Books · Culture · Human Rights · Politics · Repatria · Trauma

Walking While Brown Part II

If only this wasn't the truth.

I cannot begin comprehending that I live in a country where an arrest is made for “flour-bombing” a celebrity, but the man who admittedly murdered an unarmed seventeen-year-old walks around free despite mounting evidence that he lied about being attacked.

For a nation that sells itself as the leader of the free world and the top promoter of human rights worldwide, this is a disgrace.

My feeling of isolation and existing trauma-based fear has grown exponentially.

Even with my in-laws’ dog, on my walks around this predominantly-white neighborhood I’ve realized that Moose could actually contribute to a neighborhood gun-toter feeling threatened by the Arab/Muslim/Terrorist-looking brown woman who walks around “their” streets.

Then I read about Shaima Alawadi, an Iraqi immigrant who was beaten to death with a tire iron in San Diego, a note left on her body reading: “Go back to your country, you terrorist.”

I’m reminded of being in Berkeley, California after 9/11 and having a man come up to me hissing, “GO HOME!” Um, I am home you racist bastard. But it could have been a whole lot worse, so I’m learning.

It seems there is no win. There is no safe in Florida for people of color. There’s no protection for people of color anywhere in this country, unless we don’t wear a hijab, or a hoodie, or anything that might indicate we are not conforming to the ubiquity of performing whiteness.

Walking while brown isn’t the only problem. Internet racism has plunged to new lows in the Hunger Games casting backlash as well as the recent experience of Shorty Award Winner “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl“. White Hunger Games fans railed against the film when a character, described as dark skinned in the book, is actually played by a young African-American girl. “When I found out Rue was black her death wasn’t as sad,” is one pithy example of comments made after the Hunger Games release. The “Awkward Black Girl” creatrix received a slew of disgusting racial epithets after deservedly winning the award for best new web series.

Since Trayvon Martin’s death I’ve noticed many women of color on Twitter discussing “The Talk” with their sons. Not the sex talk. The talk in which mom and dad sit him down and explain that as a young black man he’s a walking target. How not to talk back to the police. How to avert his eyes and say “Yes, sir”, “No, sir.” How to not provoke white people. That slavery still exists in racial stereotypes.

Since Shaima’s death I’ve had the urge to get more tattoos. Big ones, in obvious places like my forearms. They’ll never mistake me for a Muslim if I’m tattooed to the gills. Will they? Or will this elusive “they” find some other reason to attack me, kill me, if their mind is already geared in that direction?

Maybe I’m in no danger at all. But I feel like I am.

And then I realized: America is not the land of the free, it’s the land of the free white people.

Ah, now it all makes sense.

©2012 Sezin Koehler, image via WeKnowMemes

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