After the verdict.

George Zimmerman was just declared not guilty of the manslaughter of Trayvon Martin by a jury of white women. I am devastated and angry, but there are people of color on Twitter right now who are expressing emotions that I cannot access: Fear. Hurt. Betrayal.

I can’t access these emotions myself because I am white, and I am privileged as a white person to not fear for the safety of my sons in the wake of this verdict. It is my privilege as a white person that means I don’t have to worry that my boys will be perceived as threatening because of their race. It is my privilege as a white person that means I don’t have to have to tell my children they can’t fight back against bullies. It is my privilege as a white person to not feel this verdict a referendum on my worth.

And for every time I have let my white privilege go unchecked, I am complicit in Trayvon Martin’s death. With my privilege I have participated in a society that says that Black young men are fearsome, that a Black life is not worth as much as a white person’s comfort, that a Black family’s grief is not worthy of justice.

I am complicit for every time I have let a racist comment or joke slide past me unremarked-on. I am complicit for every time I have minimized racism as an issue of the past, or as something that Black people do to white people as well, with equal effects. I am complicit for every time I have smugly said that I am colorblind and I don’t see race. I am complicit for every time I have talked over the voices of Black people, for every time I have sat silently by when I should have used my privilege amplify their voices.

I am complicit because I enjoy living in a neighborhood that is safe and affluent and has well-stocked grocery stores and good schools, a neighborhood which has been built upon generations of discrimination and redlining and segregation. I am complicit because I attend a university whose faculty is overwhelmingly white, even down to the professor of my African American Literature class. I am complicit because I attend a church whose membership is almost entirely white and middle-class, and whose mission field is Black and poor.

We are complicit. Every time that we nod along when someone says that “we should just let the South secede already!”, we erase the oppressed people in Florida and Texas and Alabama who are fighting like hell to be safe and healthy in the face of a racist, misogynist society. When we reimagine “the South” into an oppressive monolith, we erase the people in the South who live under the boot of oppression, the wronged people and the allies who are fighting for them; and we fail to examine the oppression that happens in all parts of the country.

The Zimmerman verdict is not a uniquely Florida problem, any more than the extreme anti-abortion legislation is a uniquely Texas problem. Racism and misogyny and oppression are American problems, and we must acknowledge this and fight it where we live, instead of shaking our heads when it manifests in other places.

With my unchecked privilege, I have been complicit in racism. I have not worked as hard as I should to make a society where the last can be first. I have not worked as hard as I should to raise my children to be mindful of how far we still have to go. I have not worked as hard as I should to hold my elected representatives accountable for making sure justice is upheld.

I must do better. We must do better.

Lord, have mercy on us.

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