In Memoriam: Trayvon Martin

I’ve been largely silent regarding the issue of Trayvon Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal. As a white woman living in Boston, I don’t see the ongoing effects of racism in the same way that I did when I was living on the north side of Poughkeepsie, or growing up in a housing project in Stamford. But racism still affects me and those I love. I’d like to take a moment to honor the friends and loved ones whom I know deal with racism on a daily basis — and the friends and loved ones I never met or never got to know well because of the racist and segregated society in which I live.

From a New York Times editorial published July 14, 2013:

While Mr. Zimmerman’s conviction might have provided an emotional catharsis, we would still be a country plagued by racism, which persists in ever more insidious forms despite the Supreme Court’s sanguine assessment that “things have changed dramatically,” as it said in last month’s ruling striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act.

Dear Dad

Dear Dad:

Just a few days after you came to visit, we elected our first black president. Some people call him bi-racial, some people call him African-American, but we all call him Barack Obama. His father was born in Kenya, his mother was born in Kansas, and he was born in Hawaii.

Grandpa told me a story once about a time when you brought one of your college professors home to dinner. He was a black man, and I got the impression that Grandpa and Grandma weren’t too happy to be having a black man over for dinner. Grandpa may have actually called him “colored.”

This is what Grandpa said:

He kept talking about how money would solve everything, money money money. So I turned to him and I said, “I’m going to take this knife and cut your hand with it. Then I’m going to slap a hundred dollar bill on it.”

I never got to talk to you about that story. It’s one of the many things I never got to talk to you about, because you died in 1989. But I’d like think that you’re proud of our country right now. And I’d like to think that you would have voted for Barak Obama, too. And against Proposition 8.

 

Don’t Just Vote. Vote for Obama.

This year I’ve come to realize something so important, so fundamental, about the way people vote, that it’s going to sound stupid when I say it out loud. The decision for a candidate is not made in a rational way.

Not usually, anyway.

People vote with their hearts as much as with their heads. People–myself included–respond much more strongly to irrational calls on their fears, their prejudices, their own personal and subconscious leanings, than they ever do to the realities of policy, or issues.

How else can you explain the thousands of Hillary Clinton supporters who have decided to vote for John McCain? The only thing the two candidates have in common is skin tone. What self-respecting feminist could possibly vote for a man whose record on women’s issues is abominable as McCain? Regardless of what he called his wife (that’s his second wife the hieress, not his first wife the disabled woman), just take a look at his voting record.

And even if you’re not an abortion-happy feminist, take a look at McCain’s economic policy. Is it the folks making more than $250,000 a year who really need help in these tough economic times?

People come up with all kinds of reasons not to vote for Barack Obama, but the main one, the one that no one wants to talk about, is the one that AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka pinpointed in a recent speech. In his words:

“They just can’t get past the idea that there’s something wrong with voting for a black man. Those of us who know better can’t afford to sit silently or look the other way while it’s happening…

There is no evil that’s inflicted more pain and more suffering than racism.”

And even more so when it’s self-inflicted.

Barack Obama’s speeches are high-flown and hope-inspiring. He’s surrounded himself with smart people. I’m sure he’s as human as the rest of us, underneath the well-managed campaign. But he’s a better human being than McCain by a long, long shot. And I truly believe that he has the best interests of the entire country at heart.

I was born in 1973, during the Watergate hearings. I’ve never known a time when the office of the U.S. presidency hadn’t been sullied by the shadow of Nixon’s shenanigans. Kennedy was long dead by the time I was born. But listening to Obama’s speeches gives me an inkling of what it might have been like to have a leader who truly inspired people, who spoke to the higher ideals of truth, and justice, and hope. We need bread, surely. And we’ve been pacified by circuses. But this campaign has opened a little window of belief in me that there just might be someone out there willing to work for roses, too.