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Hot Mess Mom » Dear Diary » and now I’m experiencing “white guilt”

and now I’m experiencing “white guilt”


I live in Seminole County, Florida.  The same county that held the George Zimmerman trial.  While I understand that this case affected, and will continue to affect  the entire country, it is especially close to home here.  The Mayor of Sanford was Number One’s football coach.  I feed the homeless two blocks away from the Seminole County Courthouse.  Sanford is a wonderful city only ten miles away from my own.

Like much of the country, I was engaged in this trial, watching it daily.  At the end of the testimonies and after listening the the jury instruction, I believed that LEGALLY George Zimmerman would be found not guilty.  And he was.   That does not negate the moral aspect of the trial.

I am not an attorney.  I was not a jurist.  I am not a black woman, nor am I the mother of a black teen.  I do not own a gun.

This trial made me sick to my stomach.  Not due to “shady tactics” or a gross misstep of the law.  I was sick because I believed and still believe that whatever verdict was handed down by the jury would be wrong.  There would be no winners in this case.

Today, the day after the verdict, I drove cross state with my children on a normal summer day.  We stopped for gas, we went out to lunch, we visited a Central Florida resort, we went to the grocery store.  For one of the first times that I can remember, I was conscious of the race of everyone around me.  I pumped gas next to an African-American man in his early 20′s.  He was cleaning out his car with extraordinary care.  The kind of care present only in the proud.  I smiled at him.  He smiled back.  I thought to myself  “He could be Trayvon Martin”.  There was a older white gentleman one pump away eyeing the same man.  He looked pained.  I smiled at him as well.  He smiled back.  I assumed he was having my same thoughts.

At the pool at the resort, several middle aged men walked by.  Any of them could have been George Zimmerman.  Good, happy, family focused men who could at some point find themselves in a situation where a bad decision could be made.  A tall, thin, African-American  boy sat on the chair beside me.  I smiled at him.  He smiled back.  I offered him a bottle of water.  He graciously declined. He could be Trayvon Martin.

It is my personal belief that had either of the two men in the headlines made different decisions in regard to each other, we would have never known their names.  Did they profile?  Why did Zimmerman get out of his car??  Why did Martin not just go home??  These are the questions that have kept me up at night. These are questions that will never be answered.  In my small world today, I was expecting to see nothing but hatred and ignorance.  I was expecting it from everyone I encountered. It wasn’t there.  That makes ME the asshole.  That expectation makes me the exact thing that I feared.  I assumed that everyone besides myself was incapable of rational thought and behavior.  I assumed that every black family would be huddled indoors hugging their teens tight and that  white families would be feeling guilty for it.  My experiences today were the opposite.

It appeared to me that everyone was trying a little bit harder to bridge the gap.  The centuries-old gap that became wider at 9:22  last night.   Here in Seminole County, it seems that people of all races are attempting to close that chasm.  I feel humbled.

I am part of a mixed-race family. We are what we are… short, tall, brown, white…. WE ARE.   I have never noticed skin color more inherently than today and I hated it.  And while I am so dissapointed in myself for profiling my entire city and believing that the residents were incapable of rational thought, private mourning or discreet jubilation, I am so happy to have been proven wrong.

I was raised in the South.  I am 40 years old.  This is the first time that I have first hand experience of “white guilt”. But I also saw the light.. the light created by everyone trying “just a little bit harder” to extend kindness and understanding to those around them.  I’ll keep looking for that light, it’s a bright one.

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25 Responses to "and now I’m experiencing “white guilt”"

  1. Emy Cooks says:

    Your post is most gracious and pen some of my thoughts. You could not have said it any better. Life is too short let’s make it happy and be kind to each other.

  2. joe dee says:

    Love this D. Legally you are correct, morally you are also correct, this is a tragedy with no winners, only tremendous loss. i am keeping both families in my thoughts and prayers. i cannot imagine going through what they have been through and it breaks my heart.

  3. Liliana says:

    Fantastic! Well said!

  4. Jennifer says:

    Your post was exactly what I needed to hear. I have always loved your posts but this one today is my new favorite! Very eloquently said :)

  5. Kari says:

    Wow. Hammer meet nail. Perfect summery to how I’ve felt today. I was in Nola last night on a street car when I heard the verdict; which as you know is a melting pot of every race. I saw an angry black male, and a white male trying to ignore his anger. I get it. I will never understand what it’s like to be a black person in this country. There are so many injustice in thus country because of skin color. I hope at some point we will all be color blind. I was left confused by this verdict knowing that no matter what, everything about this is wrong. There are no winners in this case. Only broken hearts.

  6. BC says:

    Great thoughts. If different decisions had made by either party, ….if, if if,… None of your reactions make you the “asshole”. You, and I, expected different things to happen after the verdict. In fact, I’m humbled by what I’ve seen and felt from both sides of the discussion. Living in the same community as you (dr. Phillips area), I was anticipating more unrest. What we have observed is a maturing of the discussions that so often tear us apart. The chasm that we think is there, thankfully, isn’t as wide as we think it is…or was. Like you I am humbled…and, optimistic. There were no winners in his case. However, we are moving forward and for that I’m grateful.

  7. Look how rational and filled with empathy and love you are! That’s the opposite of an asshole. <3

    I understand why the verdict was what it was, given how the case was presented and all that legal mumbo jumbo. But I still can't understand how someone could shoot someone, provoked or not, and have that be okay. What ever happened to using fists? This is a terrible legal precedent to set. I hope Zimmerman feels the crushing burden of the life he took.

    1. Hot Mess Mom says:

      Agreed. He ” took a gun to a fist fight” and he will pay for that for the rest of his life. But our legal system got it right based on our own system and the evidence presented, and for that I am proud.

      1. I have to admit I didn’t follow the case detail by detail. But I did hear all the experts saying that based on the evidence, the jurors couldn’t have come to any other conclusion. Like you said, the whole thing is terribly sad for all parties involved.

  8. Marta says:

    You are right, there are no winners in this case. It was hard to understand from a parent’s perspective, me being the mom of a teenager and from Zimmerman’s perspective, thinking what would I do in that situation if I feel my life is in danger. Glad we can look at this, learn from it, react respectfully and move on.

  9. Lori Cruz says:

    Very well said.
    I don’t believe Zimmerman is guilty of murder. I believe he is guilty of manslaughter. Because of the actions he chose to take, Treyvon Martin is dead – that’s it.
    If he had done as he was instructed to do by the police dispatcher, stayed in his car and let the police handle it, Treyvon would be alive. People need to be held accountable for their actions.
    Whether they are black or white or any color inbetween.

  10. Shelli says:

    I just don’t believe it was racially motivated. If you read the transcripts, Zimmerman wasn’t even sure if Martin was black when he called non-emergency. I think the media turned it into a racial event and attempted to turn Florida into a powder keg – with the help of some public officials who have a very specific agenda. A simple self-defense case(not even Stand Your Ground!) turned into a circus. I feel very sad that this 17 year-old’s utterly preventable death has been hijacked in this way. And I feel very sad for the 16 months of hell that Zimmerman and his family have been through. But that’s it – sadness, not guilt.

  11. Randi says:

    This was a really great post and I think everyone following this case really searched their soul about it. Hopefully that would be the good we can take from it. I wish the media would somehow in the near future be reminded of their obligation to this country to be fair, honest and unbiased. The rift they caused with their extortionist ways of gaining ratings while covering this story to me is unforgiveable. I get what you’re saying when you say you felt like the “asshole” because I have had that thought a time or two about myself, but then I think back to what started the thought that led me to the “asshole place”. As much as I’d like to think I’m a free-thinker, I’m influenced too! Just have to stay ahead of the game and keep our minds open!

  12. Muffy says:

    Agreeing to disagree on the verdict, and based on the Zimmermans’ actions following (lying about how much money had been donated), I will save my prayers for Trayvon’s family.

  13. I believe you honestly hit it right on the head. This was such an intriguing yet mind boggling case because, as you mentioned, there could be no winners. It’s funny how something like this can open up people’s eyes and keep people who are not involved awake at night thinking. It is amazing to see people open up with empathy and to respect one another even when things go wrong.

  14. Ash Kosh Begosh says:

    Interesting reflection. I’m surprised to hear you’re suffering from “white guilt!” And all this time I thought you were just a light skinned black woman: ) I don’t agree that LEGALLY or morally he was innocent. He took the role of the aggressor the moment he stepped out of the car. Even if Trevon was getting the best of him, stand-your-ground doesn’t mean that if you’re getting your butt whooped as a result of approaching someone, you have the right to shoot them. Had Trevon approached his car he would have been in the right to take whatever means to protect himself. But Trevon DIDNT approach him. He stalked and approached Trevon. If this were a woman that had been shot, I don’t think anyone would think that Zimmerman was in any form or fashion, legally or morally innocent…….My 2pennies.

    1. Hot Mess Mom says:

      you know i am ;) Very light skinned.. miss ya!

    2. I Love Love Love how you said that if you’re getting your butt whooped, it doesn’t mean you can pull out a gun. Your two pennies were right.on the money IMO!

  15. Eliesa says:

    I live in South Florida, and was in Miami when the verdict was read. Then I had to drive home a few minutes later, the whole time thinking there were going to be riots in the streets based on what the media was reporting and predicting. I was glad to see that it was quiet all around.
    My heart hurts for Treyvon’s parents, and I can’t imagine that Zimmerman will ever “enjoy” his freedom. No one won, no one could. This was one of the best posts I’ve read about this, and reflects many of my feelings, none of which I can write eloquently about. So thank you.

  16. Eric Misener says:

    I live in Tampa, and found this blog through Betty Rants, who happens to be my domestic partner. I wanted to tell you that this is one of the most well-reasoned posts I’ve read with regard to this case. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will say I also have a law degree and practiced for 10ish years. I, myself have struggled with the verdict because I think GZ was wrong to profile and follow TM. However, I watched a decent portion of the trial and I could not imagine a murder 2 verdict. I thought the jury might “punt” to manslaughter, but obviously they felt that GZ feared for his life. Having been called a “bleeding heart liberal” and “communist” before, names don’t bother me in general, but anytime I’ve attempted to defend the verdict on the grounds that the jury saw more than we did and was able to evaluate witnesses and evidence in person, I have been called “racist” etc. You are so right when you say that both of these young men share the blame for this incident. However, legally speaking, there was little to no chance that GZ would be convicted of murder 2, simply due to the evidence available to the prosecution. I thought the jury might “punt” to manslaughter, but apparently they felt that GZ was in fear for his life. I still think that the big lesson to be taken from this case is that tighter regulations on firearms, especially for those previously accused of violence, are needed. Regardless of responsibility, I keep coming back to the idea that if GZ had no been “strapping” there would have been no fatality here. Thank you for your cogent analysis of the case.

    Eric Misener

    1. Hot Mess Mom says:

      thank you. thanks for reading and for your very eloquent and comprehensive response! (and, of course, thanks for agreeing with me ;)

  17. SuzzieQ says:

    This was the very first of your stories I have read. I will definitely be back for more! Your writting of this case with such care and I appreciate that to it’s fullest. That being said I was overjoyed when I heard the verdict. TM was not a child, he was a big black man beating a white man underneath him. The verdict made me proud to be an American for the first time since the first Bush was in office. Now if only we can handle this Bradley Manning situation maybe our country can move forward. Thanks for your wonderful article!!

    1. There it is, with racism sloshed all over it…a big black man beating the white man under him…did you see how big GZ is? Ever heard of fighting like a man? So, what you’re saying is if anyone approaches someone else in an offensive way, then they start getting their butt thrashed, they have the right to shoot and kill them…and walk, without even a manslaughter charge? GTFU!!!! Let that happen to one of my (yes, black) children! GZ is lucky Trayvon isn’t MY SON…he’d be dead by now. period

  18. This entire “trial” is a farce and the “judge” and “persecutors” are clowns. Worse than the oj trial, but then that verdict was what the “msm” wanted, so no harm no foul. Only in Florida would we once again be subjected to another shameful episode of so-called “jurisprudence” in this once great country which is now being run by a minority owned by racist-profiteers! BTW, George Zimmerman never said the sainted trayvon “scratched” him. He said he was beating him with his fists. Good grief!

    1. Where’s the “like” button? ;) Very well said!

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