When the Michael Dunn verdict came down, I fully expected him to get off on all counts. The Trayvon Martin case only created two pathways for future cases like these: either America – specifically Florida – would learn and do better for the next trial or it would give carte blanche to any white person to take the life of a young person of color on the basis of “threat.” The latter happened, and, while it hurt, I’ve long been desensitized to the tragedies, a condition created by the environment where I was raised.
For people of color, there was and never has been “the good ol’ days.”
As the constant observer, I just decided to peruse through my timeline, checking to see if, like the
Zimmerman Martin trial, popular educators would quicker discuss listicles and Google Glass than the lynching of children of color. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. Very few educators talked about it, and so I flipped:
Not many Jordan Davis tweets from my edu-tweeters. Yet, their classrooms are full of him. Observing things that Google Glass can't see.
— José Luis Vilson, NBCT (@TheJLV) February 16, 2014
The minute this tweet hit 20 retweets, a few educators got defensive, replying back, “Did you see my timelines?” A few others unfollowed. A few others still decided that retweeting was enough.
I laughed. Why people had such a visceral reaction is beyond me. I just wondered, aloud, why educators so active on Twitter when it comes to issues of educational technology, teacher evaluation, the Gates Foundation, anti-testing, lists that they did or didn’t get on, education conferences they attended, or what so-and-so said and how they replied so bravely, couldn’t dedicate a few tweets to discuss this tragedy.
Because Jordan Davis could have been one of our students, but we’re so mum on things, it makes us look willfully ignorant OR tone-deaf. It may be a beautiful day for some of you, but for those of us who have to live with this, we can’t just hug it out. There is this dimension of tragedy that’s rather hard to ignore on its own face, but the added dimension of race makes people feel unfuzzy, and they’d rather revel in anti-establishment talk and feel warm in that pocket forever. Talking about race makes white folks feel sad, they’ll say.
The temporary sadness of understanding white privilege as a white person is nothing compared to the existential melancholy of understanding racial oppression as a person of color.
So, to that end, in moments like these, I’ve learned that I don’t always to do the speaking up. Plenty of folks, allies in this work, can speak to it, a level raise from the last few years of “Vilson, what’s your opinion on this?” Even with my infinite patience, I don’t feel like explaining race all the way because, as it turns out, I don’t want to have to explain my humanity to you. I don’t have to hold court and put myself on trial every time a racial incident happens. I may have some part to play, but I’m not on trial.
But Jordan was. Trayvon was. Renisha is.
In some respects, maybe I shouldn’t care if you don’t speak about Jordan Davis. Just know that another flare-up happens, when Arne Duncan says something to upset teachers, when a local protest against the Broad Foundation occurs, when Apple steals your students’ data for their own profit, or when you ask me to respond when a person of color says something profoundly anti-child, I’ll remember.
Jordan Davis is my son. Jordan Davis is me. And you didn’t fight with me.
image c/o http://uptownmagazine.com/2014/02/michael-dunn-guilty-lesser-counts-jordan-davis-shooting/