Trayvon, Race, and Perception Is Everything


Until Tuesday morning, The Pink Flamingo would have said the attack on Trayvon Martin was racially motivated.  What completely shocks me is the racially motivated discussion – on the right.

Take Pat Dollard’s post.  Trayvon was a drug dealing thug because of the trace of marijuana in his back-pack, incident of graffiti, a screwdriver, jewelry, and tattoos. Okay, then, what about upper class young people, who are white?

I know of an incident a few years ago where a car full of wealthy upper-class white teenagers, still in high school (seniors) went out to celebrate a the pending wedding of two friends’ parents.  They consumed adult beverages, a bit of marijuana, and had a can of spray paint for graffiti. One upper class white female had a flat-headed screwdriver in her purse.  She also had a tattoo, as did most of the kids involved.  They were out to remove a certain street sign which had recently been put up in a certain location in a certain very large southern town.

The son of the groom posed for a photo with the removed sign.  He put it in his mouth to do something, broke a front tooth.  Because the wedding was that afternoon, and it was Thanksgiving morning, they had to seek out a dentist to do a quickie emergency patch.  A young woman who was part of the party laughed about him thinking about a gold tooth – to annoy his parents.

They are all alive and well.

They are white and upper class, from prominent families in the community.  Had they been a different race, I have no doubt they would have met a much different fate.

A few months later, one of these young women was caught driving the wrong way down a major street in this same city.  The three boys in her car were all drinking.  She was not.  She was ticketed for open containers in the car, and for driving down the wrong way.  She was perfectly sober, trying to get the kids home.  The cops called all parents involved, and sent them home.  Had they been of a different race and social class, there would have been a different outcome.

These same young women were caught at a rave on an estate.  The cops called their parents and let them go.  They passed the breath test, and had not been there long enough to have been in trouble.  They were caught because they could not run in their tube tops, stiletto heals and tight jeans.  The cops told them not to go to raves in that town but do them near their downtown homes. They were let go because they were young and cute and white.

Perception is everything.  Had these young people been of a different race and socio economic status, I am sure they could have been perceived to be young hoods, bad kids, drug dealers, and gang bangers.  Nothing is farther from the truth.  Because they attended expensive private schools, they were spared the degrading and utterly terrifying drug lock-downs in their schools.  (I was subbing when one happened at a local high school.  I find them reprehensible entrapment.  One day someone will mange to put a stop to them.)  These young people were able to wriggle out of trouble because of their position in life.

Makes you wonder, or it should.

What would have been made of the story, from the right, had the young man been white, wealthy, and upper-class and Zimmerman black?  Yep, you would have heard screams of reverse discrimination and race war as they cried about the story not being covered by the press.

There is one other difference.  The young people involved in my story would not have swung a punch.  They would have used the “F” word I don’t like, and would have used the “bitch” world.

There is one other difference, none of them had a “chip” on their shoulder.

We have a tendency to discount the fact that many young people have lives made far worse because of zero tolerance in schools.  Yes, I know another young white woman who had her life turned upside down because of zero tolerance.  Her mistake – the wrong boyfriend.  His pocket knife was found in her purse, where he put it.  She was suspended, lost her National Merit Scholarship, and nearly $70,000 in scholarships.  It started a downward spiral that had changed the path of her life forever.  One can only imagine what would have happened had she been of a different race.