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(Photo of the “Scottsboro Boys,” nine black teens falsely accused of raping two white women in 1931 Alabama whose case helped spark the Civil Rights movement) (Photo of the “Scottsboro Boys,” nine black teens falsely accused of raping two white women in 1931 Alabama whose case helped spark the Civil Rights movement)

In White Times

By Hira Mahmood , Muna Mire , Isabelle Nastasia , Katrina Casiño and Queen Arsem-O'Malley

(Photo of the “Scottsboro Boys,” nine black teens falsely accused of raping two white women in 1931 Alabama whose case helped spark the Civil Rights movement)

We here at {Young}ist recognize the need to situate ourselves in the historical moments that mark our experiences as a generation. The death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial of George Zimmerman serve as clear indicators of severe racial tensions and the breakdown of our institutions. Historical moments such as these demand everyone take a side, and we as young people uncompromisingly believe that the trial of George Zimmerman was handled tactlessly by the mainstream media, with gross negligence by Florida officials and officers, and insidiously by all other mechanisms of the state. We will not remain silent while our siblings, friends, and classmates are gunned down in the street. We are responding and we will continue to respond with force.

This is the time where we must choose which side of history we are on. All eyes are on the structural racism in U.S. systems of law, the criminal justice system, and the media, as thousands protest in the streets calling for these systems to be shut down. This is the time to rally and expose the White Supremacist ideology of America — an ideology that has been with us since the founding of the country — so that we may gather allies, take the streets, and fight for the justice that was denied to Trayvon, and for the many before him.

As students of history, we understand that social movements, cultural shifts and institutional changes operate in a pendulum and we cannot help but see Trayvon in parallel to so many Black men who have come before him. Importantly, we must situate this moment in a larger history of hyper-criminalization of Black men not just at the hands of white men, but also those of white women. The lynching of Emmett Till for whistling at a white woman; the trials of the Scottsboro Boys, nine Black teenagers who were falsely accused of raping two white women on a freight train; the murder of Trayvon Martin, whose justice lay in the hands of a jury of almost entirely white women. Too often, white women have stood on the side of White Supremacy. This dedication to whiteness on the part of white feminists has trumped any plausible empathy of the experience of being victim-blamed in the face of violence, profiling and harassment. Instead of fighting authentic intersectional battles against oppression, white women have historically taken the side of the oppressor. This should come as little to no surprise.

Since its inception, the United States has depended on White Supremacy, the historically based and institutionally enforced system of beliefs that holds simply that the lives of those who are white are more valuable than those who are not. The most sinister element of White Supremacy is that one does not have to be white to participate; White Supremacy can be perpetuated by anyone – or any system – who holds these beliefs to be true.

Like Emmett, Trayvon’s death has sparked public outrage amongst Black, Brown and white folks alike — and like Emmett, his death is drawing attention to the larger structures of institutional racism that we have all been complacent towards until now. The irony of the loss of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 just before the verdict dropping in the Trayvon Martin case is enormous. Just before Zimmerman’s acquittal, the signature piece of legislation the African American Civil Rights movement brought into being—a movement propelled into action after Emmett’s death—was gutted by the highest court in the land.

When the courts themselves fail us, when the laws and lawmakers are racist (yes, even though our President is Black), it is the time to commit to mobilizing a movement outside of the institutions and structures that have been so cruel to us. It has always been when every aspect of the system is failing that we make the choice collectively to re-commit to the project of working outside of its structures to free ourselves. But now is the moment, so stay angry. Keep your eyes open, your hoodies up, and your ear to the ground.

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Hira Mahmood , Muna Mire , Isabelle Nastasia , Katrina Casiño and Queen Arsem-O'Malley

Organizer, Writer, Black girl from the future.

Catch up with me @Muna_Mire.

racial justice

race

youth

published

July 15, 2013

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