So far, the post-Trayvon moment has been marked by disappointment. From the vicious attack on Rachel Jeantel, the reluctant star witness, to the casual racism of juror B37, who seemed surprised into silence by the public sentiment about the case, there are so many intertwined layers of racism that unraveling them seems painfully impossible.
Yet, the disclosure of personal racial wounds alongside solid black avatars on Facebook seemed based on just that need to unravel the layers in hope of mutual understanding. But after a couple of weeks, it was time to get rid of the black square and begin to grapple with the existential reality that the symbolism of cultural progress for blacks has come at the expense of justice.
A PEW report sheds light on some of the reasons why: whereas only 5% of African Americans were satisfied with the verdict, 49% of whites were. Whereas 78% of blacks want to talk about the racial issues that the verdict brings up, only 28% of whites feel like talking, and 60% of whites are rolling their eyes because they feel that race is getting too much attention. In other words, we have very different understandings of our daily experiences, and the dominant group largely denies the sentiments of the minority because they simply do not matter in tangible ways – in other words equality is only a formality.
And so, for African Americans the looming question of the post-Trayvon period is “what now?” So far, this question has been met with uncertainty. In spite of efforts to organize, the energy has been dispersed under the heavy reality that after fifty years of cultural, aesthetic and symbolic victories, social and economic conditions are not even simply unchanged, but they are quickly worsening.
(Published in Tidal Magazine)