Sun Mar 25, 2012, 10:37 PM
MrScorpio (60,490 posts)
If you're honest, you'd realize that Trayvon Martin was an "All-Amercan Boy". [View all]
You usually don't see that phrase applied to young black males in this country unless, of course, it's as an athletic title. And I don't need to sit here and defend that particular classification of that slain young man, because no matter what, it's a well established fact that he was an All-American Boy and there is nothing in this world that can prove otherwise.
But instead of perceiving that a young man like Trayvon was part of "The Norm" on that rainy night… Instead of looking at him and having a visceral reaction that it was perfectly ordinary for him to be seen walking down a sidewalk, that there was a person who made a very concerted effort to target him for being out of place.
And that, my friends, is what it means to be a black male in America.
The truth is that notion of a young black male being out of place in America can happen anywhere here in this country, even (and especially) in an area predominately populated by other young black males. The NYPD's Stop and Frisk program in Brooklyn and The Bronx is a good example of this.
To be a black male is to constantly think of ones very presence, body movement, language and dress in relationship to the immediate environment. The possible presence of other people who would viscerally perceive you as "out of place" and to know that you can never change the very thing that sets you apart from "The Norm", which is your very skin. I should point out that setting you apart as a young, black male doesn't require the person setting you apart to actually require that the person doing the setting apart to declare themselves as a bigot. Bigots have lots of plausible deniability in America, because they represent "The Norm", right? They are "The Norm" and you are not… That's all that's needed.
It is to know that you could, at any time, represent even an unspoken ideal of the existential threat of young black males, as long as you walk the streets in America. That you have to go out your way to prove that you are not a predator. You have to try to get a cab that you hail to stop for you, or to avoid giving someone else that extra special concern for their own purses or wallets. Will a smile do it? Perhaps. Take the risk anyway.
There are times when you ask yourself, "Why I do have to make this special effort? I didn't do or say anything." But, there it is.
But, it's not like you haven't noticed these things, in spite of the fact that you haven't said or done anything at all to elicit such reactions except for being in someone else's line of sight. Not if you were anyone, of course, other than a young, black male.
It is to know that, as an individual young, black male, it is YOU who's actually the vulnerable person here. You could be out of place anywhere. It's like walking around with a target on your back. Most other people never have to consider this, but you can NEVER, EVER forget that for you it's really there. That you know that it is the ideal of you as a person which makes up the reason why "good, law-abiding people" buy and carry handguns to ostensibly protect themselves.
It is to know that you are to be set apart… No matter who you are and no matter what you do, or say, our even how you say it.
I'll tell you a secret: Whenever young black males seem to behave and dress in ways that could be construed as "Ghetto", what they're actually doing is sending a message of defiance to the greater society in which they live. They're saying that, it really doesn't matter how they talk, walk, dress, act, or even breathe within that society… In America, their otherness will never be in question.
Well, since that's going to be the case anyway, they think, let's run with that and be that "other". They're expecting someone to come up to them and demand that they conform to the well established parameters of the greater majority. They are daring you to tell them this. They are trying to force you to realize that, in spite of whatever conformance which may be demanded of them, this society will take pains to not classify young, black males as "The Norm".
There are other counter-culture groups, both white and non-white do the same, of course. Willingly make it plain that they are rebelling against restrictive conformism… But if you're white in America, you can simply cut your hair, cover up your tats and wear respectable clothes and no-one will make an effort to classify you as anything else other than "The Norm". You can blend in with the best of them.
But not if you're a young, black male. That that target will never leave your back. Ever.
To be black in America is also to know that, no matter what you do or say or dress or achieve, there is someone who is willing to tell you that you're not good enough. To know that you have to be twice as good as your counterpart in the majority to even be considered half as good. That to know that someone is always looking at you and thinking that you could be a "problem". That equality is something that can easily defeated in the eyes of another.
That to know that you can never make the mistake of NOT remembering that the police is not your friend and protector.
Or, that even the lack of black presence in any American environment can speak volumes about what kind of place it really is.
Or, that you are a game-changer, even if you're trying not to be.
When you first hear a description of someone being the generic "All-American" or someone who's from "A Good Neighborhood", what does this person look like when they pop into your head?
Now this not to say that just because that the person initially visualized may not be anything other than a clean cut white male, it does speak to the way that we've all been conditioned in this country to think about matters of race and identity. If you do not question at all the classification of young Trayvon as "All-American", then you are evolved.
An evolved person does not need to be reminded of the basic humanity of others. An evolved person does not describe another human being as "an animal", no matter what the person being described may or may not have done. Evolved people know the difference between right and wrong.
During my time in the military I've had the opportunity to travel outside of the country. I have to say that it was indeed refreshing to be perceived as merely an "American" first and foremost aside from any other description. I've even found this to be the case for me in Canada.
It may be shocking for someone who's not "the other" to consider the fact that I had to actually leave America to even be considered ordinary. And yes, it's true that I have an extended family who are citizens of another country… But my normality was never questioned there. It was a burden that was lifted from my shoulders. Unfortunately, it didn't last… I had to come back.
Only in this country have I've been made to feel out of place and it is in the country of my birth that I know that know I can be perceived as being out of place at any given time. It doesn't matter where you are in America, it could even be in your own home. You can ask Skip Gates about how that works.
As Barack Obama is perceived to be "out of place" by almost half the country.
As Trayvon Martin was made to feel while he was walking down a sidewalk.
Lastly, I am not trying to diminish the extent to which anyone is depicted as being "out of place" in America. That sort of thing is our national past time.
Our friends on the right have this notion that we, as liberals and progressives, are going out of our way to homogenize America. We're the ones, they think, who wants everyone to be the same. That there is no room for "socialism", because that's the antithesis of "freedom" and "individuality". Well, we know what they're actually saying, right?
That white, Christian maleness is the default position in America. We are all equal, of course, but some are more equal than others.
And yet they demand that their ideal American fit a restrictive conformist mold of non-urban, Christian, white, heterosexual, maleness, who is perfectly willing to swear unwavering faith to an authoritarian ideal. That no matter what, if you step outside of this preconceived notion of what it means to be "All-American", you will be forever classified as something other than "The Norm".
If you're gay and you want to marry the one you love, then you're trying to have a "gay marriage". If you have a Spanish surname, if spite the fact that you are and ALL of your ancestors have been native born Americans, you are an "Hispanic American". That you as a woman has to work diligently to establish that same level of achievement as any man.
This is a way that many of us can empathize with being something other than "The Norm". However, for others of us, we can't easily project that image of normality at first glance.
We take our skin with us no matter where we go.
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If you're honest, you'd realize that Trayvon Martin was an "All-Amercan Boy". [View all]
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