Thu, Jul

America Is in Dire Need of 'White, Liberal Guilt'


GUEST COMMENTARY - On Saturday night, George Zimmerman was found "not guilty" in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. 

Regardless of what has been said about the case, here are three irrefutable facts: 1) Zimmerman had a history of making unnecessary 911 calls about "suspicious" black persons in his neighborhood, 2) he followed Trayvon Martin, got out of his truck, and further pursued him despite being told not to by dispatch, and 3) he did so with a gun. 


We can argue over the reasons for a "not guilty" verdict, all day: the prosecution team was weak, the judicial system technically did its job but is very flawed, etc. 

But one thing is clear: a light-skinned, prejudiced man followed an unarmed black teenager for no reason more than that he "looked suspicious", and this led to that teen's death. 

And here's a sad truth: I'll still continue my late night walks in D.C. because white men don't get pursued and shot in this country without consequences. We may be the victims of crime, but if the suspect is non-white and is caught (guilty or not), more than likely, a price will be paid. 

My friend put it succinctly, last month: "White men are allowed to get angry." I thought I understood it when she said it, but I'm realizing now that I did not. 

White men are allowed to express anger. We are allowed to express hurt. We are allowed to act on suspicion and concern. We are allowed to speak freely. This isn't to say these feelings aren't acceptable, but it does mean they are validated by a society in which power is monopolized by those of light skin, whereas concerns expressed by people of color are scrutinized by a ridiculous "playing the race card" theory. 

If a stranger approached you with a gun, late at night, how would you react? As a white person, I am permitted to attack and defend myself. People of color, within seconds, must consider how this will look to a jury. Think that's off-base? 

Last month, Dr. Marissa Alexander, a black woman, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot in front of her abusive ex-husband. In her home. In Florida. The "Stand Your Ground" law of that state that was used to defend George Zimmerman was dismissed in Dr. Alexander's case.


I love those conservatives who keep making accusations of "white, liberal guilt." 

You are absolutely right: I am white, I am liberal, and I feel guilty -- as in complicit -- that I live in a society that affords me greater privilege because of my skin color; an unarmed black teenager was profiled, pursued, and gunned down when he fought back against an unfamiliar man who approached him with a gun. 

We failed Trayvon, and we failed ourselves. Simple as that. 

How many more innocent lives will be lost until we finally have an honest conversation about race in this country? 

The United States could use more white Americans with "guilt" who are ready to come forward and have that conversation.


(Charles Clymer is a blogger, student, and Army Veteran. Based out of Washington, D.C., he provides commentary on social justice issues. He is a proud feminist and ally of the LGBT community. This commentary was posted first at HuffingtonPost.com)  





Vol 11 Issue 57

Pub: July 16, 2013


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