Friday, July 19, 2013

You think we live in a post-racist society? Think again.

I've been hearing and reading things about George Zimmerman's murder trial that are, quite frankly, still pissing me off.  ESPECIALLY the verdict.

Here's the case as I understand it.  Last year, Trayvon Martin, a seventeen-year-old kid, was walking through the gated community where his father lived.  He'd just been to the corner store to buy iced tea and some Skittles.  He was wearing a hoodie, and because it was raining out, the hood was up, and he was talking with his girlfriend on his cell phone.

And then George Zimmerman, who was driving through the neighbourhood, saw him walking.  He called the police, claiming that the kid was obviously up to no good and was probably on drugs.  He also said that Martin seemed to be looking at all of the houses.  (Oh, the shock!  Oh, the horror!  A kid who's taking a walk in a neighbourhood where he's just recently arrived to visit his dad is looking at the houses!)  Zimmerman left his vehicle, pursued Martin, confronted him, and shot him to death.  Later, he used the excuse that he thought that Martin was armed and dangerous and claimed that Martin had threatened and attacked him.

Funny.  Just because the kid was black, he was a threat to people's safety simply by taking a walk in the rain.  And the threat he posed was so dire that it warranted a pursuit (which the police dispatcher told Zimmerman not to engage in) and, ultimately, a physical confrontation that ended in Martin being shot to death.  Zimmerman, of course, claimed that he shot this kid in self-defence.

I don't buy it.  From what I've read—and I've been keeping an eye on this case since Zimmerman killed Martin last year—the most dangerous thing about the kid was the sugar content of the junk food he'd bought.

And yet, Zimmerman's lawyers were given permission to pry into Martin's school records and social media accounts, like anything that he'd said or done in the past could be used to justify Zimmerman's attack on him.  At times, it looked like Trayvon Martin himself was being put on trial, not the man who killed him.  And the result was all too predictable: Zimmerman was acquitted.

I was, needless to say, heartbroken.  But I wasn't surprised or shocked, just sad and angry.

I hate that black people's lives are evidently considered to be worth less than white people's.  I hate that Marissa Alexander is serving 20 years in prison for firing a single warning shot when her life was actually in danger (anyone who thinks that spousal abuse isn't life-threatening is not only tragically wrong, but also potentially a horrible human being), but George Zimmerman walked out of that courtroom a free man after having caused a confrontation that didn't need to happen and killing the kid who he profiled, stalked, and fought.  And I hate that there are so many more cases that are similar to the killing of Trayvon Martin that we just don't hear about because the same system that creates and maintains white privilege also makes it so easy to ignore—or never even learn about—black people (especially unarmed black people) who have been killed, often as a direct result of racism.  In far too many cases, their killers walked free, or were never even charged in the first place.

And there are a lot of them.

This shouldn't be allowed to continue.  Trayvon Martin may be one of the more famous victims, but he was hardly the first, or the last, black person of any age to whom this sort of thing has happened.  But I think that in many ways, what happened after his death is a tragically excellent example of the harm that systemic racism does.  Consider: his killer wasn't even arrested until after an international outcry arose, his killer was released on parole soon afterwards anyway and was able to raise huge amounts of money for his legal defence (and ended up using some of it for living expenses), and despite the fact that pretty much everything that Zimmerman did that night was wrong, and despite the fact that the horrific wrongness of his actions resulted in a seventeen-year-old boy's death, the jury chose to free him.

That's the power of systemic racism.  A boy gets murdered while walking down the street.  There are witnesses.  His killer is told by the police dispatcher to whom he's talking to not follow the kid, but the man with the gun, the man who has a history of violent and abusive behaviour, disregards this.  And still the mostly-white jury decides that the killer didn't do anything wrong.  He's even got his gun back.

Tell me that's not fucked up—and if you believe it, prove it to me.  Come on.  I dare you.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Signal Boost

What follows is a link to the Trayvon Martin Foundation.  You can probably guess what I thought of the decision that the jury in Zimmerman's trial made.  A post about that is coming soon.  In the meantime, though, please check out their website.

Monday, July 1, 2013

This Is Fat Privilege

I know that most of my recent posts haven't been particularly spiritual, but please bear with me.  I've been working on a few posts with a more "on-topic" bent to them lately, but right now, after having encountered several of the things that usually trigger my difficulties with eating in the last several days, I feel the need to rant, especially because I've been stumbling upon a lot of opinionated comments talking bullshit about the ridiculous concept of "fat privilege."

I'll tell you what "fat privilege" is.

"Fat privilege" is never needing to go to the doctor because you know that regardless of whether something's actually wrong with you, you'll be diagnosed as fat and prescribed a diet, and sometimes told not to come back until you've lost 50 pounds.  "Fat privilege" is the absolute certainty that whatever might be wrong with you can be cured by starving yourself, overexercising, having someone mutilate your stomach and/or intestines, or taking medications that can cause fecal incontinence or cause fatal damage to your heart.

"Fat privilege" is being treated to absolutely charming remarks made in a disdainful tone of voice about people who are about the same size and shape as you are as part of what was supposed to be a funny story about a friend's childhood.  (And yes, I'm the author of that submission.)

"Fat privilege" is the fun of never really being able to be sure whether the person who's just asked you out is serious unless you know them well enough to know they're being sincere.  Otherwise, there's always the chance that they're just playing a prank on you, engaging in a bit of sweat-hogging, or playing some variation of "Nail the Whale".

"Fat privilege" is the thrill of experiencing verbal, and sometimes physical, abuse for simply existing in public at your current size.

"Fat privilege" is the knowledge that a word that accurately describes your body has gradually picked up connotations of laziness, stupidity, ugliness, and worthlessness and is regularly used by people who want to describe themselves in those terms.

"Fat privilege" is the great honour of knowing that people who look like you are often used as visual shorthand for greed, overconsumption, wastefulness, thoughtlessness, sloppiness, gluttony, disease, aggression, laziness, stupidity, and carelessness.

"Fat privilege" is the joy of knowing that when employers write that prospective employees of theirs must be "neat and well-groomed" it's often code for "fatties need not apply".  Furthermore, "fat privilege" is having an increased difficulty in finding work and earning significantly lower wages than our thin counterparts once we do get hired.

"Fat privilege" is not getting as good an employee discount as some other people because your employer has chosen to give a special reward to people with low BMI scores.

"Fat privilege" is being laughed at if you're walking, sitting, or leaning on something that breaks—perhaps especially if you're injured as a result.  Hey, it's always nice to bring a bit of laughter into somebody else's day, isn't it?

"Fat privilege" is having a choice between precisely two options for clothing: the do-it-yourself option or the cheaply-made but expensively-sold option that's hideous, badly designed, and made of some horrible synthetic fibre fabric that will start falling apart after a single washing.

"Fat privilege" is the fact that so many people think that the contents of your cart or basket at the grocery store are somehow fair game for them to comment on or, in extreme cases, actually start removing while they admonish us that "You don't need to eat that!"  And "fat privilege" is seeing the smirks on other customers' faces when they see that no matter what else you've decided to buy that day, you've also got some kind of junk food in the day's shopping.

"Fat privilege" is the ability to attract negative attention regardless of where we are or what we're doing.

"Fat privilege" is being told that all that we have to do to become human permanently change our size and shape is eat less and move more.

"Fat privilege" is never being sure whether you'll have to purchase two airplane tickets for yourself—and knowing that if you do, there's no guarantee that you'll actually get to use the other seat, because it's likely that either the second seat won't be beside the first one or, because airlines routinely overbook their flights, they'll decide to put someone else in your second seat anyway.

(Note: Southwest is evidently not as horrible to fly with these days, and it's against the law to have a fat-people-must-buy-two-seats policy in Canada, but other airlines in the States still have, and enforce, a policy that's similarly horrible to what Southwest was originally doing.)

"Fat privilege" is the ability to easily unlock other adults' inner children—if we accidentally brush against someone, and especially if our skin actually touches them when this happens, some people will actually react as if we have cooties and have therefore just infected them, just like we used to on the playground when we were kids.

Yes, fat people really are just swimming in privilege.