Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Offensive Meme's by Well Meaning People

After the Trayvon Martin trail was over I watched my feed fill up with what can only be described as strange meme’s from people I love who seem to not understand some of the root issues that Martin’s case was about.

    I see postings by my fellow pagans that baffle me. After meditating on this a few days I thought I would approach this issue as so often do – head on. As I do this, if any of these memes were on your feed, maybe you could take a minute to think about what these memes are really suggesting….
Although the stories in the “You tell me…what is the difference?” meme are both unassailable sad. It misses some key points. 

After Lion’s death, the mayor of Charleston, South Carolina was quoted as saying, “We will catch you.” The Chief of Police formed a group of investigators whose sole purpose was to catch and prosecute the perpetrators of Lion’s murder. The Chief of Police, in an emotional statement after the arrest of four black men in connection with this crime said, “"Some cases are so compelling, they are difficult to comprehend. When a young person is brutally murdered, it touches a nerve in all of us and makes us ask why. This was a senseless act of violence that has touched our department and the community. I am proud today of the men and women that worked so hard to bring these criminals to justice, and I know Marley would be proud too."[i] Four black men are going to be charged and prosecuted for Lion’s murder. Not just the man who pulled the trigger, all the men who were evenly remotely involved in the crime, all of whom were black.

Compare this to the response of the Chief of Police in the Travon Martin case. Zimmerman was never held or extensively questioned right after the shooting. The investigation into the Martin case began and ended with a decision that Zimmerman had killed Martin in self-defense. Only after six weeks of public outcry did the Stanford Police Department reluctantly re-open the Marin case. Eventually a special prosecutor was named and it was that prosecutor who brought charges against Zimmerman. Eventually the Chief of Police would lose his job over the handling of the Martin case along with the Public Information Officer.


What is the difference?

Race. The difference was RACE. Quibble all you want, the point of this meme is clear. A white kid didn’t get the same air time as the black kid. What the meme overlooks is that the white kid is stereotypically seen as a victim regardless of his actions before his death and Martin, the black kid, is stereotypically NOT seen as a victim because he was black. What this meme overlooks is the swift and thorough search for justice automatically granted Lion because he was white. What the meme overlooks is that the media attention is the only reason Martin was ever even considered to be a victim because up until that time, the incident was dismissed because Martin was black and his blackness automatically made me a perpetrator that deserved to be shot. 
Department of Justice Graph showing homicide rates by race.

According to the Department of Justice since 1976 the victims of homicide in the United States are largely back. White homicide victims in the United States count for less that 10 of the homicides in a population of 100,000 where black homicides are twice that.
If this pattern is reflected accurately in mainstream media then more stories about black murders would be seen than those about white murders. In the Journal of Criminal Justice, Jeff Gruenewalk, Jeseia Pizarro and Steven M. Chermak wrote a paper entitled ”Race, gender and the newsworthiness of homicide incidents.” 

Often overlooked in examinations of newsworthiness criteria is the role that the cultural typification of victims and offenders plays in news decision-making (for exceptions, see Lundman, 2003; Pritchard & Huges, 1997). It may be possible, however, to borrow from other relevant criminological research in order to speculate how stereotypes based on offender and victim statuses could affect decisions about news coverage. In particular, a number of studies had emphasis how the public and criminal justice practitioners rely on common racial stereotypes or “scripts” of violent crimes and criminals to process crime news. Gillaim and Iyengar (2000) found that the public generally assumes crime suspects are non-White even when the suspect’s race is not reported in the news. Research has also revealed that police depend on “implicit” racial stereotypes of “real” criminals when making arrest decisions (Becket, Nyrop, & Pfingst, 2006), and court officials rely on race0based stereotypes of criminals to make case processing decisions (Steen, Engen, & Gainey, 2005). Therefore, it appears that at every step in the process, from when victims and offenders first come under the purview of police to when their stories are read about in the daily newspaper, they are being categorized as typical or atypical crime participants based upon their race, gender, and class statuses.[ii] (Emphasis is mine)

Right now, during our lifetime, this categorization of some crimes as news worthy and others as not newsworthy based upon race, gender and class status is being challenged. People are beginning to question why if the largest race group in the United States is white[iii], that our prisons are dominated by black persons[iv]. Shouldn’t our prisons in a fair a just society reflect accurately the population outside of prison?

Are crime rates really higher in areas where predominately black persons live? Is it because poverty is rampant in the black community or because black males are more likely than any other race and gender to be pulled over and detained by police because of stereotyping? Why should we care if we are neither white nor forced to live in impoverished areas? 

Imprisonment rates by race and gender. Despite the United States being predominately white, US prison population is disproportionately black male.

In T. Thorn Coyle’s recent blog she writes: 

“I want to talk about the fact that white people have got to get ourselves together and confront racism.  

I want to talk about the fact that white people have got to get ourselves together and confront privilege.

You might rather I spoke only of spiritual matters. You might rather I spoke only of the love that flows through all things. You might rather that I spoke only of the power of illuminated hearts. 

I am speaking of all of these. Right now.” (Coyle’s emphasis not mine)

The idea that we, as white people are in a state of denial about racial causes to our actions and reactions is an important social and spiritual issue. Being white gives us an inborn privilege that those who are white take for granted.  Being white is a privilege that comes with the color of our skin and denying that our whiteness gives us an inherent leg up in this society creates in us a blindness to harsh realities that should be examined during our spiritual practices. 

I read the following post after the verdict in the Zimmerman case, “I knew Zimmerman would get off which is why I never spoke on this.” Coming from a white man, in an all-white community this statement alone exposes the inherent problem with society in the United States. If you are white you expect the white guy to get off, not get shot and not to be in trouble. Any of his past transgressions are “mistakes” to be over looked. There is an expectation that white is better and therefore our justice system will uphold this preconception. 

Imagine for a moment a black man writes the same statement, “I knew Zimmerman would get off which is why I never spoke on this.”  Zimmerman is white so his life and his liberties are more valued than Martin’s because he was black. The entire justice and media society has already decided he deserved to die. He did some bad stuff in his past so he just had an end to his life that Martin was creating. Cause Martin was black and black men don’t get mistakes, their mistakes indicate that they are bad, wrong and worthy of death. A black man’s life is never worth more than a white man’s justice. Justice is not blind. 

However, it seems most of America is blind to the racism they harbor in their own hearts on a daily basis. 

This subtle cancer that is eating away at our common bond of love and our potential for enlightenment.

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