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White Man’s Fear, Black Man’s Burden

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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.

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4 comments on “White Man’s Fear, Black Man’s Burden

  1. We regard those who are different to us as threatening to our lives and our beliefs. This is often an illogical fear. Anything that we see as a threat brings insecurity, then fear, and then often illogical hatred (not always understood or admitted). Those ‘others’ – the people who are ‘different’ – become the enemy, and our first, automatic solution is an aggressive, primitive desire to annihilate them. Violence, whether personal or in war, is the drive to protect one’s own vulnerability, often by trying to prove that the ‘other’ is weaker or less than you.

  2. I had a neighbour like Zimmerman – a right busybody – quick to judgement and always acting officiously around the neighbourhood – the many arguments he got into with other neighbours were of little consequence to him, and the right of people to the peaceful and private enjoyment of their own own homes wasn’t something he thought or cared about. And Ireland has a constitution protecting that very right.

    For two years he made our lives miserable and the wheels of justice grind very slowly here … very very slowly. We chose the legal route though … and slowly but surely he was ground down, chewed up and spat out. But in the intervening years he turned a very friendly neighbourhood into a paranoia zone … and he was completely oblivious to the damage he was doing. Slowly but surely our neighbourhood is returning to a semblance of normality.

    Guys like Zimmerman are a menace.

  3. Hi Elana,
    I stumbled upon your “Manontop” today and love your WordPress site. You inspire me! I think we are on a similar quest…to help men discover the joy of being alive and free today. I have a couple of blogs and a podcast: XY Talk. My friend Nate and were talking about Men’s Work on last week’s show and Trayvon Martin came up (about halfway in). I think our biggest problem is men don’t do emotion very well because it hasn’t been modelled for us. Our culture still gives us the message that it isn’t ok to feel (unless you are righteously angry.) I think it was FEAR that drove Zimmerman to stalk and kill Martin. Here’s a link to our podcast: http://xytalk.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/work-and-community-lost-and-found/
    I would be honored if you would check it out!
    Sincerely, Tom
    P.S. Keep up the good work and hope you find a publisher soon! You probably saw it but The Good Men Project is willing to promote your e-book.

    • Hi Tom,

      Thanks so much for your note!

      It is so inspiring connecting with men who share the same goal as I do. I absolutely agree that men are not conditioned to talk about their emotions and as a result, use non-verbal communication (sometimes violently) to express themselves. I also believe that is changing. There is a real push towards fathers who are present and active in their children’s lives. I think that will have a huge impact on the way little boys and little girls value themselves. Thank goodness. Things are changing. I am so excited to check out your podcast. Let’s keep in touch!

      with light,
      Elana

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