Raising My Voice Without Freedom
By Liliana Valdez
Here in this sea of grief
they cover my voice and tie me!
I can’t say anything.
This intrigues me, it kills me,
but at the same time relieves me.
I’m free but I can’t take my freedom.
I wish I could fly to escape from this prison.
You have called me foreign with despise!
Listen to me this time please!
Let me embrace my freedom.
It’s not gossip, I’m not lying.
Let me have a voice, let me tell my story.
I need to get it out or else I’ll die from the pain,
let me be me again!
You have taken all my dignity with the beats!
I’ll raise my voice one day; I’ll talk to the sky,
I’ll let him know what you have done.
God will make you pay, man not kind.
The killing of Trayvon Martin raises strong emotions for all — let’s face it not everybody is on the same side. Many are fighting to give Martin, the teenager who was shot and killed in March 2012, a voice — not literally, but in order to bring to justice the man who killed him and to clarify what role, if any, racism played in Trayvon Martin’s death.
Cases such as this also bring us to the raw truth that white people never appear as suspicious as Trayvon Martin seemed to have. As Michael Skolnik has recently written:
“Even if I have a black hoodie, a pair of jeans and white sneakers on…in fact, that is what I wore yesterday…I still will never look suspicious. No matter how much the hoodie covers my face or how baggie my jeans are, I will never look out of place to you. I will never watch a taxi cab pass me by to pick someone else up. I will never witness someone clutch their purse tightly against their body as they walk by me.”
No, America will never see white people as suspiciously as it saw Trayvon. Skolnik correctly concludes,
“So, I fight for Trayvon Martin. I fight for Amadou Diallo. I fight for Rodney King. I fight for every young black man who looks ‘suspicious’ to someone who thinks they have the right to take away their freedom to walk through their own neighborhood. I fight against my own stereotypes and my own suspicions. I fight for people whose ancestors built this country, literally, and who are still treated like second class citizens. Being quiet is not an option, for we have been too quiet for too long.”
Let’s fight, let’s give Trayvon a voice, but let us not get carried away in desperate desires. As Teju Cole clarifies, we must avoid reproducing what he recently identified, originally in a seven-part Twitter statement, as “The White Savior Industrial Complex”:
1- From Sachs to Kristof to Invisible Children to TED, the fastest growth industry in the US is the White Savior Industrial Complex.
2- The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening.
3- The banality of evil transmutes into the banality of sentimentality. The world is nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm.
4- This world exists simply to satisfy the needs—including, importantly, the sentimental needs—of white people and Oprah.
5- The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.
6- Feverish worry over that awful African warlord. But close to 1.5 million Iraqis died from an American war of choice. Worry about that.
7- I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on it, for you know it is deadly.
Cole concludes: “If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.” Let’s help, but let’s not put our interests first. We fight for the truth, we want the truth. To see the case as objectively as possible is the best thing we can do. Otherwise we will fall into the same trap that apparently snared George Zimmerman. Let’s not lose the point we want to make, let’s not blur our way; if we make our statements clear and strong, they will do the job.
-Liliana Valdez, Santa Rosa Junior College
Teju Cole, “The White Savior Industrial Complex,” The Atlantic, 21 March 2012.
Michael Skolnik, “White People You Will Never Look Suspicious Like Trayvon Martin,” Global Grind, 19 March 2012.