I went back and watched some of the footage of Jeantel’s testimony. I could see why some observers might be disturbed that the teen wasn’t able to express herself more clearly. At times she was barely audible, she didn’t always use standard English and she sometimes didn’t seem to understand what the lawyer was asking her. It can be painful for us to see inarticulate black folks propped up on a national stage, speaking to a mixed audience with an unpolished tongue—particularly when words like “creepy-ass cracker” and “nigga” are freely tossed into the mix, words that Jeantel told the jury that Trayvon used to describe Zimmerman to her.
It reminds me of the way my parents described their pain and cringing embarrassment whenever boxing great Joe Louis was being interviewed on television and he would give the English language a vicious beating. We have a desperate need to want to always put our best selves forward. If you are in a position representing the whole of black America—and let’s face it, any black person being covered on a national stage still represents each of us, as much as it hurts us to admit it in 2013—every syllable you utter is going to be vigorously scrutinized. With social media, the scrutiny is going to be magnified like an electron microscope. [Exhibits A, B and C: Charles Ramsey, Sweet Brown and Antoine Dodson]
I understand all of that. But let’s not take this thing too far.
Rachel Jeantel is a teenager, a 19-year-old girl who told the world what she heard that fateful February night on the phone with her longtime friend Trayvon. From the news reports produced by the mainstream media, you got the impression that Jeantel was genuine and believable. Of course reporters from outlets like the New York Times, Miami Herald and the AP are not going to feel the need to describe Rachel’s attitude or overuse of black English vernacular, but they will feel compelled to describe the effectiveness of her testimony. And I saw them use words like “transfixed” to describe the all-female, nearly all-white jury’s reaction to what Jeantel was saying. Perhaps if the prosecutors had done too much coaching of their star witness, her genuineness would not have shone through.
I also saw incredibly mean things said about her looks on social media, even seeing her described as “Precious”—referring to the movie character brought to life by Gabby Sidibe, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of the troubled overweight teen. Disturbingly, this has become the go-to moniker for overweight, dark-skinned girls—aided by rapper Kanye West, who leveled that scarily ignorant line in his song “Mercy.”
Plus my b*tch, make your b*tch look like Precious
Jeantel had to live through a close friend being murdered, watching his killer walk free for far too long, then sitting in front of the world and recounting the painful night with an intimidating older white man directing questions at her while she’s clearly scared out of her mind.
Now, on top of all that, she has to endure some assholes critiquing her looks?
Really, people? Grow the hell up.
Nine months after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a White man has killed another Florida teen under troubling circumstances.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that on Friday night, 17-year-old Jordan Russell Davis and a group of friends were sitting in an SUV in the parking lot of a Jacksonville convenience store when they were approached by another vehicle. Michael David Dunn, who was accompanied by his girlfriend, asked the teens to turn down their music.
According to Lt. Rob Schoonover of the Jacksonville Sherrif’s Office, Davis and Dunn exchanged words. Allegedly, the 45-year-old then drew a gun and fired into the SUV eight or nine times, striking the young boy twice. He then drove off, but a witness inside the store wrote down his license plate number.
The following morning, the couple learned that one of the passengers of the car had died via a news report. They then returned home to Brevard County, where Dunn was arrested later that day and charged with murder and attempted murder.
Jordan Russell Davis was a student at Samuel W. Wolfson High School, a magnet school. He worked at the local Wynn Dixie grocery store. Frankly, I would not care if he was a member of Three Six Mafia who had stopped at the convenience store to re-up on blunts and 40 ounces. If a group of people is sitting in a car listening to loud music, it is not the job of a private citizen to demand that they turn it down. Furthermore, there is nothing justifiable or excusable about Dunn drawing a gun on a group of people whom he had accosted.
Michael David Dunn, likely high off the excitement of his son’s wedding, perhaps a few too many gin and tonics at the reception and certainly the feeling one gets from being White, male and armed, felt it was his place to approach these young people aggressively over the volume of their music.
And this gun wielding person, who allegedly APPROACHED THE CAR without provocation (much like George Zimmerman hunted down Trayvon Martin without provocation), felt threatened by the presence of teenagers in a car with whom he started an argument because HE THOUGHT THEIR MUSIC WAS TOO LOUD.
White privilege is just so, so real.
it gets more complicated.
Anyone else notice the number of times the murderer’s name is said verses Trayvon’s?
Notice how Trayvon Martin’s name is used as a prefix for his killer?
Notice how he’s not framed as an individual with a name, a history, an existence worth mentioning?
Notice how Trayvon then becomes another faceless statistic i.e. unarmed African-American teenager?
This is how even news seeming in Trayvon’s favor erases Trayvon Martin.
reblogging for the commentary
An Open Letter in response to: “To Be Anti-Racist Is To Be Feminist: The Hoodie and The Hijab Are Not Equals”
On Friday, April 13, 2012, The Feminist Wire, of which I am a member of its Editorial Collective, published “To Be Anti-Racist Is To Be Feminist: The Hoodie and The Hijab Are Not Equals,” by Adele Wilde-Blavatsky, who is also a U.K. -based member of the Editorial Collective. A link to the Adele’s article was also posted on The Feminist Wire’s facebook page. The article created a firestorm of pain, anger, and betrayal on the part of many Muslim Feminist women and their allies. In the comments section on both The Feminist Wire site and The Feminist Wire facebook page, following the posting of the article was very heated to say the least. I first heard about the article and the anger and pain, via@brownisthecolor on Friday night. TFW Founder Tamura A. Lomax, pulbished a statement on Saturday, April 14, 2012 in response to all of the views expressed about Adele’s article. On Sunday, April 15, 2012, Concerned Members of the Editorial Collective posted, “ A Collective Response To: To Be Anti-Racist Is To Be Feminist: The Hoodie and The Hijab Are Not Equals.”
I have been vocal behind the scenes but I have been intentionally silent publicly. However, this morning, I felt a need to write a letter to Adele, which she received along with a few others. After much thought, however, I decided to make my letter public because it was and is important for me to share my thoughts as a Muslim raised, Buddhist practicing, Feminist Queer person of African descent. While I am a member of the Editorial Collective, I’m post this is an individual who is speaking and writing for herself. ~ Aishah Shahidah Simmons
April 16, 2012 (via email)
Good morning/afternoon Adele,
We’ve never virtually met. My name is Aishah. I’ve expressed my concerns to others but I have not expressed them to you. In the spirit of transparency, I believe I have a responsibility to share with you my thoughts with you as a member of The Feminist Wire (TFW) collective.
Foremost, I was raised Sufi Muslim by a radical Black feminist mother (Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons) who is an Islamic scholar-activist and practicing Muslim for over 45-years. With the exception of going to the mosque for prayers or praying at home, I have never ever covered my head. My mother has never worn hijab in the US. I know she has worn it in Saudi Arabia, when making Umrah. I believe she’s also worn it (due to cultural norms), at times, when she lived in Morocco and Jordan. However, I know for an absolute fact that she is not a proponent of wearing the hijab. At the same time, she supports the rights of those women who have the choice to wear it. Simultaneously, however, she fights against any laws and cultural norms that advocate for the torture and/or murder women and girls for not wearing it.
Her work specifically focuses on women’s rights under Islamic law. Amongst her many published articles, her “Are We Up To The Challenge: The Need for the Radical Re-ordering of the Islamic Discourse On Women,” piece is featured in Progressive Islam: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism (Omid Safi). In her article, she challenges patriarchal, misogynist, sexist interpretations of the Sacred Text and practices amongst so many within Islam. She writes as a Black feminist woman who grew up in the (era of) segregation who was on the frontlines of Civil Rights & Black Power movements. She used her lived experiences, before she converted to Islam as the foundation upon which she stands to challenge gender oppression in the religion she has been a part of for almost 45 years. Yes, she has caught and catches hell for her stance, but not because she’s a White woman with (perceived, unchecked) privilege. It is, as you know, hard for (some) Muslim feminists, regardless of if they were born in or converted to the religion to tackle these issues… But they’ve done and will continue to do it. In fact, it’s hard for all feminists to tackle issues of patriarchy, gender oppression, and violence against women in every single sector of almost all societies across the globe.
While I didn’t agree with the lens from which you wrote, I heard your points. And, for the record, I don’t believe I have to agree with every single article posted on TFW. My huge problem and challenge with your article is what I perceive to be an inability to challenge your location as a British feminist who is not a person of color. I interpreted the article in question and your “‘Nobody’s nigger’ but somebody’s bitch?” article to essentially say,” (I)t’s not fair that race is the elephant in the room in ways that gender is not.” If my interpretation is correct, then I hear you and agree with you completely. The huge difference is that as a non-person of color, I firmly believe you can’t just say/write that without also saying/writing about the ways in which racism, white supremacy, colonialism (especially as someone who is British), and xenophobia within the white feminist movements and beyond have horrifically impacted women (and men) of color. Painfully my perception of your inability and unwillingness to do this work in those two articles; and your comments in defense of the latest article, makes it damn near impossible for me as a feminist lesbian of African descent to find any common ground or solidarity with you…
I struggle within my own non-monolithic cultural and racial communities with the painful reality that often I don’t believe my life is valued as a woman, regardless of my identifying as a feminist or not, and as a lesbian/queer person of African descent. I believe that a huge part of my cultural work is to play a role, carry the baton, be the chorus that says ending racism alone will not end oppression in our cultural/racial communities…over half of us would still NOT be safe if racism ended… I do this, however, as a person from within this community… And, conversely, I am a part of the feminist and LGBTQ people of color chorus that says ending sexism, gender oppression, and patriarchy doesn’t mean that straight women and LGBTQ people of color will be safe. If we don’t eradicate all forms of injustices, none of us, in the human race, will be safe.
In your responses that I read in the threads both on the TFW website and FB page, you did not take an anti-racist stance at all… This is most problematic and disturbing for me in a world, to quote or paraphrase Audre Lorde, “(I’m a Black woman living in a world) that defines everything as white and male, for starters.”
As a 10-year practitioner of the teachings of Buddha (like you), I wholeheartedly believe that at the fundamental level we’re all one. However at the apparent, day-to-day experiential level, our similarities as human, are colored and gendered and classed. Those of us who do not benefit from White, Male, and/or Heterosexual privilege are consistently marginalized and disenfranchised. The fact that my perception is that in your comments, you consistently stayed away from addressing racism; and then you spoke on behalf of women of color who have articulated your position on the hijab and burqa is, in my mind’s eye, a white supremacist and racist act.
I believe we all make mistakes and cause harm, even with the best of intentions not to make mistakes and/or cause harm. The question and challenge is what happens when this is pointed out to us. For me, the article is one thing, but your responses to the response to your article were very disturbing to me.
I’m sure we all know what it’s like to feel under attack. Speaking from my lived experiences, it’s wretched and egregious, especially when I believe that my intention is not the outcome at all. I get that you felt a visceral need to defend yourself. I really understand that. However, the fact that you felt the need to retaliate in your and your family’s defense, in the name of TFW FB handle is honestly not okay. Why didn’t you switch from TFW to use your own name when responding? Why didn’t you reach out to Monica, or Tamura or other members of TFW that you know. I’m not talking about seeking permission per se, but to seek collective guidance about how to respond, most especially since you consistently used the TFW FB handle and not your name.
I also reflect upon Buddha’s words when he said “Don’t speak, unless it improves upon the silence (or noise, my words)…” This is 1,000,000 times easier said, read, than done.
It’s true that race and religion are huge elephants in the US. I’m not European, but I have a lot of radical feminist friends who are both white and of color who live in England and France. While some of them wholeheartedly support the ban of the hijab in France, I know they would take issue with your article and more importantly your responses to the critiques of it. Additionally, my father (Michael Simmons), who’s an international human right activist has worked in Eastern Europe since the mid-80s; and since 2003, has called Budapest, Hungary his home. I share this to say, that through his lens, I’ve come to really understand the stark differences with how race/ethnicity is addressed in Europe in comparison to in the US. This is most apparent with the Roma (aka Gypsy) communities.
The question for me is what is the goal with our articles and responses to critiques of our articles? Is the goal to be right …to win the debate and/or arguments? Or, is the goal to play a role in encouraging people to think and act differently?
Towards Understanding and In Peace,
Post Script: Adele wrote a response to my email. I have asked her permission to reprint her response this evening eastern standard time. However, there is a time difference as she is based in the UK…
George Zimmerman • Speaking on his Web site, therealgeorgezimmerman.com. Zimmerman, the gunman in the Trayvon Martin incident, says that he needs legal help and funding on the site. The site features photos in support of Zimmerman, including a vandalization incident that took place at a black cultural center in Ohio. The site, which is having connection troubles at the moment, is confirmed as real according to Zimmerman’s attorneys, MSNBC reports. (via shortformblog)
omg this makes me want to blow my groceries
Huh, I didn’t know “altering” and “ending” were synonyms.
…oh, wait, he meant his life?
I am almost positive that this is a troll site. Simply because of the wording as well as the cry for funding. I think this is fake. Genius. Because people WILL donate but still, I call bullshit.
His lawyers say it’s legit.
I have been taken aback by the degree to which this case has touched the nation. With more than 2,000, 000 signatures on the Change.org petition and many public figures donning hoodies on his behalf, Trayvon’s murder has the potential to galvanize national conversations about racial profiling, the criminalization of Black male bodies, and the unequal way that arrests, conviction, and sentencing are applied to Black v. non-Black persons.
But as I sat home the next day and reflected on how simple a decision it was for me to attend the March and how glad I was that I went, I thought about my more ambivalent stance toward another movement that is also central to my political commitments.
It occurred to me that there was a central point of connection between the organizing principle of the Hoodie Marches and of SlutWalk, namely that each movement has sought to dramatize the intrinsic illogic of suggesting that one’s clothing choices invite–and more to the point– justify violent treatment. Not two days after the NYC hoodie march and one day after more than 30,000 people showed up in Sanford, Fl on Trayvon’s behalf, Geraldo Rivera said on Fox News that in fact Trayvon’s hoodie has as much to do with his murder as Zimmerman’s gun.
But then all of a sudden, dudes understood. I saw FB status after FB status saying, “a hoodie is no more to blame for Trayvon’s murder than a woman’s clothing choices are to blame for rape.” I might have cheered.
But really, what I had was a larger question. Why had I, an ardent (CRUNK) feminist refused to support SlutWalk? My primary reason as I’ve said before was about the inherent white privilege signaled by a movement that wanted to “reclaim” the word “slut.” Moreover, I felt like there was simply much more at stake to ask a woman of color to come and actively identify as a slut, than was at stake for the white women who readily jumped on the bandwagon. Also, as Trayvon’s case has demonstrated, the larger issue within SlutWalk was policing. I told organizers months ago in a dialogue in our comments section, that a critique of policing would invite all kinds of folks to come to the table. Because what has become abundantly clear is that both gender and racial ideologies are deployed to constrict the rights of women and men, Black and Brown to take up public space. So my choice not to participate was an active assertion of the principle that I don’t want to be a part of any feminism that fails to actively critique racism.
Yet, I know that contemporary Black feminism emerged not just as a critique of white women’s racism, but also as a critique of Black men’s strident sexism.
In a zero-sum universe where resources are finite, and we have to pick our battles, rape/beating/harassment is (apparently) no match for state violence and murder. Within Black communities, high rates of Black male-on-Black male homicide matter more than the numbers of Black women killed at the hands of their Black male partners.
Feminist or not, it remains clear that Black women’s collective racial love affair with Black men is still going strong.
As a feminist, I personally struggle with what it means that on any given day, racism still seems to matter more to me than sexism.
I marched for Trayvon almost without a second thought; with SlutWalk, its shortcomings were enough to keep me away.