trayvon martin Archives - The Jose Vilson

trayvon martin

Muhammad Ali, Convincing

A few notes:




Animal Farm

When Scott McLeod sent me this tweet, I said, “What?”

No way. I know this was written back in 2008, but it’s worth re-reading because of the recent conversations about race, and specifically, the Trayvon Martin proceedings. The way the conversations have gone, it’s almost as if many people (many of them conservative Whites) have a “race fatigue,” meaning they think we’ve achieved post-racism as we know it. People who argue this want to tell President Barack Obama to shut up about race already. No longer do we have to work within the confines of race dialogue, and, in their arguments, believe everyone falls in one of three categories:

  1. They hate everybody else, not just people from a specific race / class / gender.
  2. They don’t see color, just people a.k.a. color-blindness.
  3. They perpetuate race discussion by continually talking about it.

I’ll address these backwards because the arguments only deserve a few lines.

#3: Talking about class doesn’t actually perpetuate the stratification of the poor and the rich. Our institutions do. Having conversations about class actually help others become well informed, organized around the issue, and feel empowered enough to talk to their representatives to work on that thing. Oh, and occupy Wall Street, but that’s another point altogether.

In the same way, race isn’t just in our minds. It’s at the heart of our Constitution, and our amendments, while helpful, don’t go far enough to create true equity for all. Our institutions are racially flawed, and that’s a huge issue.

#2: Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s Racism without Racists kills this argument rather deftly. It’s a good read. More importantly, the research shows that, when you dig deeper into people whose attitudes sound like #2, you start to dig into behaviors that have been codified towards racism. This works in the form of privileges and perks that society affords Whites. Simple.

#1: By now, you should see that racism isn’t just discrimination, bigotry, or prejudice, three things that any race, class, or gender can be. None of these are racism. Racism works as a power element, a dynamic that exists in any country where the social construct determines that country’s favorite de juris or de facto.

Trayvon Martin’s “innocence” is irrelevant in this. Even if people can make the argument didn’t have anything to do with race – a stretch -, the implications for what happens shortly thereafter does. Racism isn’t going away until we can work towards true equity across all lines. We have to call the institutions that stand in the way of that, and dissuade the ignorance with nuanced dialogue.

Until then, Buchanan’s “silent majority” doesn’t need a voice. Buchanan is to Squealer as Silent Majority is to Napoleon, and for too many of us, these discussions turn us into an animal farm. Let’s Snowball this.


p.s. – I like how Pat thought Blacks were brought here, rather than enslaved.



Thanks to those of you who contributed awesome comments to my last post about Trayvon Martin. I’ve written some pieces (see here, here, and here) over the last few years about this topic, but by no means do I consider myself the sole expert on boys of color. I teach them, and I used to be one before I became a man of color. Yet, the things I knew as a former boy of color haven’t changed much. We need change. Here are some things anyone (specifically adults) can do to help our students do better both academically and socioemotionally.

  1. Value them. Give them a sense that they belong in whatever environment you’re in, especially if you control that environment.
  2. Listen to them. Many of them are so disaffected by America and all the illusions it brings. Let them tell their stories to you. You’d be surprised about what you hear.
  3. Show them other ways, but don’t force them. They say the only way that people change is if they do it on their own. However, if they don’t see another way besides the direction they’re going, then they won’t move. We have to work in that middle lane between forcing our kids and showing them they have better potential than what’s been shown to them. Speaking of which …
  4. Involve them. Don’t let them sit in the back, if you can. Instead, let them sit in the middle, and let them warm up to the idea of moving to the front.
  5. Say hello. It’s about making them feel like their humanity needs acknowledgment, which is what a “hello” is.
  6. Reflect on your attitudes towards them. Sometimes, our own biases about our children prevent us from doing the best job for them. We need to reflect harder about the choices we make when in their presence.
  7. Assume their culture may be different from yours, and nothing more, if you must. Generally, I don’t like assuming people’s way of life or morals unless I know enough about them. Having said that, if I know someone’s culture is different, I don’t assume it’s inferior or superior to mine.
  8. Demand more from them. 1-7 might make you think you should be softer on our kids, from the attitudes they have towards girls to the way they approach work in school. The answer is no. If anything, because you value them, heard them, and involved them, you have every right to expect them to do better because you believe in their potential.
  9. Expand your knowledge of history. One of my biggest issues with many teachers is the overemphasis on texts like Night and Diary of Anne Frank to teach children of color about their current situation when we already have texts like Miseducation of the Negro and The Bluest Eye. I do think children of color should have a wider set of sources from which to hear about others’ oppressions, I would also like to see teachers expand their own horizons on the text they choose for other people’s children.
  10. Start from Emmett Till and work your way up. Emmett Till is the perfect marker for this Trayvon Martin case for a few reasons: 1) it gives a historical context for this sort of aggression against Black boys and 2) it’s the perfect entryway for people to ask questions about institutionalized racism and the way it works against the success of any and everyone who is considered “of color.”

You can easily apply this to any child, but I have to place an emphasis on these because we all need reminders. As if Trayvon Martin wasn’t enough.


The Trayvon Martins, The Marissa Alexanders, The Danroy Henrys, The Emmett Tills

July 15, 2013 Jose

I started out the morning with this … Morning. Still in mourning. Saddened by the situation that we were born in People playing God with our kids’ lives, It’s hard to see where the God is, Or where your guard is, Or where your heart is … So now I mourn for all our Trayvons, […]

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Justice Even When It’s Just Us (On Trayvon Martin)

July 13, 2013 Jose
Trayvon Martin with his father

He had the most curious face on when we introduced him to his first waves from a calm yet undulating ocean. His curls danced with the wind as he wondered whether the water might reach him. It was 10:40am, and this sunscreen-coated son of mine had neither napped well, nor eaten well, but his face […]

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Administrators of Color: Selling Out or Buying In? [From The Vault]

December 26, 2012 Jose
Scene from Lean On Me

This week, I’m releasing some of the pieces I’ve written that never saw the light of day for different reasons. Here’s the first. Date: 5/10/12 Someone told me recently, “I think these kids respond better to males than females, especially as teachers.” That hasn’t been my experience, but I let them proceed. “It’s like, some […]

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Do You Have A Trayvon Martin In Your Class? [Huffington Post]

March 21, 2012 Guest Posts

Excerpt: The first step always starts with a teacher’s current crop of kids. The one question I always ask myself when students walk in is, “What do I see?” Then, “What do I think I see?” I’m laying down some of my general assumptions for me to probe, then trying to understand why I feel […]

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