Where The Killing Of A Fictional Black Child Exposes How We Feel About The Killing Of A Real Black Child

March 26th, 2012 | 21 comments | Posted by Jen

I saw The Hunger Games Friday afternoon, and it was good. Just good. But the part that got to me, of course, was when Rue was killed. When it happened, the first thing I thought was, She is Trayvon Martin. She was a child. She was hunted. She was hunted by aggressors much more powerful than she. She dies from a wound to the chest. In a society that allows the murder of its own children.

Then I read the racist reactions to Rue and her character’s death, which range from people either being angry that a black girl was playing someone “good” and “innocent” to people being not that sad over her death now that they understood she was black, which made it clear to me that other people were also making a connection between Rue and Trayvon, however subconsciously. Only instead of that reaction being “This is a child who was hunted and killed and that’s unacceptable,” it’s “Because this character is black, I care less about her death.”

What I’ve been stewing over for the last few weeks is exactly that, that there’s a sickening bottom line in this country, and it is simply that certain people’s lives are valued less than others. I don’t know how we continue as a society knowing this. Because a society where mothers of black boys have to worry that when their children run out for candy, they might never come back–that society is broken. A society where the Muslim mother of five children could be beaten to death in her own bed where her killer left a note that reads “go back to your country, you terrorist” is a society that demands to be fixed. Every piece of legislation that criminalizes a person’s skin color–whether with regard to immigration or homeland security or law enforcement–needs to be challenged. Every cultural message that says one race is “less than” another needs to be checked. Is it a movie we’re watching about a dystopia that doesn’t give a shit about its disenfranchised or are we living it? The line for me has become increasingly blurred.

Here are a few links I’ve leaned on to try to make sense of it all:

How do you explain the killing of Trayvon Martin to your own son? Apology to My Brown Boy, by poet and mental health advocate Bassey Ikpi [Bassey's World]

An insightful examination by a white man of how white privilege works: Whites Should be Suspicious about Trayvon Martin’s Death, by Christian minister Bob Bixby [Pensées]

On the different rules black men have to live by: Trayvon Martin, my son, and The Black Male Code, by AP national writer on race/ethnicity Jesse Washington [AP]

Tearing up the picture of the pope 2.0: An open letter on the killing of Trayvon Martin by Sinead O’Connor [Sinead O'Connor website]

When good is never good enough: No Apologies: On The Killing of Trayvon Martin And Being “Good,” by Danielle Belton, aka The Black Snob [The Black Snob]

Feel free to add more links related to this in the comments section below. And if you haven’t done so already, please join the other 2 million+ people who have signed this change.org petition to bring George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer, to justice.

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21 Responses to “Where The Killing Of A Fictional Black Child Exposes How We Feel About The Killing Of A Real Black Child”

  1. vancity_canuck says:

    People from the United States see everything through a racial lens. It’s sad.

    Thousands of people die everyday in the United States. Black, white, brown.

    Trayvon Martin’s death was a tragedy. But American news loves slapping racial controversy on every story it can, because that what gets huge ratings, people talking, and linkshares from famous bloggers to their coverage.

    Many white (Eastern European) sex trade workers die – that’s a tragedy too. Sometimes before they even reach the US docks. So why don’t they get national news coverage?

    Because Trayvon Martin’s black, and they’re white? Because one’s easier to blog about? Because a white cop vs a black guy makes for a juicier story?

    It can’t just be about a dumbass cop with a lazy department Chief (which is going to be common, with how low a standards the US have for hiring Officers). EVERYTHING has to be “racially motivated, he’s racist, she’s racist, it’s racial” in that country. Sad.

    But hey, whatever headline sells the papers!!

  2. alperryman says:

    This story is not in the papers because some editor “slapped a racial controversy” angle on it.

    Martin was black. Unarmed. A KID. Murdered by a friggin’ “neighborhood watch” guy who was following him BECAUSE HE WAS BLACK.

    There is no angle. That is the root of the story.

    As for “everything in USA is seen through a racial lens”…yeah, sometimes it can seem that way. It is in part because America is still the melting pot. We’ve got a little bit of everything here and we’re still trying to figure out how to work our bullshit out side by side. The surge in internet access has allowed us an unfortunate peek into the continuing prevalence of racism.

    Were it not for the internet, I could never have believed that people would watch a movie and say to themselves “well, I would’ve felt sadder about that kid dying, but she’s black.”

  3. Cindy says:

    I won’t go too far into addressing troll comments, but the truth is that race is at the very center of this crime. Had Trayvon been white and the Zimmerman black, there would have been a very different outcome. Race is often the center of issues in the US because quite frankly it is. There are many things that create dividing lines in a country, for Americans it is most often race. We are quickly sorted in any gathering. First race, second gender, third socia-economic class. Each person is treated with the “appropriate” condescension, distrust and fear of their arbitrarily assigned category. Welcome to America.

    The tragedy here is that all Zimmerman had to do was wait…to stay away. Trayvon’s story will never be told. Trayvon will never have another story to tell. Yes, his race was a prominent factor. You can yell all you want about coverage and ratings but I for one am happy that, for once, the murder of a young black man has actually made the news.

  4. Nikkiloop says:

    Thank You so much for addressing this. As a mother it was really painful to read those tweets about Rue’s character and the hateful things I’ve read about Trayvon. My heart is really heavy right now.

  5. vancity_canuck says:

    Cindy, George Zimmerman is Hispanic. His father is German, mother is from Peru, so according to US Census he’s Hispanic (as in related to Spain, Spanish-speaking Latin America or Spanish culture).

    So that whole “If Zimmerman were black, and Martin white” argument doesn’t even really apply – part of the in-your-face media blitz that gets people riled up, and tuned in to cable news shows. That is, unless you want to assert that half white/half peruvian people from Florida hate black people now?

    Martin got shot because Zimmerman is a dumbass. That’s what we know, and asserting that “he was black and that’s the heart of the issue so there” is just a random assumption anyone could argue against. Especially since so many people don’t even realize Zimmerman is half Latin-American, they just see the name and think “Zomg neo-Nazi!” As for your “we’re sorted into gathering argument” where you put race above socio-economic status, there are tons of sociological evidence showing otherwise.

    What we do know happened is someone who should have never been licensed a gun got hold of a gun, was overzealous, and used it to kill someone (a political point entirely lost in this conversation is lax US gun laws, but again “racist police department and racist dude kill black people” makes a better headline). And that the police probably had an idea of what happened, but the Homicide department didn’t want another Homicide to deal with, was worried about how their stats would look if they failed to convict, and didn’t want to do the work necessary. Thus, the Chief lost his job.

    But all this other crazy stuff about race, and it being the “heart of the issue?” And taking random quotes off Twitter where crazy people just use it as a forum to display their craziness? That’s too much. A lil ridiculous.

  6. vancity_canuck says:

    I just saw Disgrasian’s twitter, and the stuff about how people’s children are “scared to wear hoodies” now.

    That’s US mainstream media for you. It’s hilarious how the real political problems are missed entirely. How anyone can easily obtain a loaded gun doesn’t bother these parents. Instead, they’re focused on “hoodies.” Wow.

    A guy that’s obviously not that stable mentally and is a neighbourhood watch “captain” (not sure what that means but I’m going to assume he’s not real law enforcement?) had a loaded gun and had no qualms about using it. He should have never, ever gotten his hands on a gun. THAT isn’t mentioned, but a guy’s hoodie is the issue now.

  7. b. cray says:

    Obvious trolls are obvious.

  8. alperryman says:

    Do you pretty much just get your news from the muted televisions mounted to the walls at 24 Hour Fitness?

  9. joshksky says:

    Go away, trolly troll troll troll troll. The only interesting question you raise is whether you’re a type 4 or a type 7.

    As it turns out, gun laws are at the heart of the news coverage, so you’re not even wrong. Go away.

  10. Jen says:

    @vancity_canuck I know you are a regular reader, and I don’t regard you as a troll, but the comments you’ve posted today show a deep, willful, and arrogant lack of understanding of this incident and racism in America in general. First of all, whenever a national story involving gun violence happens in this country–whether it be this or Columbine or the shooting of Gabby Giffords or the Virginia Tech massacre–gun control is debated. Rachel Maddow just discussed this on air two days ago. NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg just talked about the need for gun control today in relation to Trayvon’s killing. The Stand Your Ground law in FL, which is part of the gun debate and has thus far protected George Zimmerman and his flimsy claim to “self-defense,” has been widely debated from the start. But critics of Trayvon Martin’s killing can’t focus purely on gun control because gun control is incredibly politicized, the gun lobby is incredibly powerful, and overturning the Second Amendment of the US Constitution is a helluva lot more complicated and time-consuming (and, if you understand the gun lobby in America, impossible) than calling for the arrest of a man who shot and killed an unarmed teenager walking home with candy.

    Second, on what information are you basing your assertion that race didn’t have anything to do with this shooting? Just because Zimmerman is Latino doesn’t mean race couldn’t have been a factor. Besides, technically Zimmerman could be classified as white Latino or white Hispanic, an official racial category of the US census that over half of our country’s Latinos identify as. But let’s say he’s non-white Latino. That still doesn’t necessarily negate that racism played a part in this. If you’ve listened to the 911 call he made before he shot Trayvon, you will hear Zimmerman describe Trayvon as “suspicious” because he’s walking and “looking around.” You can also hear him say “these assholes, they always get away.” Later, when it seems that Zimmerman has left his car after the dispatcher has told him not to, it sounds like he says “fucking coons” under his breath. The FBI is still examining the audio. Zimmerman also had a history of reporting young black men in the neighborhood as suspicious, as detailed in a 47 page call log of emergency calls he made to dispatchers over a 7 year-period. The notion that a person is suspicious because s/he is Walking While Black or Driving While Black is very real in this country and derives from the United States’ ugly history of segregation, Jim Crow laws, and the extrajudicial and violent executions (aka lynchings) of thousands of innocent black people from the end of the Civil War through the 1960′s. I suggest you read the links that I’ve provided and other posts written by African Americans who experience this kind of scrutiny and harassment every day to better understand why people are outraged and why people ascribe prejudice to Zimmerman’s decision to follow, stalk, and kill Trayvon.

    And this, about the Sanford Police Department, is just erroneous: “And that the police probably had an idea of what happened, but the Homicide department didn’t want another Homicide to deal with, was worried about how their stats would look if they failed to convict, and didn’t want to do the work necessary. Thus, the Chief lost his job.”

    No. Not true. There is already evidence that the Sanford PD has bungled this investigation by not wanting to know what happened. The police department also has a history of racial abuse issues that are documented. From a HuffPo piece posted after Chief Bill Lee stepped down temporarily (and not permanently, as you’ve suggested):

    Chief Lee’s predecessor, Brian Tooley, was forced from office last year amid a scandal involving a lieutenant’s son who was captured on video attacking a homeless black man. As the homeless man lay bleeding on the ground, police officers reportedly drove his attacker from the scene. The lieutenant’s son, Justin Collison, 21, was not arrested at the time. A month later he turned himself in after video surfaced on Youtube.

    For years the local NAACP and others have claimed that the police protected their own and routinely harassed and embarrassed blacks. And in the last few years, some Sanford officers have displayed questionable behavior: a couple have been arrested for taking bribes and kickbacks, and one was fired last summer for falsely accusing a suspect of attempted murder. In one case, the NAACP said that an officer had refused to investigate the rape of a black woman until the organization put pressure on the department.

    At a town hall meeting on Wednesday, dozens of citizens told stories of humiliation or hurt they say was done by Sanford Police. Some told of lackluster murder investigations, of being physically assaulted or of being stopped and profiled because of their race.

    Furthermore, Sanford PD is now engaged in smearing the victim by leaking information to the press today that Trayvon Martin had been suspended from school–the only real “trouble” he seems to have ever gotten in–for being caught with an “empty marijuana baggie.” There isn’t any evidence that Trayvon Martin was on drugs at the time he was killed, nor is it relevant to this investigation. If this isn’t police corruption and ineptitude of the highest order, I don’t know what is.

    A final note to all: any further comments about Trayvon Martin that aren’t rooted in good faith, research, and reasonable discussion will be banned.

  11. julygirl17 says:

    Thank you for this article Jen and for your well worded response to the ignorant and the trolls. Someone must be living under a rock to not see this was a racially motivated murder of a young black kid just because he was WWB (walking while black) in an affluent neighborhood wearing a hoodie. This has happened so many times before, and it is Trayvon’s case that is finally brining it to light. This young man’s murder is so sad, and have cried so many times thinking about it. I can’t help but think that if Trayvon were not a minority, things would be happening a lot differently. Someone’s child was murdered in cold blood, and no one seems to care because he’s black. And those racist tweets about Rue and the other black characters in Hunger Games was sickening. What, does every character have to be white in a novel? People like to say racism is dead, but it is still alive in this country and everywhere else in the world.

  12. Nikkiloop says:

    I know plenty of Hispanic people who harbor racist views of Black people. During the 911 call Zimmerman replied “They always get away” Who is THEY? I’ve had to hail cabs for black male co-workers here in New York. There is a major race issue in this country. And from reading some of these comments here on this blog and numerous others, we have a looooong way to go. The insensitivity is astounding.

    Again Jen thank you.

  13. Want Chyi says:

    Hi, Jen,
    Thank you for this post and for your thorough, thoughtful response to vancity_canuck. A companion to your post is the article “The White Savior Industrial Complex” by writer @tejucole: “People of color, women, and gays — who now have greater access to the centers of influence that ever before — are under pressure to be well-behaved when talking about their struggles…One cumulative effect of this policed language is that when someone dares to point out something as obvious as white privilege, it is seen as unduly provocative. Marginalized voices in America have fewer and fewer avenues to speak plainly about what they suffer; the effect of this enforced civility is that those voices are falsified or blocked entirely from the discourse.” It’s what my heart speaks every day. The entire essay can be found here: http://bit.ly/GIWsXG.

  14. [...] ladies at Disgrasian (as always) have also said it well for me: “What I’ve been stewing over for the last few [...]

  15. deedee7789 says:

    @Jen , ty for this post. I can never understand when a person can be murdered and people try to excuse something that is clearly a murder or divert attention to other issue that weren’t even being acknowledged BEFORE the incident.

    I hope the family of Martin and Alawadi can find a way of getting closure by their killers being caught and tried.

    On Hunger Games, I read the book but haven’t seen the movie. That twit was…disturbing. It really makes my skin crawl if people really feel that way by not valuing a life because of that person’s race.

    What is America teaching some of its children?

  16. BahiaHonda says:

    Is anybody REALLY surprised at the closet racists and the “…Stop playing the race-card” demographic are rearing their heads amidst all of this confusion? In THEIR minds, it’s no longer possible that racism can play a factor in any aspect of our daily lives. Especially since the election of our first non-White President? Right? I’m not the least bit surprised at the comments and sentiments that find their way on these types of threads. Especially the ugliness and warped attitudes towards the ‘Rue’ character. The same attitude is displayed every other day when a little white child, or white college student turns up missing. Strangers from around the world will go as far as donating the use of a submarine and free man-power to ‘assist’ in righting the world—lest the honor of this precious white child, or woman, go unchecked, (i.e. Natalie Holloway.) And this display of public out-cry and concern from perfect strangers is the way it should be. Unfortunately though, most of us living in the real world, know that this same spirit of generosity and concern is–typically– not demonstrated towards non-European peoples. Especially is you’re of African decent. (yet, I know there is ALWAYS a CONSISTENT demographic–small as it is–that is ALWAYS acutely aware and attentive to the Haitis, Darfurs, and Ethiopias of the world. These, unfortunately, are rare and truly beautiful individuals.) As for some of the trolls running wild on the thread, I know once a person begins trying to convince others of how any given person, or group of people (in this case, Greg Zimmerman’) may, or may not have been ‘defined’ or conceived racially ‘X’ number of years ago, by some sociologist — (as if a sociologist’s coinage of a group’s race are ‘Word’. Esp if published in a ‘book’…)– it’s usually an indicator that this person doesn’t want to deal with, or accept, the sobering realities of social inequality. In terms of race, sex and class–but, ESPECIALLY race. Certainly not in every instance, but this often unrealistic–and naive– perspective is almost always spouted by some arrogant and smug white male that wakes up with his/ her white skin , and –because ‘this’ or ‘that’ isn’t THEIR experience–the rest of us “minorities” are ‘playing the race card’. ‘Vancity’s’ example of the exploitation white Eastern European ‘sex slaves’ is, indeed, a tragic reality. And it should be of great concern to EVERYONE! But, if you think the level of public awareness and action is lacking when it comes to these particular women, what do you the level of disregard is the countless thousands of African, Asian/ Indian, and Latino women is? Whether it’s voiced , or not, the attitude is that THESE women are ‘whores’ anyway. I’ve read the sad and disgusting stories men –usu white–planning ‘sex trips/outings’, with the SOLE PURPOSE of sleeping with as many 12-13 year of Indian and Asian women as possible. And the rest of us have to listen to some pin-head ‘justify’ even this by claiming that ” ‘…the girls’ parents, often times,offering their own children!’ “. And ” ‘…what do you mean? THOSE PEOPLE ‘appreciate’ that money! ‘ ” The Mr.Zimmerman being of Hispanic decent–therefore, “…there can be no possibility of harboring even the slightest racial sentiment towards this black kid”, insinuation,is laughable at best. Trust me…I was raised and lived the better part of my life in South Florida. I’ve had more than a few experiences with Latinos –I know– are racist to the core. And mostly (if not exclusively…) towards people of African decent. And I can tell you that much of this warped attitude is for no valid or sane reason. Nor is it rooted in any personal experience. But, on the other hand, there are just as many beautiful and humble individuals that would embrace you as their own. But, that aside….I made it a point to listen to Right wing ‘Conservative’ radio in the mist this circus involving Zimmerman and Martin. I heard what I expected to hear: the air-waves saturated with whites–PARTICULARLY that of white males–trying to ‘egg on’ the hate and animosity between African-Americans and Latino/ Hispanic-Americans. As I’m listening to these OFTEN clueless people, can’t help but to think to myself that most of these people couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to go through their day with dark (or, darker skin) in this country, particularly. As an African-American do I feel that everyone is “out to get me”? No. But, don’t try to convince ME what I experience and don’t experience. And that varying subtle and not-so-subtle slights directed towards ME, are a result of a false paranoia. Especially when as many as 4-5 people cross to the other side of the street once they notice me walking behind them. AT LEAST don’t deny of how this gesture can twist one’s gut when it happens, simply because YOU don’t experience it. I was going to make a comment about a past Wesley Snipes and Ming Na article, but Jen’s response to ‘Vancity_Canuck’ was so “Right On” and on point, I’ll pass on that. (I came across your thread by chance. My response to that particular article was going to be somewhat pointed and snide. But,now that I read your response to some of the blatant ignorance displayed in regards to both the ‘Rue’ character and young Trayvon, I see you in a different light. Forgive MY prejudging YOU. Thanks, Jen. Your response to ‘Vancity’ was resounding and heartfelt. (Sorry for the typos and faulty style. I can’t type and think to save my life.)peace…

  17. Jen says:

    @BahiaHonda As the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover, or a blog by an ancient Wesley Snipes/Ming Na post!

  18. [...] people who waved off the suggestion race played a role in his death, and rejoiced earlier today at this comment #10 responding to such an [...]

  19. Jen says:

    Thought y’all would be interested in seeing part of the interview from today of Lawrence O’Donnell and Charles Blow of the NY Times dismantling Joe Oliver, George Zimmerman’s “black friend,” who has been asserting that race had absolutely nothing to do with Trayvon Martin’s killing:


  20. fred says:

    I wonder if Jen or anyone at disgrasian will explain why the life of Tian Sheng Yu is less valuable than the life of Trayvon Martin. I have not seen any posts on the brutal racist murder of Tian Sheng Yu from here.

  21. Jen says:

    fred–Despite the fact that your comment adds no value to this conversation, I’m publishing it anyway, because I’ve received many like it over the years from people who don’t seem to understand how a blog like this works, and I’d like to provide a definitive answer to it once and for all before moving on. This blog is a labor of love. It is not a job. It is not a means to an end. It does not pay the bills. It, in fact, costs me money to keep doing this, money that I have to make elsewhere. Currently I’m the only person blogging here “at disgrasian,” as you put it, as though we’re some sort of institution. I don’t suppose it’s ever occurred to you that I may not have blogged about something not because I don’t care about the subject but because I’m working or tending to some other responsibility in my life so that I can also continue to maintain this site? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I suppose it’s easier to be sanctimonious and wag your finger at me instead.

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