Déjà vu: Jordan Davis and the Danger of American Racism
by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan (in Exile)
Sadly, as I look back at a piece I wrote about Trayvon Martin, I find myself wondering, if I could simply replace Trayvon with Jordan, Martin with Davis. I don’t say this to mean their lives were interchangeable nor do I want to erase their individuality or uniqueness. Yet, American racism brings them together; the daily realities of violence, stereotypes, demonization and differential values ascribed to different brings them together; they are brought by together by what Imani Perry identifies the “conflict between American ideals and our social reality.”
I grew up in segregated Los Angeles. While often celebrated for its diversity, Los Angeles is an immensely segregated community. Divided by freeways, inequalities, and policing, the Los Angeles I remember was defined by its segregation. For middle-class white kids such as myself I was in constant ignorance about the persistence of inequality and differential opportunities. I never thought a second about leaving my house to buy a bag of Skittles; I never contemplated how others – teachers, employers, and even the police – might interpret my saggin’ pants or my hoodie; I did not even give a second thought when I showed up to play basketball at my local park with my hair in braids. The ignorance about privilege and the power of whiteness defined my youth. Yet, the privileges of whiteness were not simply in my head but conferred each and every day. I was able to move throughout the city without fear from driving while white, and without fear of being suspicious, because in America “the assumption is that the natural state of black men is armed and dangerous.”
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