In Conversation with History: Speaking Back to Trayvon
by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan
In wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin, in the face of anger, sadness, frustration, outrage, sadness, and more anger, I found myself returning to several quotes that reflect on racism, violence, injustice, and resistance. I found myself wanting to dialogue with these thinkers, these organic intellectuals, and those who continue to promote “freedom dreams.” This is my conversation within an experimental dialogue that emphasizes the continuity of violence and resistance throughout our history.
Sojourner Truth: “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?”
DJL: Why does this continue to be so true for women, for people of color, for the poor? The parent over there sends their child out to play, without a worry; the child over can go to the park, walk to school, or go to the store, without any fears. Innocence is protected. Nobody can say that for Trayvon Martin; ain’t he a person; ain’t a child?
Frederick Douglas: “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them.”
DJL: Mr. Douglas, your words remain true today. Where Trayvon’s was deprived of his humanity, where his rights were ignored, where his future was denied “neither persons nor property will be safe.”
Kahil Gibran: “Learnt silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, I am ungrateful to these teachers.”
DJL: Yes, in just three weeks, we have seen injustice from those responsible for justice, terror from those who claim to protect, and erasure from those responsible for education and informing the collective. We have once again seen the stains and violence of American racism. Yet, we have seen the apathy and ignorance concerning these painful realities.
Shirley Chisholm: “Most Americans have never seen the ignorance, degradation, hunger, sickness, and futility in which many other Americans live. Until a problem reaches their doorsteps, they’re not going to understand. . . Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread and deep-seated, that it is invisible because it is so normal.”
DJL: Ms. Chisholm, we are still seeing this today. When black and suspicious becomes normalized, racism is invisible; when the murder of black youth is not breaking news “it invisible because it is so normal.” When black death goes unnoticed it has become normal and acceptable. Only when fathers and mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters begin to contemplate “what if,” what if my family or friends couldn’t go to the store without fear, without threat, without potential death will we see change.
Albert Camus: “In such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners.”
DJL: Why do people continue to side with the executioners? But not in every case? It must stop. In a world where black youth can’t walk to the store to buy skittles and something to drink, where black youth are deemed suspicious for walking while black, in “a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners.” It is the job of thinking people not to silence the critics, the fighters of freedom.
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