It has now been two weeks since George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the Trayvon Martin murder trial, and my conscience will not let this event pass without public comment.
I had hoped to write about this case earlier, but was swept up in the grand-water-trine wave of destabilizing emotional immediacy, both in my personal life and through my involvement in last weekend's Queer Astrology Conference.
It is no astrological accident, of course, that the Zimmerman verdict was handed down right as the grand water trine began to approach its peak potency. Many Americans experienced profound emotions in response to what they perceived as an unjust jury ruling those who are directly impacted every day of their lives, due to their color of their skin or outward appearance, by the structural prejudices present in our society and those of us who consider ourselves allies in the fight against such prejudices. Plenty of others openly questioned the reading of this verdict as a statement on racial dynamics in the country, instead defending the right of Zimmerman to act violently in self-defense as a reaction to his own fear, and even wondered why so many people were making such a big deal of this case. Though everybody is entitled to their opinions, to me, this latter response demonstrates a blinding lack of empathy for the lived experiences of people of colora set of experiences which, though unfamiliar to me in this white-skinned body, includes so much lifelong exposure to biased attitudes and unequal treatment that profound emotions like anger, sadness and hurt (not to mention a disappointing lack of surprise at the trial's outcome) are to be expected.
Regardless of one's political ideologies or racial consciousness, we must acknowledge that, at its core, this is a case of an unarmed teenager being shot and killed while innocently walking home. Before we rush to apply any analytic reading to the specifics, let's slow down and feel into this scenario: A parent's child shot dead before reaching adulthood, due directly to someone else's subjective fears. What caring soul would not feel for this victim's family?
Then, think about your family unfairly facing an increased likelihood of being affected by such happenings, simply due to the color of your skin... likelier to be pulled over by cops, presumed guilty, treated more roughly, and likelier to be incarcerated, then subjected to the maximum sentence likelier to be viewed suspiciously, followed through stores like you're always about to steal something, met by passersby who cross the street or lock their car doors to protect themselves from you likelier to be a victim of employment and housing discrimination, likelier to be a victim of violence, and to have your life cut short because of it. I personally do not know what this is like, but I strive to be sensitive enough to honor the experiences of those on the less-privileged side of these structural injusticesand to reserve them a wide berth for whatever emotions they feel, without expecting them to express their feelings in a way that is palatable to me.
To sincerely care, grand-water-trine-style, often requires us to sit with our own discomforts in the act of honorably holding space for others to feel as they do. I have done a lot of that myself over the past couple weeks.
At the same time Mars and Jupiter, both now in Cancer, have played their part in this grand trine, they are also exacerbating the ongoing Uranus-Pluto friction by forming the T-square (i.e., opposing Pluto and squaring Uranus). Just a few weeks ago, in the context of the Supreme Court's marriage-equality rulings, I discussed how hard aspects between Uranus and Pluto have historically coincided with moments where public debates about human rights are louder and more passionately charged, ultimately leading to intensive change. That does not mean, as I said, we should expect a straight-line march to justice. Even as we welcome tangible progress, we also meet predictable pushback from guardians of the status-quo, those who resist the tides of transformation by doubling-down on their discriminatory behaviors, seeking to preserve their privilege. To piggyback on the example of gay rights, though conspicuous advances have been made just in the past several weeks through marriage-equality victories in the US, the UK and France, we're simultaneously seeing an intensification of anti-gay sentiment in places like Russia, where a series of governmental actions have recently been taken that essentially outlaw any open expression of LGBT identity.
Two steps forward, one step back: a complicated mix of triumph and trespass, along the inevitable path to justice.
So, too, is the present state of American racial politics at this eventful Uranus-Pluto square, the first-quarter 'crisis in action' (Rudhyar's phrase) in the cycle between these two commanding planets which began when they conjoined in the mid-1960s. It was during this '60s conjunction that revolutionary breakthroughs occurred with regards to racial equality, the civil rights movement (begun in earnest the decade before) peaking in its influence through the passage of a number of anti-discrimination laws (including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the tenets of which were just gutted a few weeks ago by the Roberts court) that did, in fact, fundamentally change the country. Officially-sanctioned segregation became a thing of the past. Equal rights were now protected by law. These developments made it possible for, among other things, a black man to be elected to the highest office in the country just forty years later.
And yet, racism persists, regardless of the color of the president's skin. Indeed, we might assert that, since Obama's election in 2008 (which coincided with the earliest whisperings of the Uranus-Pluto square), racism has reared its ugly head in a more pronounced way than in the years immediately prior (though, of course, it never really disappeared). The increased volume of public criticism and undermining-of-support this president has been subjected to falls into that hard-to-pin-down 'in-between' space in which its racial content is often either unspoken or alluded to through semi-veiled reference indirect enough so those without a personal stake in the matter can too easily dismiss the racism as non-existent or, worse, another instance of people of color being 'too sensitive', 'making it racial' or practicing 'reverse racism' (whatever the fuck that is), while those who live with racism directed at them all the time are shrewd enough to recognize this familiar wolf-in-sheep's-clothing. It's that same racially relevant undercurrent at play in the fear George Zimmerman felt at the sight of Trayvon Martin in a hoodie walking through his neighborhood at night, which ultimately drove him to shoot. Things have evolved since the 1960s, and so has the manner in which racism typically manifests.
Though people of color enjoy more equal opportunity now than they did a half-century ago, that is not sufficient evidence to prove that racism is dead or that we live in a 'post-racial' society (a term destined to offend nearly any person of color you dare utter it to). The conflicted reality we live is that, yes, things are better and they still suck in a lot of ways. As such, the conversations we have with each other on the topic should reflect this complexity underscored, always, with as much understanding as possible for the emotion experienced by those made to feel 'less than' due to collective prejudice.
Those of us with white skin, if we indeed care, must take on responsibility for initiating these conversations ourselves. We must call each other out whenever we bear witness to bigotry or claim ignorance of our own privilege, supporting our brothers-and-sisters-of-color by relieving them of the incessant burden of having to explain to us how racism really does live on. While we ourselves may hold our own uncomfortable or painful emotions about these issues, we must remember that white people are not the victims of our racist society though, through another lens, it's also true that all of us suffer from a social consciousness which polarizes us against one another according to identity-difference.
By the astrological clock, race has again hit the headlines with a renewed vitality at the perfect moment: during a bumpy Uranus-Pluto transition in cultural politics, each of us with our part to play in transforming how honestly we might talk to one another about such charged topics, along this unstoppable course toward broader justice.
'Questlove: Trayvon Martin and I Ain't Shit' (nymag.com)
'Why The Questlove Article Exposes Our Racismand Our Sexism' (medium.com)
'I Guess You Really Ainít Shit, Questlove' (ebony.com)
'Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, and Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops' (video) (upworthy.com)