By: Brian Green
Some of my friends and associates have asked me, why have I been so silent about the Trayvon Martin case? The honest to goodness truth is that I am embarrassed. I am embarrassed that I live in a society where a 17-year old black kid cannot walk to the store and buy his little brother candy. I am embarrassed that an alleged killer is not charged or even arrested or held for questioning, and that evidence is not harvested but instead, he is sent home with a proverbial pat on his back for killing someone wearing a hoodie.
So yes, I've been pretty silent about this the whole time. There has been a lot of talk about the hoodie and that there is no such thing as clothes that can get you killed; a lot of talk about the rights of people to wear what they wish and even talk about cities that cite and charge young men a fine for wearing saggy pants (Albany, GA).
I have been silent because I have lots of friends of every color-- and I do not think this is an indictment on white people, it isn't-- but it is an indictment on racism and how it is alive and well in our country.
The reality is that whether Trayvon was wearing a hoodie or a three-piece suit, he would have been shot that night because to be really, really honest, we as black people (African American, African, Caribbean, etc.) are not judged by our clothes. Don't fool yourself. We are, first and foremost, judged by the color of our skin.
When I-- a non-threatening looking, "good hair" having, big smile wearing man-- can get in an elevator, sporting Armani from head-to-toe, and an elderly white lady sees me, clutches her purse and retreats to the farthest corner of the 6x8 foot car like I am going to jump her, racism is real.
When I go into the Prada store at Lenox Mall and the guard follows me around even though I am wearing Prada shoes and sunglasses, racism is real.
When I am at a club and I am asked where can someone get weed, racism is real.
When I am driving late at night and I pass a squad car and I hold my breath for a moment, knowing that I have done nothing but I am concerned that the white officer may see things differently, racism is real.
I worry that if I am pulled over by a policeman, I have to remember that I must remain calm and respectful and demonstrate no sudden moves because I do not want HIM to feel "threatened" and decide he needs to take action.
I worry that if I am walking out of a store at the mall and the alarm goes off that they will first think that I stole something and not that they forgot to remove a security tag.
I worry that if I get upset in public that I will be deemed the "angry black man."
I know that many times before some can hear the content of my speech, that they have judged me-- usually incorrectly.
I know that some people assume that because I am black, I must have grown up in poverty and I must have been part of some affirmative action to be so articulate.
I know that even with a black president of the United States, we have not gone 150-feet away from Jim Crow and its prevailing attitudes.
I know that, if anything, the latent racist has become less pacifist and more activist. (Think Tea Party, NRA, KKK.)
I know that, in 2012, there are more black American men who are incarcerated and disenfranchised than during slavery!
I know that no matter how we dress, how educated we are or how many times we appear on TV, write a book, find cures, win Nobel Prizes, pilot a space shuttle, become the leader of the free world, we are always FIRST a black man, woman or child and for many people, that is all they see. That is all they wish to see.
Yes, RACISM is REAL in 2012.
Some of the above may seem hard to swallow, but it is REAL to those of us who are black. This is truly not an indictment on white people. Please don't think that it is because righteous and good comes in all colors just like unjust and bad.
I also feel that when you see black men appear on TV, generally, there is an instant perception that we are to be feared. Society has spent centuries teaching people to fear the black man:
Be careful the slaves will revolt.
Be careful of the Black Panthers.
Be careful of Kunta Kinte in Roots.
Be careful of the black people who are rioting in Watts, CA, Overtown, FL and other cities.
Be careful of the non-descript black man being shown on television in hand-cuffs, his skin darkened.
And, what do many of us black people do?
We relax our hair to make us less militant looking.
We buy creams and jells to lighten our skin complexion.
We buy hair weave from India to look more "normal."
We speak softer because we don't want to seem threatening.
We put the hood part of our sweater up because a strange man is following us with a gun and we don't want any trouble-- yet, we still are shot.
Hard to read? I know it is. It really is. I apologize to you if it is jarring to you, but more than being hard to read, think about it being hard to LIVE.
Unless you are black, this will all seem so very foreign to you. But it is real to me; very, very real.
So, to those who have asked what I think about the Trayvon Martin case, now you know. I am embarrassed; I am hurt; I want justice for this young man; and I want to feel safe in my own country, with no fear being shot because someone "stood their ground" when I wasn't advancing on them.
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Brian Green is an award-winning event planner based in Atlanta, Georgia. He has 16 years of experience in the industry and has managed hundreds of memorable, cutting-edge events ranging from celebrity and intimate weddings, to grand charity galas. Mr. Green also is active in the civic community lending his talents, resources and leadership to various charitable organizations in the Metro Atlanta area.