I found myself in Portugal when the news of the ruling in the George Zimmerman trial hit the press. Portugal, the birthplace of the African slave trade (a fact curiously absent from most tourist guides), located in the Iberian peninsula, where the concept of “America” or the “new world” originated. So, it struck me as historically appropriate that this drama unfolded in Florida, where the first European set foot in what would be the United States. From that point until present day we have had to live with the consequences of that inheritence.
Through my body runs the blood of the victim and the perpetrator; the displaced Native American, the Jew fleeing programs, and the Spanish marauder. That is America, that is globalization, so when President Obama said that he could have been Trayvon Martin it gave me pause. The fact is none of us know why we are here or why we inhabit the bodies we do. Though, I can confirm that President Obama is not Trayvon Martin and has deported and seperated more brown families than any other President in this nation’s history while continuing the tradition of violent American imperialism that undoubtedly negatively effects black and brown people at higher rates than their white counterparts.
I am not trying to deny that one’s physicality is not political – a fact that was recently painfully made all too clear in my home state of Texas. Though I am the descendent of the victim and the victimizer I am light skinned which has given me access and privileges that have been denied to people in my own family. I cannot truly understand the sting of racism or the extreme sexualization that comes with owning a black or brown body. I have recieved my fair share of cat calls, but when a black friend of mine told me some of the things said to her on the street I wanted to cry.
All things considered that does not explain why I am a fair-skinned, hispanic female and not a male skinhead or a Brazilian street child. The only thing that comes to mind is fate or luck which inherently gives me entitlement to nothing, but is historically loaded.
As Americans, and I use the term to describe people from Canada to Tierra del Fuego, we are especially capable of identifying with Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman as we are descendents of both realities. Mexicans, for example often refer to themselves as “hijos de la chingada” children of the fucked or violated, but aren’t we equally children of the violator?
So what do we do with this inheritence? How to we move forward from a struggle that has gone on on this continent for over five centuries? I’m not sure, but I have a hunch it has something to do with compassion. To realize there is no “us” and “them”, but rather that we are capable of great good or great evil and it is circumstances rather than inherent qualities present in ourselves or “our people” that cause us to do either. As Henry Miller said, “On the meridian of time, there is no injustice: there is only the poetry of motion creating the illusion of truth and drama.”