There was a moment where I became acutely aware of my internal racism. We all have it: others can and will wax more poetic about the self-realization. Walking down a sidewalk in Cape Town, South Africa, I found myself in a sea of black men. I was aware of my internal panic. And I caught myself: I was in South Africa. That momentary rise of panic…where I fell prey to the images that had been portrayed in my middle of America upbringing caught me.
I shrugged it off. And I was (probably) wearing a hoodie. I usually wear one: I have a few “work” hoodies (really) and head to the gym most mornings with a hoodie on instead of a coat. They are a uniform of sorts. As I type this, I’m wearing a hoodie. Not as a statement but as a Saturday evening watching hoops sort of thing (Ohio State hoodie: Ohio State game).
By tomorrow night, 4 teams will have punched their tickets to the Final Four: this will involve roughly 48 student-athletes. In 2009, 243 African American men were murdered between the ages of 12-30 in the state of California alone. It’s a genocide of sorts: I don’t use that term lightly. I’ll never know what it means to be a racial minority in this country (well, maybe but the power nexus is still Anglo). I can grasp what it means to be an under represented person. However, racial stereotypes are far greater, the gaps far wider than that of being a woman and at least where I live, being gay (it doesn’t make the intolerance any less acceptable).
It’s Lent: a period of time of reflection in the Christian community. For all the hate filled politics, the politics of changing the power structure in this country and it rattling the foundations of many, we need to take a collective breath. President Obama was correct: Trayvon Martin would be his son if he had one. By all accounts Martin was a good, normal kid who was murdered because of fear.
What disturbs me the most is the lack of an immediate outcry. The lack of a proper investigation. Following the story a bit this week, hearing people discuss having to talk to their children about what to expect when they are stopped by the police left me wondering. What have I done? Not enough. I haven’t spoken up enough when people make remarks on race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. I haven’t said this is my line and you are over it enough.
I have 3 nephews: 5, 13 and 15. The middle one lives in his hoodies. It’s a sad commentary that I know he is safe wearing his hoodie because of his blue eyes, fair hair and freckles. All children should be safe: and nobody should have to have a conversation on how to avoid harassment from the police. We should be above this. The real tragedy will be when we don’t learn the lessons. This isn’t about confirming a fictional character to the Supreme Court: this is about a child murdered for merely being in the wrong place, wearing the wrong item of clothing.