Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Political Race: Beyond the Racial Profiling and Murder of Trayvon Martin, What of Those Other People of Color and Poor Whites Who Have Suffered Racial Profiling?

We are in the third day of our fundraiser here on We Are Respectable Negroes. I appreciate the kind donations. If you can, as I am very close to my first goal, do please throw some change into the donation bucket if you can. Your support makes me smile. I so very much appreciate it.

After receiving a gift from the readers of We Are Respectable Negroes, I always write folks a thank you note, and try to share what all of the kind readers and followers of WARN mean to me. I am genuinely touched and moved by how in difficult times my friends and supporters online have shared their resources with me. I will do my best to leverage such acts of kindness.

I was raised to thank my benefactors and friends for their gestures of support. Thank you. Home training is hard to shake.

In those emails, I did not realize that I had a common refrain of "I learn from all of you." I very much mean those words. That statement will be a driving mantra for this, and my follow-up posts, today.

The Trayvon Martin tragedy is not just a "black issue." Over-policing, extra-judicial killings by the Racial State and those allied with it, corrupt and broken Stand Your Ground Laws, and ostensibly race neutral attitudes by Conservatives that in practice legitimate old school dominative and violent racism, as we saw with Zimmerman's murder and profiling of Trayvon Martin, are issues of concern for all Americans across the colorline.

I often use the phrase "political race" in my writings here on We Are Respectable Negroes and elsewhere.

I would like to qualify its meaning in a transparent way going forward:
The concept of political race captures the association of those who are raced black--and thus often left out--and a democratic social movement aimed at bringing about constructive change within the larger community. One might say that the canary is diagnostic, signaling the need for more systemic critique. Political race, on the other hand, is not only diagnostic; it is also aspirational and activist, signaling the need to rebuild a movement for social change informed by the canary's critique. Political race seeks to constructs a new language to discuss race, in order to rebuild a progressive democratic movement led by people of color but joined by others. The political dimension of the political race project seeks to reconnect individual experiences to democratic faith, to social critique, and to meaningful action that improves the lives of the canary and the miners by ameliorating the air quality in the mines.
Political race hovers over all progressives, pragmatists, and reasonable folks who want to find a way forward in the Age of Obama.

Trayvon Martin was killed by White Supremacy, White Privilege, racial profiling, and an individual who was empowered by centuries of anti-black prejudice and bigotry to a priori, and incorrectly, judge a young person of color walking down the street as a criminal, one who could be shot dead without consequence.

George Zimmerman's judgement that night was almost proven correct.

If it was not for agitation and activism in the best spirit of the Black Freedom Struggle, there would have been no trial of George Zimmerman for the stalking, hunting, and racial profiling murder of Trayvon Martin. White Government and the White Right media saved George Zimmerman from justice. Those same forces will protect and nurture him in the future. Justice is not blind.

Teach me something if you would. The national discourse surrounding racial profiling and George Zimmerman's murder of Trayvon Martin is missing a very important element and key variable: what of how Hispanics and Latinos, Muslim and Arab Americans, First Nations' brothers and sisters, and Asian Americans have experienced similar patterns of treatment and harassment by local and federal police authorities? Moving forward, how do they fit into the justice claims by all Americans of conscience in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin?

Some of you will find the following a provocative question. Race and class intersect; have poor whites been subjected to "racial profiling" in a local manner akin to that experienced by black folks and other people of color, as well as Muslims, on a national scale?

Is it possible to mobilize poor and working class whites who have been victims of "racial profiling" against the very policies and social norms that killed Trayvon Martin?


! said...

I don't know how promising it is to harness whites' similar-to-profiling experiences for solidarity. In my experience, these conversations seem to go one of two ways...

1. The person thinks that profiling THEM is wrong, and displays outsized outrage about being stopped by the TSA or being treated as a potential aggressor by private citizens, yet will insist on the rightness of authority figures profiling various "Others" or even reserve the right to profile in their daily life. These individuals appear to me, to be highly invested in whiteness.

2. The person will declare, "That has happened to me before, so it can't be just a racial thing!" They will downplay profiling-type intrusions as "annoying" or say that this is simply part of life and fault people of color for getting overly mad about it. These individuals are, imho, highly invested in the rightness of authority figures and the perception of living in a just, secure system.

Or of course, you can run into a combination of these two things in which someone will seamlessly shift from getting mad about authoritarian intrusion on their own lives, to telling people of color "get used to it, that happens to me too." Cognitive dissonance.

I would say that their opinions on profiling can't be shifted in isolation from the rest of their worldview. If person 1 learns to empathize with people of other races, they will automatically develop a skepticism of racial profiling, if person 2 learns to question authority, they may at least be ready for a "colorblind" skepticism of profiling in general. So conversations about profiling may not be the right way to educate whites on the underlying themes we need to grasp.

chauncey devega said...

We saw that after the mass shootings and Sirota's suggestion that yes, white men need to be profiled. For colorblind racists it won't work. Bu, is there a space for those white folks who are confronting white privilege and/or are open to drawing connections between their experiences and those of other human beings?

VeganTaxidermist said...

My opposition to profiling started because I read libertarian writers who asserted both the supremacy of the rights of the individual over the power of the state (or
other institutions of power), and the utilitarianism of how profiling is ineffective. Bruce Schneier has written extensively on the latter.

That might be a place to start.

As the commenter going by “!” observed, being profiled as a white person is often accepted and rationalised as part of the cost of keeping an orderly society. Part of that rationale comes from the notion we will be treated fairly, like when I was recently profiled as a shoplifter in a drugstore.