White womanhood, protectionism, and complicity in injustice for Trayvon

I couldn’t watch the juror who signed (and then lost) a book deal speak on Anderson Cooper last night because I couldn’t stomach it (that is privilege). To know that the reason George Zimmerman walks free is directly related to the cowardice of white women leaves me no choice but to acknowledge the failure and violence of people just like me.

Before the verdict came down I tweeted in the #standwithtexaswomen hashtag conversation: “#Justice4Trayvon, it is all connected.” I saw the furor and outrage that my white feminists peers were expressing over the disgusting infringement on human rights by a small few in the Texas legislature–despite an opposition to the bill of over 80% of the Texas populace. Surely the fear of having your teenage child killed by a stranger for existing as black and male in America is at its core also a reproductive justice issue. Surely, this same group would cry out for justice for Trayvon. Right? No. There was strange silence from many. I felt discomfort myself, not wanting to be a white woman taking up space in inappropriate ways. But reading the transcript of Juror B37 last night, knowing her audacity to SIGN A FREAKING BOOK DEAL after she has colluded in the devastation of a nation that will reverberate for years to come, and finally seeing Brittney Cooper, a woman I admire immensely, call on white feminist women to speak, made me want to speak out. I thankfully do NOT live in Juror B37’s America–at least the one in her head.

I don’t think everyone deserves a gun. I don’t think people have a right to be suspicious of a child for existing because he is black. I certainly don’t want my neighborhood watch to be comprised of men who have a history of domestic violence charges. In fact, as a survivor of domestic and sexual violence, these are exactly the people I believe should NEVER have access to owning firearms of any kind. 

I live in South Philadelphia. In my neighborhood, black children were playing at the playground last night and I found myself feeling ashamed for the world they have lived in for years but is now that much more publicly apparent. These are people in my community. These are people I live with, organize with, and work with. When I read Juror B37’s statement on television last night that she felt sorry for “these people” and how “they live,” I realized that the people who really don’t live well are people like her. People who are governed by fear and hate. White women who support and uphold the belief that a young black teen is a threat in a neighborhood just for existing. Who see nothing wrong with signing a book deal to bank on their time in the trial, who plead that there was nothing else they could do to the letter of the law, who got tired sitting through jury deliberations and didn’t hold any kind of conviction for clear-cut justice.

If my staunch, conservative Republican father can get it on this case, lady, then how the heck can you not?

Anyone who has been stalked or predated upon should recognize the violence in every single aspect of George Zimmerman’s engagement of Trayvon Martin. There is one person in the situation who acted in self-defense and he is now dead, and his blood is not only on George Zimmerman’s hands. It is on the hands of the white women who handed down this verdict. Who don’t have the courage to show their faces but instead hide behind anonymity even while appearing on national television.

This follows a lineage of white women crying rape (yes, I said it, I said it because that was often what happened–unjustly, untruthfully, when there really had been no rape–I say this as a survivor who believes survivors and finds this an affront) by black men who were lynched. Black men who were slaughtered in protection of white womanhood and its purity. The collusion of white womanhood and white supremacist patriarchy is clear–but let me be clear about something. The violence I have experienced–domestic and sexual violence–has been at the hands of multiple WHITE men. I don’t see white men being shot for that, nor do I want them to be.

But I am ashamed, and women like these women on the jury ARE white women’s problem.

They are our mother’s friends. They are our neighbors. We are in social circles with them. Many of them may be reading this now and think I’ve taken it too far. But we should be ashamed at our core.

We shouldn’t be too afraid and ashamed to act, though. We shouldn’t be afraid and ashamed to speak. We will misstep. We will mess up. And perhaps we can hold each other accountable for that so that once again feminists of color don’t have to bear the burden of teaching us the ways in which we hurt them.

Do not be the safe white woman that people can talk to about their racism. Strive to be something better. Follow the lead of people of color. Stand up. Even when you don’t do so perfectly. And above all else, listen.

I hope Juror B37 does try to speak in public about her ideas some day. And when she does, I hope that the confrontation she receives comes directly from the mouths of white women who do not stand with her. Because that is one place white feminists need to be loud and present.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.


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