I heard about this book, “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin” when Trayvon Martin’s parents appeared as guests on a recent episode of “The Daily Show”. They’d taken their story, which started when Trayvon was born, and put it into print for all to read.
And I immediately added my name to the reserve list at the library. It took a few months for my name to be at the top of the list, but it finally happened, and I read a majority of this book in one day. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:
Trayvon Martin’s parents take readers beyond the news cycle with an account only they could give: the intimate story of a tragically foreshortened life and the rise of a movement.
On a February evening in 2012, in a small town in central Florida, seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was walking home with candy and a can of juice in hand and talking on the phone with a friend when a fatal encounter with a gun-wielding neighborhood watchman ended his young life. The watchman was briefly detained by the police and released. Trayvon’s father—a truck driver named Tracy—tried to get answers from the police but was shut down and ignored. Trayvon’s mother, a civil servant for the city of Miami, was paralyzed by the news of her son’s death and lost in mourning, unable to leave her room for days. But in a matter of weeks, their son’s name would be spoken by President Obama, honored by professional athletes, and passionately discussed all over traditional and social media. And at the head of a growing nationwide campaign for justice were Trayvon’s parents, who—driven by their intense love for their lost son—discovered their voices, gathered allies, and launched a movement that would change the country.
Five years after his tragic death, Travyon Martin’s name is still evoked every day. He has become a symbol of social justice activism, as has his hauntingly familiar image: the photo of a child still in the process of becoming a young man, wearing a hoodie and gazing silently at the camera. But who was Trayvon Martin, before he became, in death, an icon? And how did one black child’s death on a dark, rainy street in a small Florida town become the match that lit a civil rights crusade?
Rest in Power, told through the compelling alternating narratives of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, answers, for the first time, those questions from the most intimate of sources. It’s the story of the beautiful and complex child they lost, the cruel unresponsiveness of the police and the hostility of the legal system, and the inspiring journey they took from grief and pain to power, and from tragedy and senselessness to meaning.
While reading this book made my heart break all over again for Trayvon, for his family, his friends, and for the live he didn’t get to live, it opened my eyes to a lot of new details I didn’t know before: like just how secretive the Sanford Police Department was to his family; and how many of the “facts” in the case simply don’t add up.
A friend of my questioned why I was reading this book. For one, I am very sensitive to racial injustice, and it is one of the topics that gets me most fired up because to me, it is very obvious that we are surrounded by institutional racism, and I feel it is my job as a woman with white privilege to speak out against what I know is wrong.
But I also know that even at his core, Trayvon is innocent. He was victim-blamed, despite not being armed at all, his school records were subpoenaed even though he was a minor, and many people talked about his past – maybe he stole this or maybe he smoked weed. But walking while black is not a crime, and he died for it.
I am very thankful for Trayvon’s parents for having the courage to write this book, along with the bravery to continue to fight for justice for their son, and for many, many others who have fallen in the name of unjustified violence. Although we still have a very long way to go, the conversation is forever changed, and I know Trayvon will never be forgotten.
I absolutely would recommend this book to anyone, especially if you didn’t pay attention to this case (or any that followed). The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “My Year With Eleanor” by Noelle Hancock.
I hope you have a fun, fantastic weekend – make it a great one, and do something good for someone else! I’ll see you all on the flipside!
To say last week was rough would be a gross understatement. As I sit down to write this, I’m not quite sure I can put all of my feelings into neat little rows of words that will convey my beliefs on these issues clearly, but I’m going to give it one hell of a try.
I woke up nearly two hours before my alarm on Tuesday, and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I started scrolling through my Twitter feed. I saw the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag had gained popularity and I knew it: another innocent black man had lost his life to the bullet of a police officer.
And sure enough, that was the case for Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We’ve all heard his story by now, I’m sure. Soon, most of us will be able to sweep him under the rug just as we’ve done before; just like we did for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Phillip White, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray, among several others.
As white people, we’re granted the ability to forget about incidents such as these, because we don’t understand the struggle blacks have continued to go through. Introducing white privilege: White privilege is the systemic construct that grants unearned advantages to people based solely on skin color. This definition is significant in that often people see how race puts people of color at a disadvantage, but seldom see the corollary of white skin advantage.
For more information on seeing and understanding white privilege, check out “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh.
But the families of these fallen black men and women don’t have that luxury. They won’t be able to forget their loved ones, or the brutal ways in which they died.
I was truly heartbroken on Tuesday, and when I saw the nasty comments on Facebook, I just got plain pissed. And I expressed it; trying to remain calm at first, but the more ignorance I received, the more pissed I got. One woman said, “Comply, don’t die” in regards to Mr. Sterling’s death. Excuse me? That’s a sick and twisted way of saying that his death was his fault.
She explained to me that he was resisting arrest, so…Comply, don’t die. Okay, so he struggled, sure. But he was also tazed and had two police officers on top of him, with his gun in his pocket. What was he going to do? Run? No. Shoot someone? No.
How many white males have resisted arrest in this country and lived to tell the story? And no, I don’t have the numbers. Speaking of numbers, I also get aggravated when people keep saying, “Wait for all the facts before you make an opinion!”
Umm, A. How about you fuck off, B. We will NEVER have all of the facts, and C. This is America, so we are allowed to have opinions whenever we please. Or is that a right reserved for the white bigots, too? Please.
You want the facts? I’ll give you some facts:
- Police killed at least 102 unarmed black people in 2015, nearly twice each week.
- Nearly 1 in 3 black people killed by police in 2015 were identified as unarmed, though the actual number is likely higher due to underreporting.
- 37% of unarmed people killed by police were black in 2015 despite black people being only 13% of the U.S. population.
- Unarmed black people were killed at 5x the rate of unarmed whites in 2015.
- Only 10 of the 102 cases in 2015 where an unarmed black person was killed by police resulted in officer(s) being charged with a crime, and only 2 of these deaths (Matthew Ajibade and Eric Harris) resulted in convictions of officers involved. Only 1 of 2 officers convicted for their involvement in Matthew Ajibade’s death received jail time. He was sentenced to 1 year in jail and allowed to serve this time exclusively on weekends. Deputy Bates, who killed Eric Harris, will be sentenced May 31.
The facts from listed above were found here, where you can also find many stories of the innocent victims who were killed by police.
Deputy Bates was sentenced to four years in prison for second-degree manslaughter after killing an unarmed black male (source).
Lets get back to the facts:
- The best available data suggests that if police officers are being watched more closely, that hasn’t reduced the frequency with which they kill people. In fact, they might be killing people more often. And the people dying still are disproportionately black.
- Blacks continue to make up about 30 percent of the people dying from police violence, though they make up 13 percent of the nation’s population (source for both).
- Young black men were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers in 2015, according to the findings of a Guardian study that recorded a final tally of 1,134 deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers this year.
- Overall in 2015, black people were killed at twice the rate of white, Hispanic and native Americans. About 25% of the African Americans killed were unarmed, compared with 17% of white people (source).
So when you tell me that police actually kill more white people than black, it’s not true, and even if it were true, does that make it okay? Is that why people become police officers? So they can kill innocent people for fun? Because I thought police officers were here to make us feel safe.
The thing that frustrates me the most is that our world is set up for black people to fail from before they were even born. It’s more difficult for blacks to receive an education (let alone a quality one), more difficult for them to own property or gain credit, nearly impossible for them to have access to fresh food, nutrition, and healthcare, and when they end up in the streets, they are more likely to be either killed or jailed, which puts them into a system they can never get out of.
Don’t believe me? In 2012, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans published an 8-part series on Louisiana’s largely private prison system and how the state actually profits from putting people in jail. Nearly 2/3 of people in Louisiana prisons are nonviolent (in Louisiana, you can get 10 years in prison for writing bad checks).
- Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly five times Iran’s, 13 times China’s, and 20 times Germany’s.
- Among black men in New Orleans, 1/14 is behind bars, 1/7 is in prison, on parole or on probation.
- Louisiana vies with Mississippi for the worst schools, the most poverty, and the highest infant mortality.
- The money spent on prisons means less money spent on institutions that could help these individuals, starting the sad cycle – Louisiana spends $663 million each year on inmates.
- The ratio of black men to white men in New Orleans prison? 12:1
And please, spare me from your argument of saying that some black people are more wealthy and successful than white people. Yes some, and their names are Oprah and Beyoncé, and they are rare occurrences; exceptions to the rule. Sit down.
It makes my blood boil; it’s something most of us can’t understand because we are afforded all of our rights and have access to pretty much everything in this world. Most of the time, we could actually do whatever we wanted and still not get killed by a police officer.
Tuesday evening, the only person I knew to call was my mom. I can yell and vent to her without judgment, and scream profanities out of my window, only hoping they reach the police station a few blocks from my apartment.
And yes, I know that not every police officer is “bad” and police officers are people, too, and they make mistakes. But why is it that they expect to be held in the highest regard when they do good, but when they do “bad”, they want sympathy. I think not.
So, when I hung up the phone on Tuesday night, I saw the news of the second shooting – another black male, murdered, because he had a busted tail light. You know how many times my tail lights have been out? Many. And I’m still breathing.
Because of a tail light, Philando Castile is dead. And although the video was difficult to watch, I am thankful for his fiancée, Diamond Reynolds, who live-streamed the video on Facebook. I think we all need to follow her lead and film the police officers, no matter what, even if they will likely go unpunished.
And that’s just it. It doesn’t matter if one person, or one police officer (or 20 or 200 officers) have racial prejudice – a preconceived judgment or opinion against an individual based on their race; formed without just grounds or without sufficient knowledge. Anyone can be prejudice. They can carry positive or negative stereotypes of others based on racial characteristics. People of any race can direct hostility against an individual of another race. These attitudes or acts are often mistakenly defined as racism leading people to fear that racism cannot be solved. Racial prejudice alone is not racism; it cannot determine where people of color live, work, shop, play worship, get health care, or get their education. Those things are determined by institutions. When racial prejudice has institutional backing, it becomes racism.
So, when an institution, such as the police tasks, allow their employees to hunt innocent black people and kill them without punishment, that is institutional racism. Perhaps it’s our justice system or our government that’s allowing these crimes to go unpunished. That, too, is institutional racism.
In America, we give the power to run our society to institutions. They may be either private or public, but all are interconnected through their common task of helping the society to function. Each and every business and industry in our nation, large and small, is an institution, whether factory, office, or retail store. Within the communication industry, each newspaper, radio, and TV station, magazine and computer network is an institution. Every school and university, each sports team and franchise, every art gallery, dance studio, and a thousand more groups are institutions… Theoretically, each institution represents and collectively acts in the name of those whom it claims as its members, its owners, its clientele, or its citizens. It is institutions that have the power to grant or deny access; to determine where people live, work, play, shop, worship, get health care or education.
Racial prejudice + Institutional Power = Institutional Racism.
Institutional racism is the systemic distribution of resources, power, and opportunity in our society to the benefit of people who are white and the exclusion of people of races of color. Present-day racism was built on a long history of racially distributed resources and ideas that shape our view of ourselves and others. It is a hierarchical system that comes with a broad range of policies and institutions that keep it in place. Racism although legally banned in the mid 20th Century, still operates in American Institutions.
For more facts and information on institutional racism, check out “Understanding and Dismantling Racism: The Twenty-First Century Challenge to White America” by Joseph Barndt.
…So yeah, it makes it a little more difficult for me when I keep seeing this happening, and often, the result is the same.
I tried to stay away from the news, but on Thursday night, I really couldn’t. I started watching all of the marches and rallies across the country, and I was actually getting excited: maybe this was it! Maybe people were finally getting fed up and change is on its way.
And then, Dallas happened.
I’ll say it now, even though it’s ridiculous that we have to state it, of course I think it’s terrible and undeserved that those police officers were unfairly targeted and killed. I do not think any innocent person should be killed.
But I’ll also say this: Black lives still matter.
And that is not a message of hate. It’s my point that the problem is still out there and it still needs to change. What I don’t appreciate is hearing the Dallas Chief of Police dividing the country, yet again, by saying that the shooter was with BLM, and that he was targeting white police.
We will never know if that is what the sniper actually said (I’d like to note the Police Chief said in an interview on Sunday that parts of the transcript will be released), because he was killed – and rightfully so, although I’d like to point out that several white murderers have walked away uninjured from their crimes; talking to you, Dylan Roof, who, after murdering 9 people worshipping in a black church, he was treated to a cheeseburger at Burger King by police (read it here).
And I’d also like to say that a few people tried to tell me that Alton Sterling was not considered an “innocent” man because he had past charges. Umm, yeah, and he paid for those charges… we do not carry our debts, dumbass. She said, “Do you know he was caught selling Xtasy?!”
No, I didn’t, and I also don’t care. I don’t even care if he was selling crack cocaine to children on Tuesday morning when the police showed up. He still should have been arrested and given a trial, not murdered.
Dylan Roof? He had prior charges on drugs and trespassing. But he’ll walk.
I also do not appreciate Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick saying this: “All those protesters last night, they ran the other way, expecting the men and women in blue to turn around and protect them. What hypocrites. I understand the First Amendment. I understand freedom of speech and I defend it. It is in our Constitution and is in our soul, but you can’t go out on social media and mainstream media and everywhere else and say that the police are racist or the police are hateful or the police are killers.”
Really? I have never been part of a mass shooting, but I’d venture to say it’s human nature to run the opposite way of a bullet. And not to be a bitch, but it’s kind of what the police officers are being paid for – to stop crime… I mean, am I on pills? Are civilians now supposed to fight crime? Where the fuck is Batman?
I’d say those protestors were not, in any way, wishing the policemen harm; if they did then it wouldn’t have been a peaceful protest. Patrick later walked back his remark, because he is an idiot (source).
There was also a lot of whining coming from the Dallas police task, because they do not get enough “thank yous”. Uhh, is that the issue? Because a lot of great people do great things without getting thank yous. How many teachers have gotten a thanks? Getting a thank you is not why you perform a job – you do it because you’re passionate about it.
But maybe I’m the problem. So, I’d like to thank the Austin police who helped me when my car was broken into. Oh wait, they never showed up. So, I’ll thank them for calling me when they said they would. Oh wait, they never did. But thaaaaaaaanks, love you, kisses, byyeeeeeee.
Enough is enough. So, how will you support the change? By hiding behind your computer and telling me I’m racist for saying Black Lives Matter? Or will you become a CASA volunteer, because children without fathers (including those murdered by police) are more than 8 times more likely to receive maltreatment overall, over 10 times more likely to suffer from abuse and more than 6 times more likely to be neglected, which would put them into state’s custody (source).
Will you join the cause to stop gun violence? How about participating in the National Police Accountability Project to combat police misconduct? What about contacting your elected officials about gun control? Here’s a helpful guide on how to do it.
“This is a time for action. What is needed is a strategy for change, a tactical program that will bring the Negro into the mainstream of American life as quickly as possible… Without recognizing this we will end up with solutions that don’t solve, answers that don’t answer, and explanations that don’t explain… Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Where Do We Go From Here”