14 July 2013

This Land

Regardless of the verdict in the case of George Zimmerman, the entire notion of what went down that rainy night remains suspect. If Trayvon Martin had been white and if Trayvon Martin had not been wearing a trademark hoodie, then his presence in the gated neighborhood would have gone unnoticed. Why was George Zimmerman following Trayvon Martin except for the fact that he was Black? Why was George Zimmerman following Trayvon Martin except for the fact that a Black person should not be walking in this community: he doesn’t belong here! Hoodies have become suspect, but my children (who are not children any longer, in fact, but are only a few years older than Trayvon Martin) have a closetful of hoodies. We middle class people often take our sense of style and fashion from the African-American and working class community. The ubiquity of dungarees occurred as white middle-class America  asserted solidarity with working class America, and now dungarees (referred to these days as jeans) can cost as much as several weeks salary to working class America.
The racial overtones to this case reflect a sordid, sorry legacy of slavery in the United States.  It crosses my mind that perhaps the only subject we might teach in the schools is that of the history of slavery and race relations in the United States: the importation of Africans in the 17th and 18th century; of the Irish and Chinese in the 19th century; of the Eastern Europeans, Hispanic and Latina populations in the 20th century as the needs in the legal and illegal labor force developed. How might our constitution, our labor laws, our public policies, our education system be better understood except through this lens.
But Texas would still replace the speeches of Abraham Lincoln with those of Robert E. Lee, and in Boston Thomas Jefferson would not guilty of miscegenation. Capitalism would become free enterprise, and this land would not be my land but not your land.
I think regardless of the verdict, the events that the trial exposed portray an America deserving of shame and radical education.

Happy Birthday Woody!

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.


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