Jackie Summers, along with the rest of The Good Men Project, rallies against “a new high water mark for racism”
This morning, Lisa Hickey forwarded me an email from Change.org, from the parents of Trayvon Martin. It is an impassioned plea to bring the killer of their child to justice.
Of course, I’d already seen this. I’ve been watching everything related to this case carefully. As a black man in my 40s, I understand why this is resonating so deeply with many. This isn’t some fresh new hell; it’s torn open old wounds most would prefer to believe have healed.
The concept that you are suspicious.
The concept that you have to justify where you are and what you’re doing.
The concept that there are people who are so afraid of you, they feel they’re protecting themselves and others, by killing you, even if you’re unarmed.
The concept that those charged with law can show up, knowing exactly what happened, and choose not to uphold it.
The concept that it requires a national outrage to incite justice.
The concept that there are those who would vociferously defend the murderer out of one corner of their mouths, and accuse the murdered from the other.
For no other reason than the color of your skin.
A child was killed. His parents are inconsolable. And yet, if people of color express the rage of righteous indignation, this somehow makes them more threatening. They need to remain the height of civility, in the face of civil injustice, lest they be accused of deserving what they got.
We know he was targeted.
We know racial epithets were used on the 911 call.
We know his killer ignored police requests to leave well enough alone.
We know he was not the aggressor.
We know the neighbors heard a child screaming, begging for his life.
Just before he was shot in the chest.
And we know, that knowing all of this, the police arrived on the scene with the intention of not only not arresting the killer, but covering it up. This is why no forensic investigator was sent to the crime scene, why instead of specific questions were asked instead of taking statements, why the 911 calls were not immediately released, why no toxicology report was requested on the killer, and why they attempted to hide the fact that he was talking on his cell phone while Zimmerman pursued him.
We also know sheriff Lee has been on his job less than a year. He took over after the previous chief was forced out following an outcry over the beating of a black man in downtown Sanford by a white man who is a police officer’s son. The police did not arrest the man, even though the beating was captured on video.
This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s the result of something systemic. This is a cancer in the lymphatic system of our country, manifesting as a malignant tumor. This is the deep sickness we’d rather pretend doesn’t exist, because the ugliness of our a history we’d rather not discuss is rearing its ugly head. This is knowing that no matter how far we’d like to believe we’ve come, precious little has changed.
And if there’s any doubt to this, make yourself read some of the reactions:
My last girlfriend was Austrian. Honey-wheat hair and ice-blue eyes. I know she loved me, but one of the reasons we eventually broke up was: she wasn’t sure she could handle the pressure of raising an interracial child. And now, for the first time, I think I understand. You could do everything in your power to raise a child with love and affection and attention. You could educate your child, teach them the highest ethics and morals. You could protect them, to the furthest extent of your ability.
But you send that child out into the world, and he’s just another nigger.
Exactly one week before The Good Men Project launched, the four principal players were sitting in Tom Matlack’s office. “Will the site be done on time?” we wondered? “Do we have enough content?” “Is it good enough?” and the inevitable, “How the heck do you spark a national conversation about what it means to be a good man?”
A volunteer editor was asking about GMP’s mission, what I wanted to accomplish. “Well, there’s a ton of stuff.” I said, rattling off the list of everything from changing stereotypes about men to just telling great stories.
“Oh, and also on that list”, Lisa said. “I want to solve the problem of racism.”
The editors eyes bore straight into me as he said unblinkingly, “How the fuck are YOU going to solve the problem of racism?”
“I haven’t a clue.” I said. “I only know that if we’re starting something called The Good Men Project, I’m damn well going to try.”
It is for this reason–among many others–that Tom Matlack and Lisa Hickey have earned my trust, my loyalty, my friendship. Lisa Hickey is ambitious enough to want to solve racism. This is as laughable as it is laudable. At the end of the day, the space where this conversation happens is more than a bastion for intellectual masturbation. There’s a genuine effort behind every story here to enact change, to define what is good and move towards it, while defining by default what is bad, and moving away.
It means keeping the foxes out of the henhouse, no matter how silky smooth their rhetoric is.
What Lisa doesn’t know is: I know how to solve racism. I know how to solve homophobia, misogyny and misandry for that matter. I think we all know. The way you solve social ills is: stop teaching them. Accept the right of those who currently clutch desperately onto their beliefs as inalienable, and know they are lost to your cause. No dazzling display of intellect or passionate entreaty will sway the likes of the Zimmermans and Lees of the world, or their defenders. They are who they are, and it may be asking too much of them to change. The only way to kill racism is to allow racists to die off.
Teach the teachable. Show those who are bringing children into the world why it’s important to teach equality for all, and show them how. Plant seeds of justice in our progeny that will grow to someday provide shade for all. As the song says, you’ve got to be carefully taught.
© Jackie Summers 2012