If You’re Scared Enough, You Can Get Away With Killing

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About Christian Coleman

Christian Coleman studies poetry at the University of New Orleans. He makes life decisions by asking himself 'What Would Batman Do?'


  1. Mostly_123 says:

    Christian, thank-you very much for sharing your story.
    I know I’ve said this before (and I’m sure other people have too), but what you wrote really underscores it to me: It’s a terrible thing to have someone ELSE’S fear projected ONTO you. Our understanding of ‘fear’ is premised on the idea that the ‘feared’ have the power (and therefore the control), and the ‘fearful,’ the ones projecting & externalizing their fears onto others, have no control (and therefore, no power, or responsibility for how they use that power, or culpability). 

    But this turns it on its head: The person who is (mis)perceived as ‘fearsome’ doesn’t really have that control at all; there’s only so much that they can do (let alone reasonably be expected to do, or obligated to do) to assuage someone else’s fear. It’s the person PROJECTING their fears onto others that has the power; though they don’t recognize it as such.

    It’s hard to modulate the power inherent to one’s own fear when they can’t see it, or feel it. Certainly, a person in a (genuine) state of fear does not ‘feel’ powerful- but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t. A person may or may not be ‘right’ to be afraid; but either way, what will they do with that fear (and that power) they hold, when they hold it? It’s the nature of the expression of that fear that seems to be the divider. 

    One last general thought: Fear, (like hate) does corrosive damage to what it is poured upon, as well as the vessel that held it; both immediately, and slowly over time as well. That’s a lose-lose game. If we can’t all come to better understand & temper our fears for altruistic reasons, then maybe we can at least do it for pragmatic reasons.

  2. One of the things that fascinates me about this case is the impact and meaning of clothing. Rightly or wrongly, we make all sorts of associations and assumptions about someone’s character based on the clothing they wear. (This article about “protective clothing” also struck me this week: http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/07/14/201946194/with-fla-verdict-is-protective-clothing-still-required)
    But I’m especially curious about clothing that “obscures” the face, which Christian mentions specifically. A hoodie sweatshirt; a burka; a monk’s hooded robe; a ski mask; a bandana – all examples of clothing that obscures the face, but do they invoke the same associations and assumptions? Does it vary based on the body language and posture and stature of the person? Does race and age and gender trump? Are we instinctively suspicious of someone who’s face is hidden? Is there some evolutionary impulse that makes the face a particularly important clue about predators? I wonder.

  3. ogwriter says:

    Christian Chris Matthews said on his show recently-the Chris Matthew’s Show-that he didn’t realize that his black friends were being stopped and harassed by police.His black friends,like himself are well educated,well dressed middle aged folks who are successful.I was shocked and somewhat appalled at his ignorance.He is the author of many books and knows American history quite well and has a resume in politics that spans pre and post civil rights. Any lawyer knows that if a jury can’t relate to someone there is no chance they will identify with them.Middle-aged white women typically don’t relate to young blackmen.I think that fact, more than dress or anything else, doomed this case. As you wrote- I do the same thing-you will go out of your way to make these women feel safe,but that is wrong because you and I are internalizing her fear.These women,like Chris Matthews,are being willfully ignorant of the world they live in because they can be.So,their fear, privilege and ignorance are the problems.


  1. […] it’s absurd to believe that Trayvon Martin was killed because the color of his skin made him scary. In this neverland, Trayvon was killed because he was threatening, or dressed wrongly, or out too […]

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