The World We Have Vs. The World We Want

Make no mistake, Geraldo is an idiot. To lay blame on “the hoodie” as being even one IOTA responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death (in context) is ethnically naive and lazy at best and irresponsible at worst. Even his own son has come out against his comments.

But being objective about it, I understand what he was getting at. He just got it wrong and shouldn’t have said it. Geraldo was clumsily talking about the age old debate about the world you have versus the one you want. And it’s a debate that each and every parent is faced with early on in the lives of their children.

See, the hoodie that Trayvon was wearing (and by default Trayvon, himself) is no more responsible for his death than the Arizona Ice Tea can that he had in his hand. The little bit that we do know implies that all fault lies entirely with George Zimmerman, who was a vigilante with a gun who thought he wielded power in a situation where he had none. Zimmerman made two mistakes that night. 1) He profiled a young Black man (not a crime); and 2) he killed a young Black man because of the profiling (an obvious crime). To pretend that the Black man piece of it isn’t the predominant part by blaming a hoodie is ignorance that only Gucci Mane could appreciate.

In that vein though, we’re going to focus on the first bullet.

H. Rap Brown once said that “violence is as American as cherry pie.” I’d like to add an addendum to that and say that “profiling is ALSO as American as cherry pie.” Everybody profiles. Each and every one of us do it. It’s a learned act. We take all of the various pieces of information that we’ve obtained over the course of our lives and judge everybody we see.

Black people are especially egregious when it comes to profiling. We do it to each other probably as much if not more than white people do it. The big difference? White people do it out of fear…many of us do it because we are preparing for what’s likely to go down. We just tend to know. When I was younger, my father used to tell me to always survey my surroundings and if I had the slightest inkling that something or somebody didn’t look right to get the f*ck out of dodge. Between that and “don’t get her pregnant”, my father thought he had my life covered. My father’s advice to me was to profile people. And then make a decision based on what you think you see. And ALWAYS err on the side of caution.

Because if I’m right, I’m right. But if I’m wrong, I could have been right, so I’m never wrong, just in case I was right. (Incidentally George Zimmerman proved this adage incorrect once you take it upon yourself to directly act out on your suspicions of wrong.)

As confusing as that statement is, that mental math is a calculation that many of us do on a daily basis. Which is what I think Geraldo was getting at in a weird and f*cked up way. See, in the world we live in, ninjas in hoodies, at night, tend to be ones that are out doing dirt. Right?


His problem, and the problem of so many individuals in authority is that they run with the idea that Black man in hoodie = potential criminal. The fact that anybody would suggest that minorities should stop wearing ANY clothing for which the power structure can misconstrue is a problem for me. All hoodies are not created equal apparently because you can’t tell me that a white dude rocking a Hollister hoodie looks like a potential criminal to law enforcement…except if you put a little liquor in him then he IS the scariest mofo ON THE PLANET.

It’s all about race. And Geraldo either doesn’t know, doesn’t show, or doesn’t care to accept this fact.

The world we have. In the world we have its not out of bounds for somebody to suggest that we, again, attempt to assimilate ourselves into the most plain Jane existence in order to not scare the living f*ck out of any white person who may end up killing us with the long arm of the law on his side. Because those poor white agressors/victims/individuals only know what they’ve seen on television, the negatives that are mostly self-inflicted. No wonder why we keep begging for positive images on television. We need to create a fantastical positive to balance out so much of the f*ck sh*t that we create in real life. Everybody who has been screaming about the need for concern over black-on-black crime is absolutely right. White man killing Black man can’t be where this ends.

In the world we want however, none of that should even matter. None of it. In the world most of us want we would never have to worry about our Black children NOT coming home because of any number of activities or what their wearing being the vital component of that which might render them dead. And death by police above all else. That’s white privilege that I’d love to experience.

I have a Black female friend who constantly leaves her laptop in the backseat of her car, fully exposed. Every time I question her about it she mentions that nobody will steal it because why would anybody steal her laptop. Basically, it’s hers and its in her car. Hers. I’m often baffled by this because, well, I’ve lived in the hood and I’ve had my sh*t taken. By my next door neighbor. To me, it seems like an inevitability. To her it seems inconceivable that anybody would steal her stuff. She lives in the world I want. I live in the world we have. And our mentalities cross paths without ever touching one another. Must be the power of positive thinking because she’s yet to be a victim (knocks on wood) and I’ve been victimized enough for three white people to film a viral video.

In the world that we want, George Zimmerman see’s a young Black man walking in a hoodie and it doesn’t necessarily signal to him that “somebody’s out of place”. But I hate to say that there’s a vast majority of us out here who, given certain circumstances, would make a similar judgement and that’s the most troubling part of it all. I’m proud that we’re all out here with our hoodies on calling for justice, I just hope that we remember that same lesson when we go to our respective homes and see somebody walking down our empty street in a hoodie.

I wonder if we’d all make the assumption that we are pissed that Zimmerman didn’t make…that he’s just somebody going somewhere, nothing more nothing less. And I don’t know how true that is. And that is very conflicting for me because if I’m the sum total of my experience, then chances are, I’m going to profile somebody tomorrow.

In the world I want, Trayvon Martin could have walked home without being hassled at all. In the world we have, that couldn’t happen. But not because Zimmerman profiled, but because he didn’t have the sense to NOT play God. It’s not out of bounds for somebody to see somebody they deem suspicious and call the police to have it checked out. Yeah we’d be mad for the profiling but no life would be lost.And it should stop there with more continued calls to end institutional profiling.

I’ll never tell me daughter that she can’t wear something as to not scare or piss of white people. My father told me that once because of some clothes I was rocking and it offended me to no end. I should be able to wear what I want. And my father said, “should doesn’t have sh*t to do with anything.” His point? Life isn’t fair. For some of us, the world is against you from day one.

“Law isn’t necessarily justice.”

Imagine that.

So what world do you prepare your children for? And what world do you live in?


***On a lighter note: peep the Trailer for Madame Noire’s “Ask A Black Man” web-series where Panama Jackson is featured in two episodes. First episode debuts on March 28th!***