Sunday, March 18, 2012

"make the right move"

The Miami Herald has a pretty good article up on the Trayvon Martin killing (the cliched reference to the perpetrator George Zimmerman's "mild manners" in the subtitle notwithstanding). I was particularly struck by the story of two of Zimmerman's African American neighbors:
Zimmerman told neighbors about stolen laptops and unsavory characters. Ibrahim Rashada, a 25-year-old African American who works at U.S. Airways, once spotted young men cutting through the woods entering the complex on foot, and later learned items were stolen those days.
“He came by here and talked about carrying guns and getting my wife more involved with guns,” he said. “He said I should have a weapon and that his wife took classes to learn how to use one.
“I do have a weapon, but I don’t walk around the neighborhood with mine!”
Actually, he does not walk around the neighborhood at all.
“I fit the stereotype he emailed around,” he said. “Listen, you even hear me say it: ‘A black guy did this. A black guy did that.’ So I thought, ‘Let me sit in the house. I don’t want anyone chasing me.’ ”
For walks, he goes downtown. A pregnant Quianna listened to her husband’s rationale, dropped her head, and cried.
“That’s so sad,” she said. “I hope our child doesn’t have to go through that.”
I hope the fear and anguish of the Rashadas help people move past the dead-end argument that racism is not an issue in this killing because George Zimmerman is himself of a mixed ethnic background or that he has black relatives and friends. Some might say: "Look, he even tried to recruit - and arm - black people... and he was friendly to them!" But the point is that Zimmerman's vigilantism was directed at blacks - to the point that the very black people he tried to enlist became afraid for themselves. The Rashadas' complex reactions show that, despite their own anxiety about property theft and breached boundaries, as African Americans they literally could not fit themselves into the narrative of "crime watch" or "self-defense." That ideological neighborhood is off limits, redlined. Given Ibrahim's choice of walking path even before Martin's lethal run-in with Zimmerman, it's not clear that his physical neighborhood was ever truly open to his family, either. 

"Make the right move" - website banner for Retreat at Twin Lakes, Sanford FL gated community where Trayvon Martin was shot to death