Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Is Racism Fiction? Or, How Varys Made Me Consider Trayvon Martin

I was watching one of my favorite television shows, Game of Thrones, last night and there was a brilliant piece of dialogue that went “Power resides where men believe it resides.  It is a trick, a shadow on the wall.”  This stood out to me particularly due to its truthfulness and topical interchangeability.  You can remove the word ‘power’ and replace it with so many other words and it will still hold its undeniable truthfulness.  The word I am replacing it with for the sake of this post is ‘racism’ - it resides where men believe it resides.  It is a trick, a shadow on the wall.

When I first heard about young Trayvon Martin, I, like many, was outraged and angry.  At first it was focused on how this young man armed with iced tea and a bag of skittles could be gunned down in cold blood in broad daylight amongst a suburban neighbourhood and it be deemed self defense.  Then my anger slowly refocused to the fact I wasn’t surprised.  How, in this day and age, with supposed leaps and bounds toward social tolerance, can I not be surprised when I read about such an obvious miscarriage of justice rooted so deeply in racial bigotry?  If the scenario had been reversed, and a young white man had been gunned down by an older black man in a poor neighbourhood, would the gunman have not been arrested?  Able to go home to his family in time for dinner?  Maybe, but I doubt it.

It makes you think of how many men and women are subject to ridicule, abuse and even murder strictly due to how they look.  Have we really come that far from the lynchings that plagued the turn of the century?  And what is it about Trayvon’s case that garnered such high exposure and outrage?  Is it because it happened in a ‘white’ neighbourhood?  Trayvon’s killing was a reminder to everyone that racial bias and hatred are very much alive in our society and there will be many long roads ahead before we see any difference.  We will all need to see hatred for what it is, fiction.

Racism is a man made issue.  It is not cold or hot, wet or dry.  It is as fictional as my favourite show.  It is nothing more than a trick that we seem to play on ourselves as a society over and over.  I would like to replace another word into the aforementioned dialogue, ‘tolerance’.  But this trick, this shadow on the wall, is worth playing on ourselves. ###


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