Was watching a video about morality and how it has nothing to do with any deities, and it covered briefly the concept of more significant punishments for more significant crimes, pointing out that if all crimes are punished equally, then there’s nothing to lose by committing a more significant offense instead of, or in addition to, a small one.
With Trayvon Martin’s killing in the news lately, and reading lots of information, statistics, and stories from people who know first-hand far better than I can ever imagine, the first thing that came to mind as I watched that segment was…
In this society, with its prison industrial complex, and its systemic racism, and mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug possession and use… and the fact that for any given alleged crime, a person of color will be given an overwhelmingly harsher sentence than a white person accused of the same crime, and convicted at exponentially higher rates… and it doesn’t even take doing anything wrong in order to be “punished.”
And for a few short moments, I thought about the fear I’ve felt when I’ve faced down a gun and been robbed, the fear that stayed heavy with me for weeks afterwards both times, the terror of being unable to pack my purse because I could only carry the things I was willing to lose, the anxiety of walking down the street and making sure I did my absolute best to stay aware of any potential threats around me, the frustration of having to learn what things were threats and what things were safe, and how subtle the differences were between “safe” and “not,” and realizing that ultimately, it didn’t really matter if I did any of that, because if someone felt like it, and had the means to harm or kill me, they would…
And then I remembered that over time, that fear went away. That after a while, I stopped worrying about what would happen if someone thought I was looking at them the wrong way. I stopped being scared of what I would lose if I got knocked around and ripped off by someone. I didn’t make lists anymore of what things went to whom if I died that day, or the notes I needed to leave to say things to the people I left behind.
And the really, really shitty part is realizing that I have the privilege of forgetting. Realizing that I have no fucking clue what life would be like if I weren’t white, and knowing that the fear I felt, the fear that came back for a moment and overwhelmed me, is something I can choose to let pass — not something I have to live with every moment of every day of my life.
I am not Trayvon Martin. I am not Oscar Grant. I am not Troy Davis. I can’t chant along with others when they cry out loudly that “We are all…” because as much as I may stand in solidarity, as much as I may join in fighting injustice, I am treated differently because my skin is not the same shade as theirs. My good treatment is equally unjust as anyone else’s suffering so long as that distinction is based on our perceived ethnicities.