Salty Wounds: When Sympathetic Whiteness Goes Wrong

by: Camille DeBose

Note: This post was originally featured on the author’s website and has been reposted with permission. You can find the original here.

There is a discussion flowing through the digi-sphere.  A sad one.

A boy was killed.  He was shot in the chest at close range.  His body.  His small body was ruined by the bullet.

See it in your mind for what it was.  See it for what it is; brutal and tragic and bloody and painful and terrifying.

He was terrified as he died at the feet of his killer who looked upon him with disdain. Should a child die, let it be in the presence of those that feel love for them.  There was no love for this child in his final moment. I am wounded and perhaps you are as well.  The black experience is not a monolithic one but there are quiet moments which force us to breathe in and share a hurt. The killing of Trayvon Martin is a terrible wound.

Then.  You added salt.

It wasn’t the articles which suggested his dark skin and hoodie rendered the senseless sensible.  Of course. he was mistaken for a…what?  What could a kid walking home in the rain be mistaken for?  It wasn’t even the officer’s assertion that the neighborhood watchman was an honorable man and they respected his background.  I don’t understand the relevance.

You rubbed salt into the wound when you decided to interject your voice into the chorus of wails.  You rubbed salt when you told me, “Hush, hush now, we’re all the same.  It hurts me too.”

Stop now.  Stop.  What does it mean to be culturally sensitive?  What does it mean to walk in peace and mutual respect?  Are there moments when one must keep silent if they are not part of the injured group?  Yes.  Such moments exist and this is one of them.

When you chime in to “support” me, your words work to divert me.  When you sing your desire to comfort me, you succeed in making me uncomfortable and when you scream that we are “all the same,” you effectively silence me, rendering my pain, my unique, specific, culturally contextual pain, small and inconsequential.  A little thing for me to “get over.”  You make the perpetrator of this crime a rogue anomaly instead of the very real product of a racist, patriarchal society in which you occupy a place of privilege.

So, I’m calling for a moment of silence.  Be silent, if for just a moment.  Be still and silent and respectful.  Be wounded — but be silent.  Let me feel and think and wail and curse and recover.  Let me.  This is what it means to be sensitive.  This is what it means to be respectful.  Don’t lecture me on our commonalities.  It is our difference that the neighborhood watchman relies on to justify the killing of this child.

 

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2 responses to “Salty Wounds: When Sympathetic Whiteness Goes Wrong

  1. The killing of Trayvon Martin is a wound that that will scab with the mutated skin of America’s misapropriated freedoms. We are learning that killing innocent black people is more than just uncivil, it is unhuman because humanity lets live the forces that symbiotically propel its survival. Human beings are becoming invaded by aliens, the alien psychology that volition is god and decadence makes us extra terrestrial.

    • Imaginatively put, and perhaps what we need is more imagination to see the real solutions to these problems. To see the ways we are connected as well as disconnected. Thank you for your comment.

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