Posted by: minnow | July 29, 2013

Blind Privilege

I honestly thought the debate about the Zimmerman Martin trial would be over by now–at least in my neck of the woods but FB seems to be keeping it active for now.  Last Friday (7/26) a friend liked this video and now that FB shows me everything my friends “like” I took a peek.  I probably shouldn’t have since it resulted in a 550 word “comment” (sorry, Maureen).  At the same time, my son informed me that he too is working on a Trayvon Martin piece so I guess the story is holding on a bit longer than I originally thought. I only hope we can move away from the fruitless rehashing of the verdict and instead begin to have conversations about issues like: the role of media is forming public opinion, racial profiling and why it happens, the new segregation, and the roles of poverty, politics, and education.

As I said before, I don’t really know the details of the case.  I have been put off by both extremes as each paints its side without blame and the other side as full of blame.  And frankly, I don’t want to look back into the case.  A young man is dead. Another man was put on trial.  A jury found him (the second man who shot the first man) not guilty.  The more we dredge up every little detail of evidence or information about the incident or the principle characters in the incident the more we prolong the misery of the people most intimately impacted by the event and the farther we get from the issues we ought to be talking about.

Initially the video my friend posted appeared to raise the question of the role media plays in forming public opinion.  Such would be a great topic to take away from the original event since the media obviously weighed in as we have seen at least two radically opposing pictures of the teenager who lost his life. In the end however, Mr. Whittle, the spokesman in the video, simply used media to paint his own version of Trayvon Martin.

My question is–where should we go from here?  Ask a dozen people what they think are the contributing factors in the death of Trayvon Martin and you are likely to get a dozen different answers.  Some of these will continue to take their toll on society as a whole until society as a whole decides to do something about them.  While I am personally not convinced Zimmerman’s behavior was racially motivated a great many others would disagree with me, which reveals at least one issue we need to discuss–race in America.

As a white woman in America how can I possibly understand all the ways in which the color of my skin opens doors left closed to others?  I can’t.  But, I can recognize the fact that it happens, just as the gender of my sons opens doors for them which are not also as easily opened for their sisters.  Privileged–because I am white, because my sons are male, because my father is wealthy–opens doors.  Sadly, we tend to like it that way.  We are quite willing to take advantage of whatever gives us a leg up over the other while pretending we’re on an equal playing field.  Competition.  Free enterprise.  Right to work.  Survival of the fittest.  All are part of a system where the rich get considerably richer and the desperate, well they stay desperate and often end up harming other desperate people simply in order to survive.

Jesus said, “the poor will be with you always.”  Despite the number of times I’ve heard that statement used to justify our ignoring the fact, JESUS did not say it as an endorsement.  Instead, His words were a sad testament of what our world will continue to look like so long as we refuse to put on the character of Christ.  Opening our eyes to the powerful ways in which privilege skews the arena is just one small step toward addressing the issue of race in America.  Gandhi might not have professed His name but he dared to put on the character of Jesus when he fought British privilege in India.  If we, in America, are going to solve the issue of poverty, if we are going to address the realities of inequality in our society, then we need to put on the character of Christ, open our eyes to the realities of privilege, and use the platforms we have as privileged players to lift the other up.

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