The heart-breaking murder of Trayvon Martin reminds us that even in an Obama America, white men fear black men and it is ok to kill them based on that fear. It is hard to see this case as anything but a color issue. The police, with a dubious history of downplaying white-on-black violence, botched the investigation. Zimmerman is walking free and a beautiful, young boy was shot to death for being black in a racially-tense neighborhood. I am deeply moved by this story. I feel sad for the families and for a system that quietly pushes the death of a teenager under the carpet because of his race.
White men, since the time of slavery have been nervous of black power. White men feared then (and maybe do now) that black men would rape their women, pollute their white lineage, and challenge their world-wide domination. This gave rise to the Klu Klux Klan, urban destitute housing projects and America with two very different classes. As a Canadian, I am always struck when I go to America and see that the service positions are always held by non-whites. It is a constant confirmation that people of color are to remain subservient to their white slave-masters. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
Things should be considerably different now. There is a multi-racial man in the White House. More American Blacks have money and power than ever before. Black men, especially in Hip Hop and basketball culture are seen as hyper-masculine as a reaction to the decades of suppression. Male hip hop artists are often overly muscled, gun toting and glorifying gansta-life. This deeply grates against white men’s notion of civility and an order that firmly plants them on top.
It is hard to be a white man now. Women are gaining more power in the boardroom, in relationships and across all spectrums of life. At the same time, white men are falling to the bottom of the heap. With the hefty bail-out packages to white well-heeled executives, being a white man of privilege now is tarnished.
George Zimmerman had a history with the Sanford police department. He called to report suspect behaviour over 50 times in the last year. He was the self-appointed neighborhood watch and was looking to assert his power and domination in whatever way he could. And he did. When we feel threatened, we are more likely to take action; it is our basic fight or flight response. Zimmerman felt threatened either by what he perceived to be a suspect black man or his rapidly declining position as a white man in American. Either way, he was propelled to take action and the Martin family will never be the same.