A law firm with ties to the California GOP is deeply bothered to see Mexican-American Jose Hernandez’s name on the ballot for U.S. Congress (that is not the joke yet, but we could probably just stop there, ha ha) because he has listed himself as “astronaut” on the line for his occupation. Hernandez, the son of migrant Mexican laborers, is a recently retired astronaut, a fact the law firm pointed out in a lawsuit filed last week. This means that Hernandez is CHEATING, by describing himself according to his career accomplishments over the span of more than say, the last week. May the Republicans suggest a more rule-abiding generalized occupational description such as “Brown person” instead?
What a fun trend this could be, minorities having to go to court for permission to publicly associate with their life’s work! There’s some job creation for you: Hernandez says on his Facebook page that it will cost $20,000 to hire lawyers to defeat the lawsuit.
And if you want the story, then remember that a story does not unwind. It weaves. Events that start in different places and different times all bear down on that one tiny point in space-time, which is the perfect moment.
Suppose an emperor was persuaded to wear a new suit of clothes whose material was so fine that, to the common eye, the clothes weren’t there. And suppose a little boy pointed out this fact in a loud clear voice…
Then you have The Story Of The Emperor Who Had No Clothes.
But if you knew a bit more, it would be The Story Of The Boy Who Got A Well-Deserved Thrashing From His Dad For Being Rude To Royalty, And Was Locked Up.
Or The Story Of The Whole Crowd That Was Rounded Up By The Guards And Told “This Didn’t Happen, Okay? Does Anyone Want to Argue?”
Or it could be the story of how a whole kingdom suddenly saw the benefits of “new clothes,” and developed an enthusiasm for healthy sports in a lively and refreshing atmosphere that gets many new adherents every year, which led to a recession caused by the collapse of the conventional clothing industry.
It could even be a story about The Great Pneumonia Epidemic of ‘09.
What, exactly, made 17-year-old Trayvon Martin “suspicious” in the eyes of the man who shot him to death?
The question makes me think back to the time before my mom passed away, when she was hospitalized in a highly respected hospital here in Baltimore. On one Sunday, after church, I went to visit her. Security at this hospital was in full action that day. Each visitor, apparently, had to sign in to declare what person and room they intended to visit.
I was dressed in a black suit, white shirt, black tie, black socks and black dress shoes. I had the Sunday church bulletin in my hand so that Mom could read it in her room. She delighted in keeping abreast of church business. I looked like a minister, or perhaps a funeral director, and my posture and bearing conveyed a businesslike demeanor. Also: I am black.
There was another person going through security at the same time. He was dressed in a plaid shirt, tan khakis and running shoes, and he was carrying a backpack. He was white — unmistakably so.
We were both “examined” by the same security officer. I was detained and required to identify mom’s room number, show personal identification, and sign the register of visitors. The white gentleman beside me was waved through — no ID check, no room designation, no signature required, and no secondary review and examination of his backpack. I caught up with him later and found out that he was not a member of the hospital staff, just a guest like me, visiting a sick relative on my mom’s floor.
So: A well-dressed black man coming from church on a Sunday afternoon was, it would seem, more threatening and suspicious-looking than a casually dressed white man — with a backpack — when it came to the security of this particular hospital. What is wrong with this picture? I think you know the answer
“He was suspicious looking.” “He seemed threatening.” These are the codes assigned to African-American males, whether young or old, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, successful or not so successful. I thought that the enlightened, “post-racial” era would have dispensed with these views, but that is clearly not the case.
They have even been applied to the president of the United States. Remember his controversial tarmac meeting with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer? She said that she “felt threatened” by President Barack Obama, even as the Secret Service and multiple cameras recorded her finger-wagging at him. Her simple allegation was sufficient justification for her aggressive and disrespectful action — with little, if any, repercussions against her. It harks back to a time when black men could be prosecuted for even daring to look at a white woman.
I know — I am too sensitive. I look at everything through the prism of race. I take things out of context. I don’t know all the facts. I am a racist. I have heard these comments before, and I have tried to sort through and address these thoughts as honestly as I can.
Someone wrote that every living African-American male should look at the Trayvon Martin case and say “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” It certainly resonated with me, as I recounted that one incident in the hospital four years ago. And while I am old enough to have been Trayvon’s grandfather, the “threatening” and “suspicious-looking” phrases do apply here and are chillingly reminiscent of what I thought to be a bygone time in our history. It appears that males of African descent who reside in these United States will forever be saddled with these monikers.
Then again, maybe it is no wonder that Trayvon was singled out for further (and tragic) scrutiny and action. After all, he had a can of iced tea and bag of Skittles — items that were clearly dangerous. Much like my church bulletin.
James C. Morant, a retired federal employee, lives in Baltimore. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
“‘No one would be that stu-‘
Susan stopped. Of course someone would be that stupid. Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.”—Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time (via 3parts)
Nearly three weeks after an unarmed teenager was killed in a small city north of Orlando, stirring an outcry, a few indisputable facts remain: the teenager, who was black, was carrying nothing but a bag of Skittles, some money and a can of iced tea when he was shot. The neighborhood crime watch volunteer who got out of his car and shot him is white and Hispanic. He has not been arrested and is claiming self-defense.
Beyond that, however, little is clear about the Feb. 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, 17.
As criticism of the police investigation mounts, so too do the calls for swift action in a case with heavy racial overtones. Protests grow larger each week, and lawyers for the family are now asking the Department of Justice to intervene. The case also brings into sharp focus Florida’s self-defense laws, which give people who feel threatened greater latitude in defending themselves than most states.
The police in of Sanford, where the shooting took place, are not revealing details of the investigation. Late Friday night, after weeks of pressure, the police played the 911 calls in the case for the family and gave copies to the news media. On the recordings, one shot, an apparent warning or miss, is heard, followed by a voice begging or pleading, and a cry. A second shot is then heard, and the pleading stops.
“It is so clear that this was a 17-year-old boy pleading for his life, and someone shot him in cold blood,” said Natalie Jackson, one of the Martin family lawyers.