This post was written by Ashley Horan, James Schaffer, Sarah Abbott, and Isaac Lev Szmonko
“Justice was always going to elude Trayvon Martin, not because the system failed, but because it worked. Martin died and Zimmerman walked because our entire political and legal foundations were built on an ideology of settler colonialism — an ideology in which the protection of white property rights was always sacrosanct; predators and threats to those privileges were almost always black, brown, and red; and where the very purpose of police power was to discipline, monitor, and contain populations rendered a threat to white property and privilege.” –Robin D.G. Kelley
When the Zimmerman verdict came down on the evening of July 13, member leaders and allies of the Resource Generation community were gathered together in a multi-generational, multi-class group for the first-ever RG Transformative Leadership Institute in Northfield, MN. In those first few hours after Zimmerman was acquitted, we experienced a wide range of emotions: grief, rage, pain, disillusionment, frustration, numbness. We processed our reactions together, held each other, and sang and wept and held Trayvon Martin, his family, and all the people far and near who are so hurt–and so directly implicated–by this verdict in our hearts.
But the following day, our initial shock and anger gave way to something else. A large group of us convened, and talked about what this verdict means, what to do going forward, and why people like us, many of whom have most benefited from capitalism and racism, need to care about justice for Trayvon Martin and all the young Black and Brown men he has come to symbolize. This blog post represents the reactions and thinking of a small group of us in the wake of those conversations.
Because of our privilege–which, for many of us, includes white skin privilege as well as wealth and social capital–we are not often the victims of systemic oppression and structural violence. But that makes it all the more important to allow ourselves to feel all the emotions that have come up in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death. And it’s important to acknowledge those feelings because the largely white, wealthy communities many of us come from can so easily lean towards analytical and “objective” reaction, meaning that we bypass the real human suffering and lived experiences of the people most intimately impacted by violence and oppression. By parsing the laws, by solely responding through intellectualizing what’s happened, we distance ourselves from empathy. As people who’ve been taught not to notice or express our feelings, we know that part of our own path of liberation is to pause and take the time to feel. And so, first and foremost, we state that we, as young people with wealth, are grieving this verdict along with many, many others around the country. We are hurt; we are angry; we are deeply, deeply sad. (more…)