Trayvon Martin: Recognizing Differences

In light of what I personally believe to be a travesty of justice in the George Zimmerman trial, I thought that this piece by Asam Ahmad for Black Girl Dangerous was very appropriate regarding some of the outpouring sentiment as a result. Despite the rallying cry of "I am Trayvon Martin" that many protestors of the verdict have adopted, I believe that Ahmad is correct in his piece when he says, "We are NOT all Trayvon." Why? Well, many protestors, for example, are white. I do not question their sympathy or their outrage, but the simple fact that what happened to Trayvon would have never happened to them because of their race privilege means that "I am Trayvon Martin" is a false claim. As a matter of fact, as Ahmad argues, even for other POC (people of color), claiming "I am Trayvon Martin" is also inappropriate. Ahmad says, "People of color keep getting hella mad for being called out on white passing privilege, for being asked to hold themselves accountable to the ways they are not like Trayvon and more like Zimmerman. So many folks seem to be having a hard time acknowledging that this murderer was a Latino who had light-skinned privilege and played into the rules of White supremacy to get away with murder." A lot of the arguments that I have seen that claim that Zimmerman couldn't be racist because he is part-Latino falls into this trap.

One thing that he said that particularly struck me was this:

Those of us who are not Black need to be very explicitly clear about this: Trayvon was not murdered because he was a person of color. This verdict was not delivered because he was a person of color. Trayvon was murdered because he was Black. This verdict was delivered because he was Black. Given the amount of intense anti-Black racism that continues to circulate in non-Black poc communities, given the number of ways we continue to benefit from anti-Black racism, it is paramount that we do not forget this.

As a non-Black POC, I thought long and hard about that statement. On the one hand, claiming solidarity is good. Identifying as people of color is powerful. On the other hand, Ahmad is correct; there is history of racism within all POC communities against those of a different race/ethnicity. Additionally, not every POC has the same needs or faces the same challenges. This goes along with the post I made earlier about differences within, for example, the AAPI/APIA community.

When I think about this statement, I also think about my students. I teach in an urban district where many of my students are Black (and the rest are nearly all Latino). I think about the times they bandy stereotypes back and forth. I think about how they understand that I am not white, and that I have faced racism, but how I also grew up privileged in other ways and how I am still neither Black or Latina. While they feel for me and I feel for them, neither of us can claim to "be" the other. And I don't think we have to.

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