“Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.” ~ Edmund Burke

It’s been an emotional rollercoaster writing this month’s blog.

I'm struggling. I’m concerned about your response to this blog. I wonder if you'll keep reading it after you hear what I've been burning to say. I wonder if my words will make a difference in your mind and heart. I wonder if my words can make a difference in the world, period.

...because I'm just another black person and I’m angry with another injustice; the verdict in the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case.  I am vexed as to why so many people still don't seem to get "it".  The “it” that is racism. Racism explains why Trayvon Martin was killed, unjustly and without warrant. Racism explains how George Zimmerman was acquitted. Racism explains how “equal under the law” is not accurate: that our justice system serves one part of our society more advantageously than others.

Depending on the circumstances, I’m both comfortable and uncomfortable discussing race.  I'm most comfortable when I feel the person I’m talking to is willing to have an open dialogue. This indicates they respect my opinions and they’re willing to expand their perspective on such matters.  I'm uncomfortable when conversations are one-sided and I’m expected to make my case for being black in America. This is especially difficult when this type of conversation is with a white or non-black person.

So, we are at the junction of yet another appalling injustice in our country's history. I’ve spent the last few weeks discussing this with many people and grappling with how best to express my anguish. Here’s where I stand:

Hooked On A Feeling

To our society,
Racism is not how you feel, it's how you think and act! Please stop believing that racism is some trivial emotion such as sadness or jealousy. It's not something that you try your best not to indulge in like fattening foods or drinking too much. Please stop getting insulted at the idea of being called a racist; none of us are immune to it. You're not virtuous just because you think, "Well, at least I'm not as racist as that other guy is." It just doesn't work that way!

Racism is a verb and a noun. It's a mechanism and an entity. It is institutionalized. If you think racism is just about race, you're wrong.  It’s about the taking of power; about the abuse and imbalance of power. It’s about finding a way to pervasively justify the inhumanity of one group of people to another group of people. This is how Trayvon Martin was made out to be a vicious predator, so George Zimmerman could be transformed into a victim (re: hero), justifying Zimmerman's “right” to murder Trayvon.

The "race" in racism only serves as an excuse to do the unimaginable. It’s unimaginable because no one would like it done to him or her. It's bias in its worst form and it’s wrong. It doesn’t just rear its ugly head in racism. Its bias is also at work in other “ism’s” such as sexism, ageism, and others.

A good friend recently told me that they thought it was too extreme to compare the Trayvon Martin incident to that of Emmett Till's case. In their opinion, Emmett Till's murder was truly racist as compared to Trayvon's tragedy. Why is that? Is it only because we're looking at Emmett Till's murder in hindsight? At that time, most of our society wasn't all that outraged. It took our society decades to come to a collective agreement that it was indeed a case of egregious racism.

How long will it take before we determine the truth regarding the murder of Trayvon Martin? I don't have that kind of time.

To my white friends and enemies, known and unknown,
...please remember that you can't possibly stand in my shoes and tell me how or what I should feel about my race. Also, when you say that black society is overreacting or just being too sensitive, that statement is arrogant and ignorant. This arrogance and ignorance comes from not knowing how it feels to be in my shoes. This arrogance only perpetuates racism. As I said, racism is a living, breathing mechanism and it must be actively fought at all times. We don't win as a society by ignoring an issue or denying its existence. We fight the fight, regardless of how long it takes.

Are You A Tool?

I believe there are surprisingly very few true racists in the world. The only reason they continue to embed racism into the very fabric of our society is because they use other people as their tools. I believe the most powerful of these tools is in governing and how we vote. Racism and its proponents thrive on the ability to manipulate the masses. They rely on base fears and selfishness that mankind tend to gravitate towards. These fears are manifested in who is elected and the policies they create.

If you believe reverse racism exists, then you're a tool of racism.  If you believe you are colorblind and white is the absence of color (white IS a color people!), then you are a tool of racism. If you believe you know better than the people who have actually experienced the blunt brunt of racism, then you're a tool of racism. If you think your viewpoints and values are better than those of other cultures, then you're a tool of racism.  If you're sick of hearing yet another black person like me talk about my experiences, then you don't understand the point of the discussion and you're probably a tool of racism.

Racism is deeply embedded in our society. I experience it nearly each day on every level. It can happen watching TV, reading a newspaper, book or magazine. I’ve experienced it going shopping, getting an education, applying for and working a job, pursuing a career, applying for a loan or mortgage. I’ve experienced it reading my Facebook page, talking to my family, voting in any election, going to the doctor or hospital, getting married, talking to my friends, talking to my enemies...or simply walking down the street. Racism is a part of my overall existence on this earth.  If you have no idea what that might even feel like, then you have no place telling me how to feel about it! Period!

I say all of this not because I wish to be "right". I say all of this because I wish to be seen. I say this because I want to be heard. I say this because I want to be understood. When that understanding begins to happen (edited 12/30/14), not just to me but also to all levels of society, justice truly can be served.

Therefore, my utmost desire is for productive, meaningful dialogue.  It's okay if our dialogue is angry and uncomfortable. It’s going to be by the very nature of the topic. But, if we listen to each other as well as we explain our point of view; there will be a better understanding. If there’s better understanding, we will learn. If we learn, we will improve individually and collectively.

But, here's my thing. If you're idea of discussing race is some kind of competition to win, then lets save each other the time. If you look at this as “team white” against “team black,” “team republican” against “team democrat,” “team conservative” against “team liberal” - then you don't want to have a dialogue. You simply want to fight.

I welcome you to join me for a dialogue. Just don't be a tool.

A recent post on my Facebook page that made me upset, but that also made me seek for truth inspired this entry. (See a transcript of the post here.)

Michele ThomasComment