Race and Space: Trayvon Martin, Rue, and Hoodies

I haven’t watched The Hunger Games. Yet. I’m still reading the books – just started the third one last night. But I’ve read a ton of commentary, and I know that people will keep spinning it out. It’s fascinating. And, I’m kind of eating it up. It’s sparking so much in my brain…which, you know, I get excited about because it’s rare. There’s a lot about youth and adolescence, beauty and standards, economics and disparities, violence and loyalty…all provocative social commentary. Which, makes me wonder when I’ll ever actually see the movie. Still, after reading the latest on people’s disappointed remarks – and therefore, revealing their utterly sad stupidity – about the character Rue, who I thought was beautiful and perfect for the part, I’m actually feeling less and less excited about watching it. Because I think I would get pissed and think about all the race issues bubbling beneath the surface and then stop enjoying the movie.

I felt like Jezebel’s article on cultural white-washing was compelling, and its application to the Hunger Games, but particularly concerning Rue:

“This is obviously horrifying. But is it really that surprising? Those tweets raise knotty questions about what we see when we read—how our brains conceptualize things that aren’t explicitly dictated, the ways our subconscious is conditioned to fill in the blanks. The characters that these racist garbage-teens are so upset about are either explicitly described as having dark skin (to the point where, while reading, I felt a little weird about the demographics of Panem—did they seriously just make District 11 the black-people district?), or not specified at all. But, of course, if it’s not specified, it must be white.”

The automatic inclination to assume whiteness. And whiteness being equated with goodness and innocence, and everything else shiny, pretty, and bright. It pisses me off. And then, on top of it all, in the last week we’ve got the Trayvon Martin tragedy – too sad for words, but too important to not speak about it. A good and innocent boy shot and murdered, and being smeared in the process, as well as being taken from a family who continues to suffer the lack of justice being brought to his (I know that he deserves a fair trial BUT have you listened to the 911 tapes???) killer…how can we not all throw on our hoodies in solidarity??? (I’m planning on doing that soon with the bebes when they aren’t so cranky and teething.)

The ladies at Disgrasian (as always) have also said it well for me:

“What I’ve been stewing over for the last few weeks is exactly that, that there’s a sickening bottom line in this country, and it is simply that certain people’s lives are valued less than others. I don’t know how we continue as a society knowing this. Because a society where mothers of black boys have to worry that when their children run out for candy, they might never come back–that society is broken.”

All the different levels of engaging race lately from Jeremy Lin to Trayvon Martin to Rue – it’s making my head spin. I continue to find myself tripped up by it because there are moments I really think, I mean reallyreallyreally think that we’ve turned a corner. That the bebes will grow up in a world that doesn’t define anything and everything by skin color, that doesn’t vilify or run away from those who look superficially different, that doesn’t make me crazy sick with worry when the kids will grow up and want to run to the Wawa for candy someday. And then this happens, and I know there are SO MANY OTHER INSTANCES JUST LIKE THIS ON A REGULAR BASIS, but this has been in front of me for a week or whatever, and those feelings I had to confront a while back emerge a little again. The feeling that I hate the whites.

But, that dissipates quickly. Because I dealt with that rage a long time ago, I realize now that there’s more to people, and not everyone should be judged based on 1 or 2 or 10 or 1000000 people’s comments. And I have too much love in my life to waste on anger, and too much anger to waste on that hate, when it could be directed towards supporting organizations that advocate for victims of sex trafficking or the poor. Thankfully, there are those, Like, Glennon at Momastery and many, many others who help me to see there is some hope when they are able to say:

[The fear of black people] has been ingrained into my subconscious in myriad ways for thirty six years. The most powerful way is the flagrant imbalance of black crime media coverage versus white crime media coverage. I don’t think a black man has ever stolen from me, but I know that white men have stolen thousands of dollars from me in the stock market and mortgage scams. The fact is that I’ve never been offered drugs by a black man. All of my drugs have been offered to me by rich white fraternity boys. In Abercrombie rugbies, not hoodies.

I’ve been trained to be afraid of the wrong people…Because all of these images…they get in. They sink deep, deep down . . . and they turn into thoughts, which turn into words, which turn into actions. At some point, each of us has to admit that we are prejudiced. Not that OTHERS are prejudiced but that I am too. I am. Glennon Melton. I am prejudiced. I am the problem.

We’ve a long way to go to the other side. But the conversation will keep us company. And we’ve got our hoodies to keep us warm.