Not A Game of UNO: Zimmerman and the “Race Card”


Ladies and gentlecats,

I’ve been reading comments about the Trayvon Martin case and I am appalled.

I am not just talking about the fact that people (mostly White folks) who are defending George Zimmerman and his actions.  Nor am I just talking about the sick new trend called “Trayvoning,” which involves teens posing as Martin after his death, Skittles and a bottle of tea clutched in their “lifeless” hands.

No, Readers.  I’m talking about the “Race Card” accusations hurled at Black and Brown people.  According to many Caucasians (and even some African-American people), those angry about the verdict and expressing outrage are now playing the “Race Card,” that Black and Brown people are now utilizing race as an excuse to “be angry at White people.”  According to a FORMER Facebook friend, Zimmerman is not even White and he said so.  Therefore, why are Black people so angry about this case?

I have a few answers.

1) The “Race Card” itself.

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Let me back up by explaining the concept of “race.”  Race is a social construct utilized to categorize groups of people based on physical attributes, religion, nationality and language. However, the concept of “race” was also used as a mechanism of oppression (i.e. biologists arguing that the brain of an African was smaller than that of a Caucasian) and continues to be so.   Many people of color (POCs) recognized the latter and have spoken out against injustice, how it is actually a detriment to ALL people.  In turn, many non-POCs and other POCs  accused those speaking out of playing the “Race Card.”  What the “Race Card” refers to is a person using the category in which society has placed him/her/them as an excuse to avoid…well…just about everything.  In other words, we POCs somehow “play victim” just because we are Black, Asian, Hispanic, etc. But this can’t be any further from the truth.  We are not fighting because we’re placed in a certain category, but because we endure adversity associated with those categories on a constant basis.  If anything, the “Race Card” doesn’t make any logical sense; it doesn’t even benefit me. It’s not like I’m playing a game of Uno and I just pulled a “Draw 4” from the deck. No.  This so-called card is only used by those who choose not to examine their own privilege and many POCs are tired of it.

2) Yes.  George Zimmerman is an Hispanic male. What people do not realize, though, is that he is light enough to pass as Caucasian (colorism is also a problem affecting POCs, but that’s a whole nother blog post). If he didn’t announce his ethnicity or make it known to the media, he would have been mistaken for White.  Unlike his victim (who was dark-skinned), Zimmerman’s skin color alone makes him seem non-threatening.  So, had his skin been a couple of shades darker (and if Trayvon was lighter or Caucasian), Zimmerman would not be receiving so much support and would’ve been placed under the prison.

3) The outrage and rage POCs are expressing isn’t anything new.  In fact, this rage have been brewing way before slavery and the Civil Rights Movement.  It began when rich European nations utilized imperialism, colonization, and globalization to cripple Africa and other nations to gain resources.  It began when aboriginal families were ripped apart and their children sent to English speaking boarding schools in order to strip them of their heritage.  It started when people of European descent categorized Black and Brown people as savage, unintelligent, violent, hypersexual and used these stereotypes to either oppress or scapegoat.  So when Zimmerman’s supporters accuse us of playing the “Race Card” and of being hypocrites because we’re not addressing “Black on Black” crime, then yes, there is going to be a problem.

4)  POCs are not angry at Caucasian people (or people who pass as White), but the very system that protects them.  Many Caucasian people do not recognize their own privilege and how it actually keeps them safe, secure and uninformed.  The government and the other systems set in place is/are not even conducive to the lives of impoverished POCs.  In fact, many of the social programs and public schools that lose funding affect communities of color.  There are other injustices as well:  the prison population is predominately African-American due to petty crimes (i.e. drug possession); racial profiling; young teenage boys being murdered because of their skin color; African-American women being coerced into being sterilized in a California prison.  The list goes on.

I’m writing all this because, as an African-American female, I feel like many people don’t see (or choose not to see) what is going on.  I’ve had too many Caucasian guys roll their eyes when I mention the lack of diversity or the injustice POCs face. I’ve been called the “N” word over a parking spot.  I’ve been stereotyped and accused of playing victim simply because of my skin color and my gender.  And the government believes I’m trying to deliberately “play the system” by “driving the Welfare Cadillac.”  People who are privileged–who say that I play the “Race Card”–are afraid of me and my revolutionary friends.

However, I also have hope that people are waking up.  This trial has brought racism and injustice to the surface and people are starting to ask questions.  Granted, racism has its supporters, but there are those–regardless of ethnicity–who are fighting and willing to fight the negativity.

In other words, a better world is possible.  But we all have to work towards it.

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