For months it’s been clear that Trayvon Martin, not Zimmerman, would be put on trial for second-degree murder. For those who do not understand how that is possible, let me explain. By focusing on Trayvon’s school suspension, texting content, marijuana use and photos of his middle finger, the media sought out and sensationalized the evidence they felt was needed to justify the murder of an unarmed Black boy.
All of the logical people I have discussed the case with over the last few days seem to agree that this isn’t about white people; it’s about the white supremacist ideals that subconsciously fueled Zimmerman’s actions. But what happens when Black Americans also condone and promote those same racist ideologies? What happens when an entire nation does? Is there a way to purge America of the fatal stereotypes that got Trayvon Martin killed?
Think about all the movies, TV shows, and crime reports that cause society to deem Black men suspicious, regardless of what they’re doing or holding. I don’t doubt that Zimmerman thought that Trayvon was a burglar. If the only Black men he associates with are in nightly news reports, newspapers and primetime television, of course he assumed Trayvon to be a dangerous criminal, incapable of a civil conversation and unworthy of a ride home.
The incredibly insensitive and demeaning comments that this trial has sparked are a mere reflection of this country’s failure to deal with race in healthy, progressive ways. Until we put our own media on trial for the demonization of Black bodies, the hate and ignorance pitted against them will only deepen.
If we want the world to see us for who we really are, we must not only stop supporting, but also petition the music, films, and television shows that perpetuate negative stereotypes. Comprehensive images of people of color are not going to magically appear on the big screen, especially considering the backgrounds of those who run your favorite network and production company. We have to make war against these dehumanizing images and tell the media how to represent us.
Actors of color must start refusing to act in movies that cast them as subservient caricatures with no real agency to change their own lives. Rappers need to visit all 2 million of the Black men in prison before releasing a song that glamorizes gang violence, drug trafficking and get rich quick schemes. And us everyday folks need to challenge our own lifestyles and consumer habits, rebuking all forms of white supremacy, be it ever so subtle.
The countless number of unarmed Black men and women who have been murdered by the police and vigilantes pay the ultimate price for the widespread misconceptions you and I have endorsed via AMC Theaters, iTunes and YouTube. We can’t resurrect the dead, but we do have the power to enlighten the minds of the masses.
Instead of writing Facebook statuses about how stereotypes empower racial profiling, write letters to BET, VH1, FOX and HBO. How is their programming hurting African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, the LGBT community and Christians? Will you and your demographic stop watching if they don’t make a significant effort to respectfully represent you? Get their attention! Threaten their ratings!
In watching television, movies and the news, analyze everything, vocalize your critiques and encourage others to do the same. Before watching anything, remind yourself of everyone’s humanity so that when prejudice comes knocking on the door to your subconscious you can consciously turn him way.
We are fortunate enough to live in a time that allows everyday people with little money to create and distribute their own content. Share your story via YouTube. Create a blog and defend your opinion. Write a rap song that doesn’t degrade women.
The fear that George Zimmerman and countless others across this nation feel in the presence of Black, Latino and Middle Eastern people is very real. One of the most effective ways to combat this phobia that is bred in ignorance is to expand the definition of your demographic. Redefine what it means to be a minority in America through telling your own story while protesting all stories that invalidate your existence.
I am angry with the black community and the hip hop community. How can we expect the world to respect a “black life” when we all sing along to songs that say how little that life is worth? Kill a nigga this, fuck a bitch that etc… Our music and the way we represent ourselves in the media. It honestly scares and disgusts a lot of people in America. Middle and rural America especially. It’s NOT the media’s fault. We really do kill each other over little to nothing. I’ve lost friends because of it. I’ve been on a major label and no one is MAKING these artists celebrate homicide and drug dealing. WE are at fault for celebrating and supporting this. Black people when we as a whole truly start to value black life, that’s when we can expect the same from the rest of the world. Direct some of your anger towards the person in the mirror. And don’t just take responsibility for your own family. That is a start, but what can you do to positively affect the rest of your community? Let’s not use too much time demonstrating and protesting. Let’s change these LAWS! And let’s change this culture of greed and hate as well. Once we are civilized enough to police ourselves we will not need to rely on such laws. Peace as has to be a verb. We have to act now. Please let’s get passed angry and get to work. -MURS