White Feminists and Trayvon Martin

July 19, 2013
By

By Debra Guckenheimer

trayvon-martin-cell-evidence-thumb-640xauto-8264Gender and racial inequality are intertwined in ways the Trayvon Martin case highlighted.  Historically, the safety of White women has been used to justify violence against Black men. We must not tolerate it.  Justice for Trayvon Martin is a feminist struggle, and White feminists like me must show up in the fight against the murder of young Black men.

Since the end of legal slavery in the United States, young Black men have been targets for murder by White men. Black men are demonized as violent and punished for fear of their perceived violent tendencies. Lynching became a popular form of terrorizing newly freed ex-slaves in order for the White elite to maintain White Supremacy. The most typical form of lynching used to be hanging and has now evolved into shooting.

Black men used to be killed because of conscious racism against them. Modern lynchings often happen because of unconscious biases that social science shows most Americans hold.  Social psychologist Joshua Correll found evidence of racial bias in responses to Americans in deciding whether or not to shoot and he termed this “shooter bias.”  Shooter bias is the tendency of Americans, regardless of race, to shoot Black men over White men, even when they are unarmed.  While our racism is now [sometimes] unconscious, it still leads to the murder of young Black men and is a part of a historical trend of bestowing fear in Blacks and maintaining social control by elites.

Some states systematically encourage lynching by enacting Stand Your Ground Laws. States with these laws have an higher rate of White on Black homicide rates.  Trayvon Martin is not the only Black man or youth murdered recently in a style resembling modern day lynching. Oscar Grant’s murder in 2009 was highlighted in the recently released film “Fruitvale Station.” Every major city across this country has stories of young Black men murdered, often shot, without cause other than the crime of being young and Black.  Most perpetrators of these modern lynchings avoid any punishment for their crimes, just as they have throughout history.

In George Zimmerman’s trial, his lawyers showed the jury a photograph of one of his White women neighbors and suggested that he was protecting neighbors like her from the perceived violence of Martin. They then held up a sexualized photograph of shirtless Martin to evoke classic justifications for lynching in the United States.

The other side of this system disempowers and justifies violence against Black women.  According to Angela Y. Davis, the image of violent Black men deserving of violence is paired with a demonization of Black women. This demonization discredits Black women and makes them more vulnerable to gender-based violence.

Wondwosen img 3The recent treatment of two Black women highlights how this manifests today. The first is Rachel Jeantel, the young woman who was on the phone with Martin while Zimmerman was stalking him.  Jeantel was demonized by the Defense, the media, and even members of the jury.  One jury member recently said she feels sorry for Jeantel  and demeaningly critiqued Jeantel as lacking education and communication skills.  In a different trial in Florida this month, Marissa Alexander was sentenced to twenty years in prison for letting off a warning shot against her estranged and abusing husband, Rico Gray.  Alexander had a restraining order against Gray due to a history of domestic violence.  Both Alexander and Zimmerman were subject to the same Florida “Stand Your Ground Laws,” but her jury found her act guilty, even though she hurt no one.

The judge and most of the jury for the George Zimmerman trial was made up of White women.  Yet some White women demonstrating for justice for Martin held signs that read, “I am Trayvon Martin.”  In reality, we are the judge and the jury that acquitted his killer.  If White feminists like myself want to join in coalition with Black and Brown people for gender justice, we must stand up now against racism and these modern day lynchings.  We must stand up to the racist justifications floating around in conversations about Zimmerman’s Lynching of Martin.  Racism and sexism are intertwined, and we must fight them both.

Despite this, White women have traditionally been absent from the fight against lynching. Instead, we sometimes feed into the ideology of needing protection from violent Black men.  Susan Brownmiller, a White second-wave feminist who wrote the famous Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, portrayed Black men as sexually violent and targeting White women.  This type of discourse and lack of feminist attention toward lynching exposes some White feminist activism against gender-based violence as naïve and hypocritical.

Zimmerman was accused of domestic violence by his former fiancé and of molestation by a cousin.  He is a man perpetrating gender and racial violence, but despite this, some White women are defending him and his actions and some White feminists remain silent.  As Salamishah Tillet argues, if Zimmerman was held accountable for his violence against these women, perhaps Martin would be alive today.

I hope you will join me in doing some deep soul searching to see how we benefit from and participate in White Supremacy. I hope you will join me in challenging it. Last Sunday, I peacefully marched around Oakland to demand an end to the justice system tolerating the murder of young Black men. I hope you will join me this Saturday in cities across the country at similar rallies.

______________________________________________________________

2010_1212 0071Debra Guckenheimer, PhD is a writing and dissertation coach, sociologist, researcher, and activist. Her award winning writing can be found in Women’s Studies, The Conducive Chronicle, Imagined Magazine, and Fem2.0. She can be found on Twitter @dguckenheimer.

 

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37 Responses to White Feminists and Trayvon Martin

  1. Mrs. Bassett on July 19, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    The voices of our sisters with whom we share the honor of motherhood and sisterhood are needed. Thank you Dr. Guckenheimer for standing for us in our time of need to protect our children!

  2. Mrs. Bassett on July 19, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    The voices of our sisters with whom we share the honor of motherhood and sisterhood are needed. Thank you Dr. Guckenheimer for standing for us in our time of need to protect our children!

  3. Mrs. Bassett on July 19, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    The voices of our sisters with whom we share the honor of motherhood and sisterhood are needed. Thank you Dr. Guckenheimer for standing for us in our time of need to protect our children!

  4. Mrs. Bassett on July 19, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    The voices of our sisters with whom we share the honor of motherhood and sisterhood are needed. Thank you Dr. Guckenheimer for standing for us in our time of need to protect our children!

  5. nkakawamba on July 19, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Things have not changed at all in the so called civilized world . Bias about black men’s violence is justified in today’s society by depriving the father contact with his children under the pretext to protect the mother. A jury made of of white women will not have any sympathy for a black male . They know he is the violent type , there no evidence to prove it, he is , he has always been .

  6. nkakawamba on July 19, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Things have not changed at all in the so called civilized world . Bias about black men’s violence is justified in today’s society by depriving the father contact with his children under the pretext to protect the mother. A jury made of of white women will not have any sympathy for a black male . They know he is the violent type , there no evidence to prove it, he is , he has always been .

  7. nkakawamba on July 19, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Things have not changed at all in the so called civilized world . Bias about black men’s violence is justified in today’s society by depriving the father contact with his children under the pretext to protect the mother. A jury made of of white women will not have any sympathy for a black male . They know he is the violent type , there no evidence to prove it, he is , he has always been .

  8. nkakawamba on July 19, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    Things have not changed at all in the so called civilized world . Bias about black men’s violence is justified in today’s society by depriving the father contact with his children under the pretext to protect the mother. A jury made of of white women will not have any sympathy for a black male . They know he is the violent type , there no evidence to prove it, he is , he has always been .

  9. An on July 20, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Excellent piece. As a white feminist it can be difficult to express my anti-racist alignment with women of color without “making it about me.” This is an issue I constantly work on this, but it sometimes keeps me silent because I don’t want to be a bad ally.

    Thanks

  10. An on July 20, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Excellent piece. As a white feminist it can be difficult to express my anti-racist alignment with women of color without “making it about me.” This is an issue I constantly work on this, but it sometimes keeps me silent because I don’t want to be a bad ally.

    Thanks

  11. An on July 20, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Excellent piece. As a white feminist it can be difficult to express my anti-racist alignment with women of color without “making it about me.” This is an issue I constantly work on this, but it sometimes keeps me silent because I don’t want to be a bad ally.

    Thanks

  12. An on July 20, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Excellent piece. As a white feminist it can be difficult to express my anti-racist alignment with women of color without “making it about me.” This is an issue I constantly work on this, but it sometimes keeps me silent because I don’t want to be a bad ally.

    Thanks

  13. Pam Byers on July 21, 2013 at 1:38 am

    I admit that as an older white woman, I am often anxious if I find myself walking on a deserted street with young men, esp young folks dressed as “homeys.” I’m outraged that apparently some of the Zimmerman jurors let their similar experiences drive their verdict.

    The difference is that I do not carry a gun and shoot people who make me nervous. As far as I can see, doing so would be murder.

  14. Pam Byers on July 21, 2013 at 1:38 am

    I admit that as an older white woman, I am often anxious if I find myself walking on a deserted street with young men, esp young folks dressed as “homeys.” I’m outraged that apparently some of the Zimmerman jurors let their similar experiences drive their verdict.

    The difference is that I do not carry a gun and shoot people who make me nervous. As far as I can see, doing so would be murder.

  15. Pam Byers on July 21, 2013 at 1:38 am

    I admit that as an older white woman, I am often anxious if I find myself walking on a deserted street with young men, esp young folks dressed as “homeys.” I’m outraged that apparently some of the Zimmerman jurors let their similar experiences drive their verdict.

    The difference is that I do not carry a gun and shoot people who make me nervous. As far as I can see, doing so would be murder.

  16. Pam Byers on July 21, 2013 at 1:38 am

    I admit that as an older white woman, I am often anxious if I find myself walking on a deserted street with young men, esp young folks dressed as “homeys.” I’m outraged that apparently some of the Zimmerman jurors let their similar experiences drive their verdict.

    The difference is that I do not carry a gun and shoot people who make me nervous. As far as I can see, doing so would be murder.

  17. L. Carter on July 21, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Here yaw go with your age old opportunistic bullcrap. Trying to highjack another moment of black struggle so you can tie it into your obssesive beef with your White men. This is not hardly about that, and you know it isn’t. You did the same thing during the late 60′s & early 70′s in the second wave of the White Feminist movement. Your voices had gassed out against the prominence of the White male power structure, so you started appealing to Black women during the very opportune time of the civil rights movement. All so you could hijack a platform to re-invigorate your outcry’s against your own men. The beef you have with your own men goes all the way back to your days in Europe, and it really doesn’t involve us. Your intrusion into the black struggle has been more of a contribution of confusion than anything else, for many blacks in general. During the 60′s & 70′s your predecessors like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan advocated against women in the home, while giving no solution as to how to maintain a solid family structure in society. Now women (Many Black Women) are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, some 40 yrs later trying to make sense of it all. You still haven’t provided a sound solution to the residual problems of the obsorbantly high ratio of single black women out here. You haven’t becuase you have no motivation too. Having gotten black women to do most of your dirty vocalizing work for you, as white females maintained their family structures and elevated their socio/domestic position 5x’s the rate of Black women, you didn’t need black women anymore. Now that the 3rd wave of the White Feminist movement has suffered from falling into a more negative connotation, all the sudden the Trayvon Case is a White Feminist case as well. You can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. Bob Marley.
    How bout you guys just sit this one out huh? Thanx but no thanx.

  18. L. Carter on July 21, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Here yaw go with your age old opportunistic bullcrap. Trying to highjack another moment of black struggle so you can tie it into your obssesive beef with your White men. This is not hardly about that, and you know it isn’t. You did the same thing during the late 60′s & early 70′s in the second wave of the White Feminist movement. Your voices had gassed out against the prominence of the White male power structure, so you started appealing to Black women during the very opportune time of the civil rights movement. All so you could hijack a platform to re-invigorate your outcry’s against your own men. The beef you have with your own men goes all the way back to your days in Europe, and it really doesn’t involve us. Your intrusion into the black struggle has been more of a contribution of confusion than anything else, for many blacks in general. During the 60′s & 70′s your predecessors like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan advocated against women in the home, while giving no solution as to how to maintain a solid family structure in society. Now women (Many Black Women) are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, some 40 yrs later trying to make sense of it all. You still haven’t provided a sound solution to the residual problems of the obsorbantly high ratio of single black women out here. You haven’t becuase you have no motivation too. Having gotten black women to do most of your dirty vocalizing work for you, as white females maintained their family structures and elevated their socio/domestic position 5x’s the rate of Black women, you didn’t need black women anymore. Now that the 3rd wave of the White Feminist movement has suffered from falling into a more negative connotation, all the sudden the Trayvon Case is a White Feminist case as well. You can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. Bob Marley.
    How bout you guys just sit this one out huh? Thanx but no thanx.

  19. L. Carter on July 21, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Here yaw go with your age old opportunistic bullcrap. Trying to highjack another moment of black struggle so you can tie it into your obssesive beef with your White men. This is not hardly about that, and you know it isn’t. You did the same thing during the late 60′s & early 70′s in the second wave of the White Feminist movement. Your voices had gassed out against the prominence of the White male power structure, so you started appealing to Black women during the very opportune time of the civil rights movement. All so you could hijack a platform to re-invigorate your outcry’s against your own men. The beef you have with your own men goes all the way back to your days in Europe, and it really doesn’t involve us. Your intrusion into the black struggle has been more of a contribution of confusion than anything else, for many blacks in general. During the 60′s & 70′s your predecessors like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan advocated against women in the home, while giving no solution as to how to maintain a solid family structure in society. Now women (Many Black Women) are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, some 40 yrs later trying to make sense of it all. You still haven’t provided a sound solution to the residual problems of the obsorbantly high ratio of single black women out here. You haven’t becuase you have no motivation too. Having gotten black women to do most of your dirty vocalizing work for you, as white females maintained their family structures and elevated their socio/domestic position 5x’s the rate of Black women, you didn’t need black women anymore. Now that the 3rd wave of the White Feminist movement has suffered from falling into a more negative connotation, all the sudden the Trayvon Case is a White Feminist case as well. You can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. Bob Marley.
    How bout you guys just sit this one out huh? Thanx but no thanx.

  20. L. Carter on July 21, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Here yaw go with your age old opportunistic bullcrap. Trying to highjack another moment of black struggle so you can tie it into your obssesive beef with your White men. This is not hardly about that, and you know it isn’t. You did the same thing during the late 60′s & early 70′s in the second wave of the White Feminist movement. Your voices had gassed out against the prominence of the White male power structure, so you started appealing to Black women during the very opportune time of the civil rights movement. All so you could hijack a platform to re-invigorate your outcry’s against your own men. The beef you have with your own men goes all the way back to your days in Europe, and it really doesn’t involve us. Your intrusion into the black struggle has been more of a contribution of confusion than anything else, for many blacks in general. During the 60′s & 70′s your predecessors like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan advocated against women in the home, while giving no solution as to how to maintain a solid family structure in society. Now women (Many Black Women) are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, some 40 yrs later trying to make sense of it all. You still haven’t provided a sound solution to the residual problems of the obsorbantly high ratio of single black women out here. You haven’t becuase you have no motivation too. Having gotten black women to do most of your dirty vocalizing work for you, as white females maintained their family structures and elevated their socio/domestic position 5x’s the rate of Black women, you didn’t need black women anymore. Now that the 3rd wave of the White Feminist movement has suffered from falling into a more negative connotation, all the sudden the Trayvon Case is a White Feminist case as well. You can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. Bob Marley.
    How bout you guys just sit this one out huh? Thanx but no thanx.

  21. Center Stage on July 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    “Stand Your Ground Declares Open Season on Black Males,” a must hear podcast. See why George Zimmerman’s defense team knew SYG would not work as GZ’s defense for the shooting and killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. This show broke down the three Ws to always ask yourself before using deadly force if SYG would be your defense…GZ knew he didn’t have all three. Knowledge is power, educate yourself on SYG, it may just save your life.

    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centerstage/2013/07/20/stand-your-ground-declares-open-season-on-black-males

  22. Center Stage on July 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    “Stand Your Ground Declares Open Season on Black Males,” a must hear podcast. See why George Zimmerman’s defense team knew SYG would not work as GZ’s defense for the shooting and killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. This show broke down the three Ws to always ask yourself before using deadly force if SYG would be your defense…GZ knew he didn’t have all three. Knowledge is power, educate yourself on SYG, it may just save your life.

    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centerstage/2013/07/20/stand-your-ground-declares-open-season-on-black-males

  23. Center Stage on July 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    “Stand Your Ground Declares Open Season on Black Males,” a must hear podcast. See why George Zimmerman’s defense team knew SYG would not work as GZ’s defense for the shooting and killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. This show broke down the three Ws to always ask yourself before using deadly force if SYG would be your defense…GZ knew he didn’t have all three. Knowledge is power, educate yourself on SYG, it may just save your life.

    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centerstage/2013/07/20/stand-your-ground-declares-open-season-on-black-males

  24. Center Stage on July 21, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    “Stand Your Ground Declares Open Season on Black Males,” a must hear podcast. See why George Zimmerman’s defense team knew SYG would not work as GZ’s defense for the shooting and killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. This show broke down the three Ws to always ask yourself before using deadly force if SYG would be your defense…GZ knew he didn’t have all three. Knowledge is power, educate yourself on SYG, it may just save your life.

    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/centerstage/2013/07/20/stand-your-ground-declares-open-season-on-black-males

  25. Dr. Zoe Spencer on July 21, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    I am thankful for the historic truth of this article and Dr. G’s ability to recognize and acknowledge it. If more White folks would abandon the perception of guilt and be free to not just talk about it, but to also listen and hear another peoples struggle, and then more Black folks would allow White folks to simply express without being defensive and invoking anger and hostility when we don’t agree, we could begin the CRITICAL dialogues that are required to overturn the systematic and institutional racism that is designed to condition us all. (Run on sentence for a run on thought)

  26. Dr. Zoe Spencer on July 21, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    I am thankful for the historic truth of this article and Dr. G’s ability to recognize and acknowledge it. If more White folks would abandon the perception of guilt and be free to not just talk about it, but to also listen and hear another peoples struggle, and then more Black folks would allow White folks to simply express without being defensive and invoking anger and hostility when we don’t agree, we could begin the CRITICAL dialogues that are required to overturn the systematic and institutional racism that is designed to condition us all. (Run on sentence for a run on thought)

  27. Dr. Zoe Spencer on July 21, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    I am thankful for the historic truth of this article and Dr. G’s ability to recognize and acknowledge it. If more White folks would abandon the perception of guilt and be free to not just talk about it, but to also listen and hear another peoples struggle, and then more Black folks would allow White folks to simply express without being defensive and invoking anger and hostility when we don’t agree, we could begin the CRITICAL dialogues that are required to overturn the systematic and institutional racism that is designed to condition us all. (Run on sentence for a run on thought)

  28. Dr. Zoe Spencer on July 21, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    I am thankful for the historic truth of this article and Dr. G’s ability to recognize and acknowledge it. If more White folks would abandon the perception of guilt and be free to not just talk about it, but to also listen and hear another peoples struggle, and then more Black folks would allow White folks to simply express without being defensive and invoking anger and hostility when we don’t agree, we could begin the CRITICAL dialogues that are required to overturn the systematic and institutional racism that is designed to condition us all. (Run on sentence for a run on thought)

  29. JaQuile on July 21, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Thank you, Dr. G… just thank you a thousand times!

  30. JaQuile on July 21, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Thank you, Dr. G… just thank you a thousand times!

  31. JaQuile on July 21, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Thank you, Dr. G… just thank you a thousand times!

  32. JaQuile on July 21, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Thank you, Dr. G… just thank you a thousand times!

  33. Christie on July 21, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Thank You:-)

  34. Christie on July 21, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Thank You:-)

  35. Christie on July 21, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Thank You:-)

  36. Christie on July 21, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Thank You:-)

  37. John on July 21, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    To call this article irresponsible is too kind. This article makes some bold provocative claims that are neither substantiated or are flat out prevarications. #1. “Social psychologist Joshua Correll found evidence of racial bias in responses to Americans in deciding whether or not to shoot and he termed this “shooter bias.” Shooter bias is the tendency of Americans, regardless of race, to shoot Black men over White men, even when they are unarmed.” Really??? Shooter bias is an unproven hypothesis by Correll based on the reaction time of police officers in a video games where different races are shown. His research supposedly proved that police officers make a minute faster decision to shoot a black suspect versus a white suspect (200 milliseconds) but ultimately the race of the suspect did not cause the police to make the wrong decision. So the inclusion of this inflammatory statement completely out of context is so irresponsible as to discredit the rest of the article but let’s not stop there….. #2. “Trayvon Martin is not the only Black man or youth murdered recently in a style resembling modern day lynching.” Murder? In a style resembling a modern day lynching? In order for that statement to have even a shred of merit there would have to be premeditation even suggested by any credible authority let alone proven by physical evidence, state of mind by George Zimmerman. None of which took place. #3 “Some states systematically encourage lynching by enacting Stand Your Ground Laws. States with these laws have an higher rate of White on Black homicide rates” That is blatantly untrue can be easily be disproved at http://projects.wsj.com/murderdata/?mg=inert-wsj This whole article is a colossal joke.

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