Ramona Grigg

Ramona Grigg
Upper Peninsula, Michigan, USA
September 17
Ramona's Voices
I'm a liberal woman from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, old enough to remember where I was when FDR died. My website, Ramona's Voices, was first published on the afternoon of Barack Obama's Inaugural after hearing his call to service. I include many voices much more eloquent than mine, because one voice isn't enough. Liberal-leaning with humor, except when the days are too dark and the enemy is too strong. Then it's war.


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MARCH 28, 2012 9:39AM

When Being Black is All it Is

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I don't think there is anyone who hasn't been affected in some way by Florida teenager Trayvon Martin's death in February at the hands of a neighborhood watch man who thought he saw a threat in the tall black teenager wearing a dark hooded jacket.  The story is almost too terrible for words. 

I am white and my children are white.  At the same time that I'm grieving with Trayvon's family, trying yet again to come to terms with the needless death of an innocent child, I recognize that I can't possibly grasp what it must feel like to know their precious son would likely still be alive if only he hadn't been black.

It wasn't the hoodie he was wearing that made him a target.  Kids all across the country wear hoodies every day.  It was the darkness of the skin underneath that hood that provided the catalyst for the kind of tragedy that is becoming as commonplace as it is unbearable.

We're in a place where the issue of racism opens up old wounds, forcing us to once again pull it out and examine it.  I would say racism is back, but we all know it never really went away.  We see it in the open hatred toward our first black president; in the collateral hatred toward his wife and daughters; in a generalized hatred toward people whose only difference is in the color of their skin.

I was a young mother during the last civil rights movement.  It was impossible to explain the inexplicable to my children--that in our own country, this country that boasts about fairness and equality in story and song--there are white people who hate black people so much they want to do them harm.

But the conversations I had with my kids couldn't even come close to the painful necessity every black parent had--and still has--in explaining the same thing to their black children.  How can it be explained?  It made no sense then and it makes no sense now.

I look at Sybrina Fulton's face as she weeps over this latest insult to her dead son--the gleeful egging on of a story about his suspension from high school over an empty marijuana bag in his backpack; I hear the anguished rage in Tracy Martin's voice as he defends the reputation of his murdered son, and I am back to a time more than a half-century ago, when defenseless black citizens were humiliated and hurt and killed for no other reason than the color of their skin.

September, 1955.  Murdered teenager Emmet Till's mother weeps at his open casket.  Emmet Till was 14 years old when he was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by white men for the crime of whistling at a white woman. His face was battered beyond recognition, but Mamie Till-Mobley wanted the world to see what pure hatred could do to another human being--and to society as a whole.  "Civil rights activists used the murder of Emmett Till as a rallying cry for civil rights protest, transforming a heinous crime into a springboard for justice. The Montgomery Bus Boycott followed closely on the heels of the case. Indeed, Rosa Parks is quoted as saying, 'I thought about Emmett Till, and I could not go back. My legs and feet were not hurting, that is a stereotype. I paid the same fare as others, and I felt violated.'"


We are heading toward a new era of ignorance and poverty and those two ingredients become, historically, irrationally, the fuel for a dangerous firestorm.  It's not a leap to suggest that the vital issue of civil rights needs to be addressed and overhauled before violence becomes the norm again.

The stink of prejudice is everywhere. Hispanics feel it, Muslims feel it, LGBTs feel it, anyone who is "different" feels it.  We can't let hatred win.  We owe some measure of attention to the memories of Trayvon and all other human beings who are punished, often to the point of losing their lives, for no other crime than being who they are.


(Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices)

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I read a similar post at older/exasperated's blog: http://open.salon.com/blog/olderexasperated/2012/03/24/born_white_and_inherently_racist/comment

This is the comment I left with him: ... the problem of racism ain't just a white man's burden or a uniquely American issue... it exists everywhere in the world... I know I've experienced it first hand... Japanese hate Chinese, Chinese hate Japanese, they both hate Koreans and Vietnamese... there is among all Asian cultures a fundamental disdain for Thais and Filipinos... Caucasians are referred to as "hairy barbarians"... and everybody hates and fears the black man!!

So it goes... I won't touch on the disdain that Arabs have for anyone from Lebanon, or how high born Mexicans of "Spanish" descent look down on Mestizo's... Guatemalans murder Mosquito Indians and the ranchers of Brazil still hunt Amazonian tribesmen for sport... Vietnam fought a ten year war with the PRC over Cambodia which no one East of Ho Chi Minh City ever heard about... India, Pakistan and China fought six wars in thirty years and they're still going after one another in Kashmir... it is an endless struggle against ignorance, fear and just plain stupidity. We all have our crosses to bear, but very few are free from blood on their hands.

Still we have to do what we have to do and your post is a small step along the journey. Thanks.
Somewhere on OS I told of my only experience with racial discrimination at the hands of the police in a community near an Indian reservation. I am French/German/Ojibwe, but the Indian in me is watered down so I look more European than Native American. But I was with some of my Native students, so my Indianness was assumed in that incident, and I experienced racial hatred for the first time. That experience was bonechilling. But about the same time, my sister, daughter, and I went to a sweat at the home of a prominent Native family in northern Minnesota. We were invited by friends of the family. When the son of our hosts appeared to take a liking to my daughter, his mother made it known in no uncertain terms that my offspring did not have the blood quantum to be a suitable mate for her 'full-blooded' son.
As you say, hatred must not be allowed to win. Ignorance needs to be rooted out no less than hatred. There must be no more Trayvon Martins for the same reason there must be no more Emmett Tills.

Highly rated.
Thank you, all. This case has really struck a nerve and I'm glad so many others are writing about it.

@jmac, your comment is so true. It's not just racism, it's narrow-minded prejudice and yes, it's universal and it's always been with us. And we'll always be fighting it, unfortunately, but we can't stop now.

Beauty, you're right. It can happen anywhere. My blond, green-eyed daughter was subjected to mean-girl prejudice when we lived in a small village on Maui during her fifth grade year. She was one of only two blonds in the entire school and they never let them forget how different they were. Our son looked more like me--black hair and black eyes--so he fit in and was accepted immediately.

She took that life-lesson back home with her when she got back to her all-white school in Michigan. It was 1968, the year MLK and RFK were killed, and there she was, a sixth-grader, fighting valiantly against unreasonable prejudice--something she had experienced first-hand and understood how painful and how stupid the whole concept was. (She's still fighting against it, btw.)

Thank you, @Shiral. It's the ignorance that's so baffling, isn't it? It's not as if they live in caves without any outside information that might finally quell their fears and anxieties. It's a different world now, but they're still back in the last century.
With all due respect to all of this, it never fails to amaze me how people talk, talk, talk, about this case and it’s mostly race, race, race– which is totally legitimate for that is the ugly underbelly in America. This infestation of racism pollutes our body politic and is a disgrace on a great Nation.

But what troubles me most is that people also talk, and jabber hysterically about this law when they haven’t even troubled themselves to go read the freakin’ statute  so they might at least have a thimble full of knowledge demonstrating they have a clue what they are talking about.  Essentially it comes down to what Randolph McLaughlin, attorney for the family of Kenneth Chamberlain said speaking about that case on Democracy Now and comparing the police there to Zimmerman here. You can’t provoke a situation and then respond to it, "Oh, I had to use deadly force to protect myself."  That really is all of it in a nutshell. Superbly stated.

But if we are going to trash a law (when the real trash is law enforcement) we should at least go read it. This is easy. This is not rocket science.  If anyone is going publish their opinions credibility helps.  The law in question here is really simple enough for a 17-year old to understand.

Read "Trayvon Martin: Defense a Pig-Sty Beneath a Racist Facade?"  as well as the follow up commentary and I think you will agree that the ONLY person who can rely on this law as a defense is Trayvon Martin.

Indeed, even as to the alleged fight that broke out the legal consequence is the same. Under the plain and simple language of this law and the facts as we know them, The ONLY man with a right to stand his ground was Trayvon Martin and the only one legally authorized by law to meet force with force as that 6' 3" 140 lg boy against a 5. 9' 240lb gorilla with a gun.  

“Suspicion” will NOT suffice under this statute. Read it. Much more  must be specifically shown.  Did Trayvon fight back? Is this even a relevant question? If you were 140 lb  skinny teenager  displaying none of the BEHAVIOR SPECIFICALLY required before one can even evoke this statute (just read it!) and 250 gorilla jumps out of a car and comes after you as you are retreated from his aggression what would you do?  What would and person do? Waht they have a right to! Stand your ground and meet force with force if necessary to prevent great bodily harm.

Notice, once you read this simple and clear law, one person and one person only has the factual and legal right to assert on their behalf.  And that ONE person was Travyon Martin.  I rest my case.
Good post and comments.