The Trayvon Martin case has become the fabric of a national conversation. Social media, editorials, blogs – and traditional news sources have all focused on law, justice, racial profiling, stereotypes. But there’s still a significant segment of our population who have not been touched by this story at all – those living in the fog of white denial.
White denial comes in lots of shapes but its cornerstones are founded upon two baseless premises – America is “colorblind and post-racial.” ”Colorblindness is a ‘Denial of Cultural Differences,’ which minimizes historical and behavioral realities. How can ‘post-racial’ happen within ‘Avoidance of Contact’ – “white people self-segregating in their personal and professional lives showing little interest in learning anything about the history, culture and socio-economics of communities of color?” (Valiere Batts - Colorblindness is Denial)
This sets up a parallel universe that became painfully clear to me a few days ago. During show prep for Radio in Black and White this past Saturday, I absorbed numerous articles about Trayvon. The sheer volume and intensity awakens a legacy of oppression – justice denied is the reality of America’s racial past rooted in slavery – codified by a horrific state sanctioned vigilantism that happened less than 100 years ago. Lynchings, bombings, assassinations, beatings – all painful, personal traumas deep in the collective consciousness of communities of color.
But in white world over the weekend through various contacts at church, in restaurants and in personal conversations there was not one mention, no recognition that Trayvon had lived or died. This is the worst part of normal – a profound insensitivity to real experience.
Is it possible that people of color all around us have stories that involved profiling and stereotypes? Would a conversation about that have made sense? Would it have been appropriate at church to gather young African American men and boys to pray for their safety? But when the fog of whiteness takes over – we just do what we do. In denial – we discount personhood, value and our own humanity.
Normal runs through “privilege — not necessarily in the sense of wealth, but rather in the sense of having one’s personhood and individuality respected, a privilege so basic I doubt it registers with many whites as privilege at all. We’re talking about the privilege of being seen, of having your worth presumed, of receiving the benefit of the doubt and some human compassion, of being treated as if you matter.” (Leonard Pitts – Miami Herald – Consider Race and Privilege)
In the end ALL of us have a CHOICE. Take the line of least resistance – bump along hitting walls of crisis in the fog of white denial or proactively and personally play whatever race card we’ve been dealt. ”I’ve made the choice today to tell my white friends that the rights I take for granted are only valid if I fight to give those same rights to others.” (Michael Skolnik – White People You Will Never Look Suspicious)
For God’s sake – and I mean that literally – let’s make that choice NOW!