying to explain the unexplainable. I’m neither moved nor angered by it because I put no credence in it. People who want to shut down conversations about race are lying to themselves, and they’re doing a bad job of it.

The other thing that I couldn’t help but notice about the attacks on Obama over the speech, is that no one accused him of lying. No one said that. Not one single wingnut made the assertion that Obama was fabricating his experiences as a black man in America. They’re just pissed off that he shared his experiences. How dare he remind us that he’s black? The manner in which they chose to attack this speech couldn’t have more effectively illustrated the racism that black people in America experience every single day. They didn’t attack the content of his words. They attacked the blackness of his words. I don’t know if that’s simply a function of the fact that he intruded on their white privilege, or that they’re pissed that a black man has made it so much further than they’ve managed to go even with all of the advantages they were born with. I’m not going to speculate on that, nor do I need to in order to make my case for the racist nature of these attacks.

Willfully ignorant is the worst thing in the world that you can be. It’s a life wasted. We’re not on this earth to collect things; animals do that. We’re not on this planet to breed; animals do that. We’re here to exercise our sentience to its fullest extent. We’re here to learn things and to grow, both intellectually and spiritually. And if you’re trying to make sure that doesn’t happen, you’ve wasted a life.

These asshats who are pissed off at what Obama said, who didn’t even bother to go to thegrio.com, theroot.com, twib.fm, or any of the dozens of other sites that offer news from the black perspective are proactive racists. They don’t want to be bothered with other people’s issues because those issues intrude into their lives. That’s modern racism. Pretending that people of other races don’t have vastly different experiences with which to draw from is modern racism. Not seeing color is modern racism.

When you hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil, you don’t stop evil. It doesn’t go away because of your failure to acknowledge it. You’re actually giving evil your tacit permission to continue. And you squander your own life by not feeding your mind and your soul with all of the experiences that life has to offer.

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What Now?

Everyone is trying to figure out what to do to fix the egregious injustice done to the country (yes, it happened to all of us) in the Zimmerman verdict, myself included. There’s talk of pushing the DOJ into bringing a new case against Zimmerman. I understand that reaction, but I don’t think that’s the way to go.

I don’t think that DOJ has enough to successfully bring a hate crime case against Zimmerman. I know that a lot of people want to see sufficient evidence in his prior overtly racist comments, and his cousin who flat out says he hates black people, but I don’t see enough there to successfully prosecute a case. In my opinion, the worst thing that can happen to the state of racism in America would be for Zimmerman to be acquitted again. He would be seen as a “victim”, being hunted down by a justice system motivated by race. I don’t want to see that happen. Trying Zimmerman is not, in my opinion, the right way to go.

I hope that the Martin family decide to file a wrongful death civil suit against him, just to make sure that he never collects a dime of money from a book deal or speaking engagements, or whatever else he decided to do to earn some cash. But that’s as far as “punishing” Zimmerman can go. As much as I hate it, he got away with murder. We just need to accept that.

That said, don’t get me wrong, I’m not feeling hopeless. I do think that there are some things that we, the American people can do, and I have a few ideas. Step 1; donate to Marissa Alexander’s legal defense fund. Marissa Alexander is spending twenty years in jail for firing her gun at the wall next to her abusive ex-husband, who she had an order of protection against. There was a mountain of paperwork to back up her assertion that her husband abused her, and that she legitimately feared for her safety when he was near her. She was not allowed a “stand your ground” hearing, which would have averted the farce of a trial that ended in a jury deliberating for twelve minutes before convicting her. I’ve spent more than twelve minutes choosing which restaurant to eat dinner in. We can’t do anything for Trayvon, but we can get Marissa a rock star attorney to file her appeals. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in America, it’s that money buys you the verdict you want.

My second step is to make sure that all of the Trayvon Martins become national conversations and get their day in court. We need to be vigilant against corrupt police forces that sweep the murders of black men under the rug. Remember, George Zimmerman wasn’t charged for forty-four days. It wasn’t until we all got involved, that the justice system finally took action even though some of the investigators involved wanted to charge Zimmerman that first night. We can’t continue to accept racial disparity in how criminals are treated. Here, for instance, is a case we should all collectively focus in on now.

We need to shine a light on these cases, not just to right the wrongs in our justice system, but also to change our culture.

In listening to juror B37 talk about the trial, it became obvious to me that she could not relate to a black teenager. She thought he was acting suspicious by “walking slowly” “late at night” (unless you’re a fucking farmer 7 pm is not late), “looking into houses” (based on nothing other than Zimmerman’s word, and who the hell doesn’t look into windows when they’re walking?). She seemed to give Zimmerman every benefit of the doubt, buying everything he said (even though his story changed dramatically), and believing everything his friends said. Who doesn’t assume that any defendant in a case like this isn’t highly motivated to twist events around in order to avoid years in prison? She ignored the fact that every single person who identified the calls for help on the 911 calls as being Zimmerman, went on to say preposterous things. For example, his coworker claimed she had no idea why George wasn’t at work after the incident. All she knew was that he was on FMLA. Are you fucking kidding me? You work in the only company in the world that has no rumor mill, and no access to local news? Or Zimmerman’s elderly friends who weren’t following the case at all. Your friend is on trial for murder and you’re not scouring the internet for information every day? Preposterous! She didn’t find Rachel Jeantel credible. Are you shitting me? I’ve never seen a more honest testimony from anyone in a trial, ever. So what accounts for this lack of common sense and disregard for plausibility?

Relatability. She related to all of Zimmerman’s friends so much so, that she didn’t see how preposterous their testimony was. She flat out told you she couldn’t relate to Rachel or Trayvon, referring to “their world”. Is that racist? I don’t know, you decide.

But I think it’s important to bring national attention to as many of these cases as possible. We need to give people enough exposure to “their world” (whatever “their” is for each individual) as possible, until they realize it’s “our world”. We need to change our culture. We need to start exposing even the most sheltered Americans to the reality of our country. We need to make people aware of the fact that their experiences aren’t all of the experiences in America. In short, we need to start busting bubbles all across the country until people like Rachel Jeantel and Trayvon Martin are no longer “others”, but “ours”.

I know that I sound like a sunny optimist, but I firmly believe that you change a culture by proactively changing it. When I say proactive, I mean vigilant. We need to be vigilant about changing things in America. We’re the only ones that can change it. We can tear down age old prejudices and social constructs. We can stop accepting the fact that different races and different classes in America have different justice systems. We can demand equal justice for all races. We can demand equal justice for all classes. It’s time to stop accepting that rich people get away with anything, and that poor people get less justice, and that’s just the way it is.

Enough! It is in our power to level the playing field. It’s time we stop being complacent and use our power.

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I’m Not Black, So It’s Different

Numb. For the past 12 hours, since the Zimmerman verdict came in, I’ve been completely numb. I don’t mean physically numb. I mean completely numb. I was literally unable to even form a thought, or process a feeling. My only thought was, “No”. That’s it. 12 hours of “no”. I didn’t call anyone, I didn’t open my computer, I didn’t want any input at all. I woke up this morning, still not wanting to read anything on social media, but needing some input.

Fortunately, iTunes downloaded what I needed; a special episode of one of my favorite podcast, This Week In Blackness. If you’ve never heard of it, you should really download a few episodes. It’s not what it sounds like. It’s exclusively not about “blackness”. It’s about inclusion more than anything else. I started listening a couple of years ago because I realized that, even a person who has never had a racist or non-inclusive thought in her head, I have no idea what it feels like to be black in America.

A little background on me; my parents moved us to California from Iran (where I was born) when I was about four years old. I never went to preschool. I went straight into kindergarten. After all of the placement tests before the school year happened, I was placed in a mixed kindergarten/first grade class. There were about a dozen of us five year olds in the class with about a dozen six year olds. We were separated into different sides of the room. The person that ended up becoming my best friend through elementary school was named Efua. She’s black. I didn’t realize she was black for (probably) five years. You would think the name would have tipped me off! I realized she was black when a kid from Japan transferred to our school. Everyone was fascinated with him. There wasn’t anything remotely racist about it. It was just childlike fascination with something different. But that was when I realized that society saw differences among humans. That’s when I realized there was a difference between Effie (that’s what we called her) and I. Our school was pretty diverse, and I never sensed or saw any racism at all until a couple of years after discovering what I thought was an innocuous difference. The hostage crisis was happening in Iran. For those of you who don’t remember, there were fifty-two Americans being held hostage in the US embassy in Iran for four hundred and forty-four days. There was one kid in my class who decided it was my fault, and felt it necessary to torment me every day. Even as a sixth grader, it didn’t bother me. I could see that he hated himself more than he hated me. Even though he had no effect on me emotionally, he imparted racism on me intellectually. Around that time, my father (who was Iranian) had a group of his friends and brother and sisters over for dinner. I’d never noticed it before that night, but these people were incredibly racist toward (mostly) black people. As I heard them speak, all I could think was, “you should know better”. I knew that if I had one racist asshole tormenting (trying to) me at school, that they were getting it every day, everywhere they went. I couldn’t understand the inability to connect what was being done to them with what they were saying about other people. Since then, I’ve seen many, many examples of minorities being racist toward other minorities. My understanding of how that happens hasn’t grown with more exposure to it. I simply don’t understand it.

Racism has never been emotional to me. It’s always been cerebral. Every time I see it, I explain it the way I did with that self loathing kid in the sixth grade. That’s not to say that I don’t see it. I see it more than most people.

I see the institutional racism that exists in this country every day. I work in Human Resources, with an emphasis on talent acquisition. I see the institutional racism every time I’m directed to increase diversity outreach. People fundamentally misunderstand the role of racism in corporate America. Take what I’m about to say as the anecdotal evidence that it is. White collar corporate America (which is where 95% of my experience is) is not inherently racist. I have often been given the directive make minority hires for positions, so companies (at least really big ones) are aiming for diversity. The issue I run into with these searches for diversity candidates is the lack of qualified candidates to fill them. The proportion of diversity college graduates with experience is not equal to the proportion of minorities in America. That’s just a fact. It’s getting a little bit better every year, but it’s still a problem. Two or three generations ago, black people simply didn’t have the opportunity to go to college. College is a generational thing. If your parents went to college, you’re almost certain to get a college degree so that first generation is the key to every generation that follows it. And that first generation approach college much differently than the third or fourth generation. That first generation isn’t aware of all of the different career possibilities. They’re not going for careers in publishing or mechanical engineering because those careers don’t exist in their universe. They’re choosing from a limited field of careers and getting general degrees like “business”. Third and fourth generation college graduates have more exposure, and are getting more specialized degrees and have their eye on a specific career. First generation college graduates have their eye on a degree. This is just the natural evolution of educating a population, and it’s not unique to minorities. The institutional racism exists in the fact that white people have had the privilege of being at it for much longer. And the institutional issues go far beyond time. I have a friend who is in the admissions department at a major university in California. She told me that when reviewing applicants, there’s a disparity in how they weigh GPAs from different high schools. A 4.2 GPA from a high school in south central is equal to a 3.7 GPA from a school in Beverly Hills. Why? Because high schools are better in Beverly Hills. So if you work your ass off in south central, you still haven’t received the same education as someone who merely did well in Beverly Hills. The problem is systemic.

But I massively digressed. I started listening to This Week in Blackness because I realized that for all of my liberal, intellectual ideas about race, I had no fucking idea what it felt like to be black in America. To be clear, I never thought that black people and white, or even non-white, non-black people have the same experiences. I live in Harlem now, and I’ve always lived in very racially diverse places. I see the cultural differences all the time.

We really aren’t all living in the same culture. I saw it when the OJ Simpson verdict was delivered. We fundamentally had different opinions as to his guilt. My black friends literally all thought he was innocent. My black friends, who I shared moral values and intellectual parity with all came to a different conclusion than I did. I saw it when Barack Obama was running for president. When those primaries came down to Barack and Hillary, all of my black friends supported Hillary for far longer than my white friends did. All of the signs in store windows in Harlem supported Hillary until a couple of weeks before super Tuesday. After it was all over and Barack was president, I asked my black friends why they held out for so long. Their answers were all the same. They simply didn’t dare hope that a black man could be elected president. It was inconceivable to them. There was a giant chasm between liberal non-black America and black America. I saw it when the Zimmerman trial started. Not before it started, we were all on the same page then; Zimmerman needed to be arrested. But once the trial started, I as well as all of my non-black friends (virtual and physical) were positive we were going to hear a guilty verdict. The black community was (correctly) convinced the opposite was true. They couldn’t conceive a guilty verdict.

Why? Because being black in America is very different than than being non-black or (especially) being black friendly. They expected what they live every day. I’m not going to pretend to be able to describe what black people live every day. That would be both arrogant, and far above my pay grade. But I know it’s different.

To me, and to all non-black liberals, this trial was about justice for a child who was murdered. It wasn’t about a black child who was murdered. To the black community, this was about the safety of their children, brothers, nephews, and cousins. Safety when doing normal things that none of the rest of us have ever thought about, like walking fucking home. This trial was about how many more generations “the talk” has to happen for. “The talk” is something I was never aware of for most of my adult life, and yet in the black community, it’s as normal as drinking water.

We don’t live in the same America. And we weren’t all experiencing the same trial. Anybody who thinks this trial wasn’t about race is simply ignorant about where they live. I don’t mean ignorant in the derogatory way we use that word. I mean ignorant in the sense of being woefully unaware and uninformed. Something I freely admit to still suffering from. I will always possess the ignorance that comes with not living a person’s or a community’s experience, regardless of how hard I try. 

Please listen to this episode of This Week In Blackness. If you’re not black, you will understand what you can’t understand about this murder. If you’re black, I’m guessing you will hear your feelings echoed back to you.

The meaning of this verdict is much bigger than an injustice. It’s about all of the injustices toward a community for hundreds of years. I don’t feel rage, which is what I expected to feel if this happened. I feel profound sadness for the Martin family yes, but for our country at large. We have a long, long way to go to fix this. Each step forward is slow, and comes with several steps back.

We did take a step forward in this case. This was the first time the nation engaged in the murder of a black person. Until now, it’s always been about pretty white girls or cute white kids. So the fact that the whole country even knows Trayvon Martin’s name is progress. But we’ve also taken several steps back. This acquittal has every mother of a black son terrified for their child. Terrified because their children aren’t safe doing what we all feel perfectly safe doing.

Trayvon Martin was walking home from the store. That’s all he was fucking doing. I posted the picture of his body after he was murdered on my Facebook page because I wanted everyone to see that he looked like any normal child. Nothing about his rolled up skinny jeans, normal sized hoodie, kicks, and ankle socks were threatening. Nothing. And he looked like a child. Don’t let anybody tell you that he didn’t. He was murdered because he was black. Period. Look at the picture again and be honest about what you see.

This was entirely about race. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. We need to start having honest discussions about race every day. Not confrontational discussions, based on our own anecdotal lives, but bigger conversations. And we need to be honest about our own ignorance. The ignorance that we all have about being another color in America.

Rage over this case is pointless. I’m actually surprised at myself for not feeling any, but I don’t. This is much bigger than rage.

I apologize for the rambling and for any typos in this post. This was a stream of consciousness that I just wrote and posted.

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Enough With The Riot Talk!

I’m hearing some talk about riots breaking out of Zimmerman is found not guilty. Enough! This is crazy talk, and it’s monumentally racist. How douchey do you have to believe that people are going to riot over a verdict?

The time to riot ended when Zimmerman was charged. The injustice ended with his arrest. People generally don’t riot in the absence of an egregious injustice. When Zimmerman was finally arrested, an egregious injustice was averted.

Americans cope with bad verdicts all the time. There’s no reason to believe we won’t do it again, in the unlikely event that Zimmerman walks. How big of an ass are you, if you believe that black people can’t cope with a bad verdict?

I’m more worried about those who are bracing themselves for riots. They’re the real assholes among us.

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Is It Really All About Who Was Pleading On The Tape?

Today was the first full day for the defense in the Zimmerman trial, and it was all about the audio of the 911 call. The defense called 5 witnesses (all friends of Zimmerman’s) to say that it was definitely him (Zimmerman) pleading for help in the 911 call. They were positive it was Zimmerman, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Remember, when Zimmerman was played the tape, he told the investigator (who insisted it was Zimmerman who was pleading), “That doesn’t even sound like me”. So the defense is telling us that Zimmerman’s friends are more able to recognize Zimmerman’s voice than Zimmerman is. Cause, you know, it’s hard to recognize how your voice sounds on a recording. Okay, that’s plausible.

Additionally, they called two of the investigators to testify that Trayvon’s father said that it was not Trayvon’s voice on the tape. Then they called Trayvon’s father to the stand. He testified that after listening to the tape twenty (or so) times, he became convinced that it was Trayvon pleading for help. The defense then called Bill Ray Lee Jr. (the police chief who resigned). His testimony also centered around the tape, and how it was played for the Martin family for the purpose of identifying the voice pleading on the tape. Apparently, the tape was played for the whole family while they were all in the same room with each other. Lee testified that his recommendation was to play the tape for each family member individually in order to avoid a “group think” situation.

So again, the defense is telling us that Tracy Martin (Trayvon’s father) was correct when he initially said that it wasn’t his son pleading for help on the tape. I don’t believe they can reasonably get the jury to believe all of these things;

  • Tracy Martin was correct when he initially heard the tape and said that it wasn’t Trayvon pleading for help on the tape.
  • Tracy Martin was wrong, after hearing the tape several more times, and claimed that it was Trayvon on the tape.
  • Zimmerman was wrong when he heard the tape and said, “That doesn’t even sound like me”.
  • Zimmerman’s friends were all correct when they testified that it’s definitely Zimmerman pleading for help on the tape.

I just don’t think that an objective jury can believe all of these things, especially since all of the “certainty” about who that was on the tape, happened over time.

In my opinion, the defense just made the tape irrelevant. There are simply too many conflicting opinions around whose voice that is on the tape. I don’t believe that they can get a jury to believe that Zimmerman’s friends know his voice better than he himself does. And I don’t believe they can get the jury to settle on which of Tracy Martin’s opinions on the tape is correct. The opinion you believe is more indicative of what you want to believe, than it is of what’s plausible.

In short, I think they succeeded in negating the focal point of their defense.

 

 

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The Biggest Loser

That’s basically George Zimmerman’s defense. His defense team is telling you that he got the shit beaten out of him by a kid who he outweighed by almost sixty pounds. They’re of course, trying to downplay the fact that he was studying mixed martial arts, and that his gun always has a bullet in the chamber. But what they’re telling you is that the armed martial arts expert got beat by the kid he was hunting down, so he had to shoot the kid because all of the advantages he had weren’t enough to overcome the fact that he’s a giant loser.

I don’t know what the main stream media is watching, but I’m watching a pretty effective prosecution of a murderer. I see the prosecution tearing Zimmerman’s lies apart one by one.

-Trayvon did not jump out at him from out of the nonexistent bushes.

-The medical examiner testified that Zimmerman’s injuries are not consistent with his story.

-Trayvon did not have any of Zimmerman’s DNA under his fingernails, so if he was pounding Zimmerman’s head against the pavement, he was very tidy about it.

-It was not George Zimmerman crying for help on the 911 tape. The jury heard a recording of Chris Serino (the lead investigator) questioning Zimmerman. In that tape, Serino played the 911 recording with the screaming in the background. Serino tells Zimmerman that it’s him(Zimmerman) pleading on the tape. Zimmerman says, “That doesn’t even sound like me”. The investigator is trying to help the loser to set up a self defense story, and Zimmerman was too big a loser to understand what was happening.

-George Zimmerman was intimately familiar with how stand ground defenses work, despite his lies on the Hannity show. The prosecution had his teacher testify that Zimmerman not only knew about how a stand your ground defense would work, but he got an A in the class.

And then there’s Rachel Gentile. Say what you want about her, you can’t say that she’s a liar. “Creepy ass cracker” tells you that she’s not a liar and that she wasn’t coached. For all the mocking and finger pointing of racism, I think those three words actually helped the prosecution. They showed that she didn’t have an agenda, and that she wasn’t revising history to help Trayvon. She proved that Trayvon was not following Zimmerman. He was ambushed by a loser who wanted to feel like a winner for once in his life.

As an aside, I want to say something about the way the public is treating Rachel Gentile. I don’t believe she’s being mocked because she’s black. I believe she’s being mocked because she’s uneducated. We have a popular reality show based on mocking poor, uneducated white people. This isn’t racism. It’s classism. We are a society that loves to shit on the poor. And instead of discussing how it’s possible for someone to go into their senior year of high school without being able to read cursive, we mock.

I don’t believe that the “I’m the biggest loser” defense is going to work. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it happening.

I get the sense that the prosecution is close to wrapping up its case. I can’t imagine that the defense lawyers are going to allow their loser of a client to take the stand. Without Zimmerman taking the stand, the defense is going to wrap up their case in a matter of days.

Don’t let the media tell you that Zimmerman’s team is winning. They’re not. I absolutely believe that the prosecution has effectively dismantled Zimmerman’s story piece by piece.

In my opinion, the only truthful thing coming out of Zimmerman or his defense team, is that Zimmerman is the biggest of losers.

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