Students in Hoodies: This is what Democracy Looks Like.


This entry was denied by the Huffington Post. So I just copied and pasted my entry.

I feel the need to apologize. I have been writing so much about Trayvon Martin in my own blog but it has taken me more than a week to calm down and address this audience without anger or frustration. As an Afro Latino, this issue hits home on so many levels.

I am very proud to be a Syracuse Alum and staff member. On March 26, I was even prouder. A group of students finally galvanized to action by having a rally on the steps of Hendrick’s Chapel on a cold Monday night. This is not just a black or white issue; this is an issue of justice. We stood in solitude with our hoodies on for Trayvon Martin.

As a person of color, I know that there are things that I should except, like the possibility being pulled over for no reason or being followed in a store. But nothing prepared me for this: a seventeen-year-old unarmed boy killed by a self appointed neighborhood watch captain. Then, even more appalling, I hear that George Zimmerman claims “self-defense,” when the only items in Trayvon’s hoodie were  a pack of skittles and a bottle of ice tea.

Without mentioning the race or ethnicity of either person, anyone of us would just assume that the killer would be reprimanded, if not sent to jail.  It is only after realizing that Travyon is black and his killer is “white” Hispanic that questions are raised as to why Zimmerman has not spent a single minute in jail.  Let’s face it, had the shooter been a Black man he would have at least seen a few nights in jail despite Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. Yet, this had become a black and white issue for so many of us. Is it because more Latinos are considering themselves white as seen in the 2010 Census?

Perhaps it speaks to the general ignorance that people like Geraldo Rivera have, who think that a hoodie automatically represents something sinister. Is there a general perception that all black men are trying to perpetuate themselves as gangsters by wearing such apparel? Sure, it is annoying to see men wear sagging jeans with no belts.  I consistently tell students to pull up their pants, but does that justify thinking the worst of them? Yet, it is ok for a self-appointed investigative reporter to make a blanket statement about how Trayvon’s hoodie is the reason for his death. Should he know that it was raining the night Trayvon was killed, making it a perfectly reasonable chose of attire? Or perhaps it speaks to his fear of Black people in general?

It was indeed a show of solidarity when more than 100 Syracuse University students, staff, of all races, came together in a peaceful rally chanting “this is what democracy looks like.” This goes far beyond the hoodie, far beyond Geraldo, and far beyond the increasing number of reports of this teenager’s past. This is about justice. This is about an unarmed kid being killed for looking suspicious. It resonates with these students because anyone of them could have been Trayvon Martin. What gets under many students’ skin is the media’s attempt to show “a different side” of this kid by painting him as a criminal, in an attempt to justify his murder. Is that what a black or Latino Male student has to think about when walking across the quad or walking in the streets of Syracuse on cold rainy night? He has to worry about every mistake he’s ever made as a child?

So what is next? We can rally and protest this issue until George Zimmerman is behind bars, but then what? Don Sawyer, director of the LSAMP program, gave one of the best suggestions during that rally.  He suggested that the only way to promote change is to mentor a younger person.  True change comes when people are willing to commit to change and spread it to others. It is not about what we wear or how we are perceived, it is what happens when this done.

We must be the change we are looking for. That change can begin start with mentoring a young student in need. That change can begin when we continue to fight injustice and not allow ourselves the complacency to believe that race does not matter. For as long as George Zimmerman remains free we will always be remind that we as Black/Latino men and women will always be judged for what we wear and assassinated later for our exercising our right to wear whatever we want.

So what does democracy look like? Is it college students rallying as the media kills Travyon Martin over and over again, promoting the insecurities  young Black kids already face? What does justice look like? I am not sure; perhaps the hoodie of the justice system is covering the eyes of those who are apparently “standing their ground”.

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A Banner Year for Racism

Jeremy Lin. Trayon Martin. The Hunger Games. President Obama. White History Month. Shaima Alawadi. Ervin Jefferson. 2012: Racism Strikes Back. This is not say it never went away but this year it seems to be back with a vengeance. Perhaps it is the growth of Social Media has allowed me to see how ignorant people are on a grander scale or perhaps we as people of color have gotten so complacent that we forgot what country we live in.

I had a student tell me the other day that she is tired of teaching people about race every day and yet I grow tired of having to teach her civility everyday. Truth be told if we grow tired of having to point out to people the stupid things they say or do then that is another day that the system of oppression that perpetuates racism wins.

This is not just a black and white thing because Blacks and Latinos will cry racism all damn day and in the same breath make a racial slur against Asians. Latinos will be the first ones to say that they are not black but when those salsa or merengue drums start kicking they are out there moving their ass as their ancestors from a country that is not Latin America did centuries ago. I will also admit to you that the first time I was EVER called a Spic was from a Black man, so do not tell met that people of color are not tearing each other down. It is always our responsibility to teach each other.

Yet, as we fight each other, we see the people saying ignorance things about President Obama and how he is the food stamp President. We see the character assassination of Trayvon Martin as if it is a crime to be an unarmed 17 year old walking alone in a Florida gated community. Most of us witnessed Jeremy Lin rise to fame and also being called every Asian stereotype in the book. Speaking of Books…Please get off this blog right now if you read The Hunger Games and did not know that there were prominent Black characters in the book because if you missed that then you will miss the point of this blog. Do you even know who Shaima Alawadi or Ervin Jefferson are?

I laugh at the people who once looked in my face and told me that racism is not an issue anymore. The real problem is that racism never left. People of color got complacent and now it rears it’s ugly head and we are all shocked. Facebook and Twitter are showing us the world around us in a digital format of thoughts that people harbor and now we feel the need to act.

I can provide a list of black men who have been unarmed and killed recklessly while we all just sat and watched on the news. Yet, this has been a banner year for racism because it is in our faces on a daily basis since the beginning of the year. We put on our hoodies in honor of Trayvon but what happens if and when El Zimmerman gets justice. Do we stop? Do we get tired of teaching each other again?

We are in March. Perhaps the Mayans were right..the end just may be near.

I’m Still Angry

I’m still angry. I am STILL troubled by all of this. I went to work today and I almost called this student who worked for “Trayvon” and it is not because he looked like him. This kid is a young black male from the city of Syracuse that is only a year older. It makes me think of the flyer I have hanging on my door from the rally the night before that says: We are all Travon.

I am still angry at Geraldo Rivera. This guy was a trailblazer in the 80’s that failed at trying to uncover Al Capone’s treasure. Look it up, it was the beginning of the end for the so called investigative reporter. It was Geraldo who said that the hoodie that Travyon wore that night was just as responsible for his death as George (Jorge) Zimmerman. After all, a hoodie is a symbol of being a thug, a gangster, or any type of negative stereotype that you can muster up.

So is a hoodie this year’s excuse for killing unarmed Black men? A few years ago, a wallet could get you 41 bullets to the body. We like to make excuses for the inexcusable. That is why there are these reports that Travyon was suspended from school and how he is a possible drug dealer. Let’s smear a dead teenager who cannot defend himself. Where is his Stand Your Ground Law? Instead we will say that his character is bad and his death was justified.

How about we blame the bag Skittles that Trayon had on him. Perhaps they were too bright and colorful. Maybe they jingled too much in his pocket or perhaps they were really drugs! Let’s blame anything except poor innocent George Zimmerman who has a black friend. All of sudden people are coming to his defense saying…oh he is hispanic…he cannot be racist. While that is only partly right, White Hispanics/Latinos can be prejudice as hell. Los Zimmermans don’t want this to be considered a hate crime because now we want to use our brown card….”damn those assholes always seem to get away.”

What Geraldo and George have in common…is fear. That fear that they will be considered in the white and black conversation. That is why Geraldo’s son is ashamed of him because I am willing to bet that little junior loves hip hop. I am betting that he wears his skinny jeans down past the crack of his ass. Papi Rivera doesn’t like that because that is too niggerish and I am quite sure there was a conversation on not bringing a black girl home.

Yet, Zimmerman is smarter that you think. See, in Florida, you can carry a gun and kill someone as long as you can say that it was self defense. That Stand Your Ground Law has given those gun touting, second amendment lovers, a reason to kill. He followed Travyon and confronted him. How is this self defense? That is like when you fight back on a bully and the teacher catches you being the aggressor and the bully becomes innocent.

Now the bully has gotten away and the media wants to make Trayvon the aggressor with his gangster hoodie and his poison Skittles.

Trayvon…

As I write my next blog for the Huffington Post, I feel obligated to say how angry I am becoming. There are so many things that I am seeing and reading about this Trayon Martin tragedy that it just makes me sick. This whole situation where George (Jorge) Zimmerman has not seen a minute of jail time is unacceptable.

I am angry because I feel that not of the right enough people take this seriously. Of course, most people of color take this serious because bottom line, Trayvon could have been anyone of us. What gets under my skin is the media’s attempt to show a different side of this kid by making it seem as if he was a criminal. This is making it seem as if his murder could have been justified although he was unarmed. Not to mention that he was 17 years old! 
Let’s think about Zimmerman. Yes, he is Latino and should I really talk about how racist my brethren can be? I talk about Afro Latinos all the time and the prejudice they face in this country as well as other countries. I would not surprised one bit that he may consider himself white as many Latinos have under the 2010 census. It has been my experience that many of these “white” Hispanics strive to gain the same level of acceptance and privilege that many white Americans have. So many adopt the same racist fears and attitudes of bigoted white people.
The problem is this notion that black people are criminals. Zimmerman thought that Tayvon was up to something and the fact that no one really questioned this is indeed sad. The fact that the Sanford PD has not arrested him is so troubling. This is old news at this point but I feel the need to talk about this because this it has been weighing on my mind even before my trip to Boston. In fact, it has been bothering me so much that I cannot finish my original blog I had set for this day.
Then there is Geraldo Rivera, who made this situation worse with his stupid comments. I just need to get this initial blog out because I feel very unfocused, which brings me to my Huffington Post article. SU students, faculty, and staff got together for a rally today. It was comforting to see that we can come together for a cause. Now it is up to us to do more. I will be addressing all the above issues in a more structured format.