Feminist Weekly: How to Understand the Zimmerman Trial and Its Aftermath


Editor's Note: Every Thursday, I'll be rounding up my favorite pieces from the past week so that PolicyMic Pundits can more easily read and comment on the great content being written about sex, sexuality, gender, and race in politics and culture, in addition to updates from our community and GIFs galore! You can subscribe to get updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Highlights This Week:

I haven’t quite known how to address the Zimmerman trial verdict in my public role at PolicyMic. I learned of the New York protest on Sunday a few hours too late to attend it, to be a face in the crowd, to show myself. I haven’t had time to write anything, and wouldn’t know what to say when so many others have said so much. As Roxane Gay so eloquently wrote at Salon, “In the coming days, there will be impassioned and righteous writing about Trayvon Martin, race in America, and the travesty of justice that has taken place in Florida. None of this writing will necessarily solve anything but it will matter, at least a little, because people are making some noise instead of stewing silently, helplessly, hopelessly.”

Since Saturday, I have been stewing, hopeless. But where I may have felt at a loss myself, PolicyMic writers have stepped in with words to offer.

Bridget Todd notes, “If you’re white, it’s probably very easy to feel like the Zimmerman verdict is an isolated situation that only serves to divert our attention from ‘real issues’ like the NSA. But when you’re a person of color, you know this isn’t the case. You feel the weight of this issue every day. You live with it; it’s your reality … The outcry surrounding Martin’s death and the subsequent verdict is very much warranted. People who posit that it’s ‘only’ about Trayvon and Zimmerman miss the point entirely.”

RL Goldberg writes, “I was struck by images of George Zimmerman smiling on Saturday after the verdict was announced. Before Zimmerman’s verdict was released, Sheriff Donald F. Eslinger spoke at a press conference where he encouraged Seminole County residents to live their lives 'normally' regardless of the verdict. Yet it is normalcy that is most dangerous, as there is no transformative power in stasis, in compassion or empathy or outrage, without sustained action. Compassion in the face of injustice is not enough to eliminate systemic racism and the peoples who continue to profit from its longevity.”

While my anger over the trial persists, I have been comforted by reading pieces like these, relieved to know that people feel as I do, hopeful that the injustices of American life are finally being exposed in a meaningful way, one that will create lasting change.

Even as I am comforted, I am not recused. I cannot be relieved of my responsibility to confront my own racist beliefs and actions, which writer Tanya Steele lays out so painfully clearly here, to acknowledge publicly that I, too, am part of the society which has created and reinforced racist social systems, and that I have learned the lessons I have been taught. As a second generation German-American, I know all too well that the past evils of a society persist into itspresent and future. As a native Arizonan, I have seen and lived in overtly racist environments. I have felt stymied, at a loss to change such pernicious, systemic prejudice. I have felt at an even greater loss to confront it even in myself, afraid to reveal the reflexive racism that I try so desperately to root out of my own life, anxious to admit that I do not know how to address it at all. To state openly that you hold racist beliefs, though you wish you did not, is to single yourself out for criticism or attack; to fail to do so is to lie by omission. I do not wish to excuse myself, for excuses are insufficient. I wish to be held accountable, to myself and to others.

I do not believe in a post-racial America; I never have, and I never will. The beliefs which I so long to eradicate in myself show me it is likely impossible. But that does not mean that America can be excused its injustices. It does not mean that I can be forgiven my own prejudices. It means that we — that I — must not hesitate to speak and act to correct them.  

Must Reads From Last Week: 

Millennials Aren’t Millionaires, But We’re Great Philanthropists (Alana Ramo, @alanahayes) — Lazy? Entitled? Narcissistic? Not really. Millennials have our own way of doing philanthropy, and you don't need to be rich to join the party.

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