Originally drafted July 21.
As of late I’ve waxed poetic on borderlands and peripheries. This morning my social media timelines/newsfeeds are inundated with two things. 1) The complete and utter loss of words around the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin and 2) Celebrations around Tim Lincecum’s first no hitter.
One might imagine, as I’ve ranted about Trayvon before (here and here sorta), and my dysfunctional relationship with the SF Giants (here, and well, really just look at my twitter feed) is well known, I woke up confused. I’d read/seen a little about the verdict before my phone died and the onset of a migraine sent me into a coma on my couch, but our boy Timmy’s victory was a surprise as I listened to the game when I’d wake up enough to roll over.
Thankful for the time to wrap my head around my feelings with our justice system- and feeling guilty even smiling for a second or two about the no hitter (‘it’s just baseball’ I fear some will say) my head is swirling again around borderlands, peripheries and proximity to whiteness.
In press coverage this morning, I’ve seen the clip of Zimmerman’s own attorneys posing the question “What if Zimmerman had been black…” this wouldn’t be a case they argue. The presumption that, like every other black-on-black crime, no one would care, this wouldn’t be an issue. But that’s where I- and so many other’s struggle.
A few weeks ago a co-worker asked me to clarify for her, and a newly hired teacher, why Hispanic was it’s own category with white and non-white options. I sighed and laughed. Stated it was based on the census. I explained that there were “white, black, brown and even yellow” people who identified as Hispanic. Explained the history of places like Argentina, where so many have European blood, and direct linkages back to Italy-Germany-France. That there were even Chinese Peruvians. As a Chicana I didn’t even dare try and explain the difference between Hispanic and Latino.
The same confusion can clearly be tied to Zimmerman’s race and his racial identity. By sight- Zimmerman is a brown man- shit he’s darker than me. But understanding the complexities of what it means to identify, as “Hispanic-Non-White” or “Hispanic-White,” is too hard for so many. Aura Bogado wrote a piece for The Nation that’s floating around the internet that articulates that although Zimmerman is Latino, his actions and belief systems are bound to white supremacy.
“When Zimmerman was acquitted today, it wasn’t because he’s a so-called white Hispanic. He’s not. It’s because he abides by the logic of white supremacy, and was supported by a defense team—and a swath of society—that supports the lingering idea that some black men must occasionally be killed with impunity in order to keep society-at-large safe.”
Racial hierarchies, even within our broadly defined racial groups clearly send me into a place of dissonance. I can both benefit from and be harmed by them. Zimmerman benefits because though he’s almost the same color as a brown paper bag, his brain is conditioned to identify and operate within a moral system bound to racist ideologies. His proximity to this whiteness then renders his skin color a non-issue.
The San Francisco Giants, currently in 4th place in the NL west, and just coming off of multiple embarrassing losing streaks (some of the worst in Giants history) have been playing a 3 game series in San Diego. On Friday, 7/12 they won.
Last night- two time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum did something that for me, was unfathomable, at least for me in my love-hate relationship with him.
Our golden boy, who hit a serious slump this year- though true fans know SF Giants Baseball=Torture- and was sent back to the bullpen and taken out of starting rotation- pitched (with support from our misfit ass team) a no hitter. His first. His only.
Timmy- the professional baseball player raised in a suburb of Seattle who’s 1/8th Filipino lineage is enough for any Filipino to claim him. Timmy- who’s proximity to whiteness afforded him to become a professional baseball player, and a successful one at that- in his own way occupies a spot within yet another racial hierarchy (and it’s connection to class) that in light of his major accomplishment last night- I’m equally torn up about. Also- his dad is white. This, in and of itself, is a factor that places him even closer to whiteness, closer to white success. Much like our boy Z, he carries his father’s last name. Without even seeing him, you see Tim Lincecum and ‘Filipino’ is the farthest thing from your mind.
A friend text me yesterday evening before the headache set in.
Breaking from my haze this morning I posted a variation of this on my Facebook. A few hours later, clearer in mind and framing my thoughts into actual words I wrote…
Head’s swirling. Blackness. Brownness. Working for the government. No matter what part of the brown to black spectrum my hypothetical babies fall into, they will have so much light skinned-ness in them, but still be brown. The proximity they will have to whiteness does not take away my own doubt about brining any baby into this world. All young brown to black people are Trayvon.
My privilege. My ‘hypothetical baby’s’ (that I’ll even have any at this point is feels kind of presumptuous) privilege. Timmy’s privilege. Zimmerman’s racial identity and ideology. All of us reside so closer to whiteness than anything Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Emmitt Till, Marissa Alexander could ever feel, think do or be.
San Francisco- 4:30pm
On Friday My roommate and I had a quick conversation about going to see a movie this afternoon. Not just a movie. Fruitvale Station. Oscar Grant. I don’t need to say more. Couldn’t be farther from whiteness.
San Francisco, Tuesday August 13th- 8:40pm
In his book, “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America”, my college advisor and big brother from another mother, Kiese Laymon was on NPR talking about an essay he titled “The Worst of White Folks,” originally released on gawker.com. On his personal facebook page he mentioned that the comments about his essay/book were initially reactions to the fact that as a Black man, his family told him, he needed to strive to be, not just as good as, but better than white folks. I get it, it’s controversial to call out the worst of any group. But as an Asian American (in part) I commented on this fb thread- that essentially- this is the baseline ideology for the model minority myth. Must be as good as, no better than the “best.”
Even though Asian Americans have a closer proximity to whiteness, by nature of being the racial/minority group placed FURTHEST away from blackness, and closest to whiteness- perhaps because of the mentality mentioned above, or our obedience to stereotypes/hierarchies and well, we’re just the least brown- the unspoken, agreed upon ethos behind upholding model minority stereotypes is being ‘better than’.
It’s a ‘better than’ mentality that tries to supplant whiteness with success, with meritocracy, with some insane drive that- based on my previous rantings, y’all know I’m not really driven like that like that.
So where does that leave us today, almost a month post Zimmerman, post No Hitter when the Giants have just lost to the Nationals and said goodbye to the post season?
The Worst of White Folks- aren’t nearly as threatening as what can happen with the brown folks in closest proximity to whiteness.
For Tim, it can be great- thriving off the things life’s afforded him, and winning in a way that makes an entire city happy.
For Zim, it got him a not-guilty verdict, but hurt the hell out of Trayvon Martin’s family- as well as the entire black community and any of their allies.
For the rest of us it occupies a limbo space. On an individual level, it can help us climb those ladders, provide access to opportunity, while simultaneously casting aside our worth, success, or stance in society when our membership or connection to a group that’s directly challenged by whiteness is of more value.
Post Racial society my ass… we still have so far to go.