Today in Post-Race History: A Modest Proposal
To: President Barack Obama
cc: Attorney General Eric Holder
cc: GOP Presidential Candidates
Dear Mr. President:
I hope this letter finds you well. With the Republican race looking more and more like the Real Housewives of something and March Madness in full swing (sorry about your bracket), I imagine that your spirits are rather high. I hope a note from one of your crankiest constituents doesn’t ruin that.
Perhaps you are surprised that I would be writing to you. After all, as my gmail chats and (protected) tweets suggest (maybe you’ve seen them?), I’m not your biggest fan. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to reach out to you, as the concerns of this letter demand the kind of help only the most powerful person in the world can provide. Should my request be granted, I promise to vote for you in the fall. (I know Illinois is already blue for you, but sometimes it’s the act that counts.)
Although I’m rather certain that you have not said much of anything about the Trayvon Martin killing, I’m sure you’ve heard of the story and the ensuing drama. But just in case you haven’t, in case you’ve been too busy with…stuff, late last month, the 17-year-old Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old white man, who was presumably working his shift of the neighborhood watch. Zimmerman spied Martin, who was black, coming back from a trip to the store to grab some Skittles and a can of iced tea for his younger brother. Although Martin was simply walking, Zimmerman found his behavior suspicious and consequently chased him down before physically overpowering and fatally shooting him. Zimmerman claimed self-defense and was neither arrested nor charged with any crime. As details surrounding the case emerge, however, it has become increasingly clear that Zimmerman’s version of events is untrue at the very least. It seems, then, that in order for justice to be served, as we imagine it in this country, Zimmerman will need to be arrested and tried for the death of Trayvon Martin. And that is exactly what many activists and regular citizens–many of them your supporters–are demanding. The uproar has gotten louder, but it is nowhere near its crescendo.
Now, I’m no student of history, but I know enough to understand that the United States has a tendency to, let’s say, occasionally murder innocent black men, women, people for being, well, black and therefore suspicious…and thus guilty–or something. The murder of Emmett Till is probably the most oft-cited example, but we need not go back that far. Sean Bell. Oscar Grant. Troy Davis. And now, Trayvon Martin. Since a digital Red Record has yet to emerge to track these post-Emmett Till killings (
seriously, if Ida B. Wells can do it with no internet, wtf is our problem?), I’m sure many other names have been forgotten.
Even though you’re the president, I’m not suggesting that there is something you should say or do about Trayvon Martin’s tragic death. That would be an unreasonable demand. I should tell you, though, that folks are really, really angry. And if justice is not properly served, there might be an issue. And I’m sure you do not want Revs. Al and Jesse to be 2 of your 99 problems. (That said, Dr. West might shift his focus. So there’s a silver lining for you.) But fret not, Barry! I have a solution.
Here’s the situation: Trayvon Martin’s murder really freaked out a bunch of black people. I know you’re the king of calm, but the thought that one–or one’s son or nephew or brother or even Cousin Pookie–could just be murdered while walking down the street definitely stirred the jug. It’s not that we didn’t know. It’s just that we don’t like these kinds of reminders. It’s like standing in the TSA line griping about having to undress just to board a plane, and then some asshole says bomb while you’re waiting. No one enjoys that kind of reality check. Trayvon Martin’s murder is akin to the Homeland Security Alert jumping to red when it’s not even a holiday weekend. As a former race woman, I can assure you that black people don’t enjoy such an abrupt change in color. We understand the default color as yellow (elevated) and go about our day. But red, son? Not cool. Not that these kinds of crimes committed against blacks are like terrorism or anything. It just seemed like a worthy comparison. But I digress. Let me re-focus. As the sign says, “If you see something, say something.” Here goes:
Although the trilogy has been conspicuously absent from the Obama reading lists blogs love to publish, my guess is you’ve heard of The Hunger Games. Maybe your daughters have read them. The first movie will be released this week. It’s going to be major. Even I have tickets to a midnight screening. Anyway, the story takes place in Panem, the country that formed after the United States was destroyed after a series of apocalyptic events. Panem is comprised of a wealthy Capitol, located in the Rocky Mountains, and 12 other, poorer districts. Many years before the first book opens, the districts rebelled against the Capitol. The districts did not succeed in their revolution efforts. In a really horrible gesture to both punish and remind the districts of their failure, the Capitol started the Hunger Games. Each year, two tributes (one male, one female) from each district participate in a fight to the death against tributes from other districts in an outdoor arena. The proceedings are televised. The winner returns to her district and is rewarded with a home, food, the overall hook-up.
This is my solution for ending racially charged violence against folks like Trayvon Martin: in exchange for the dismantling of neighborhood watches that kill young men like Martin, the end of the death penalty, the firing of trigger happy police officers, the cure to HIV/AIDS, and anything else killing black people at an alarming rate, citizens of black America will agree to participate in a version of the Hunger Games. Each year, we will conduct a lottery to select two tributes from each of the 12 cities with the highest population of blacks and send them to Washington, D.C., where they will participate in a death match not unlike the one Katness Everdeen experiences. The producers of Survivor can build the arena. Ryan Seacrest (or Roland Martin or Soledad O’Brien or…) can host. All related events could be televised on Fox News or C-SPAN or OWN (if you’d like to help the ratings of your homegirl’s fledgling cable channel). The
survivor winner will receive the following swag: reparations for everyone in his or her family up to and including 2nd and play cousins; the criminal records expunged of anyone in the family with one; a three bedroom, two bath home on the old money side of town; a yearly paycheck equal to 10% of the salary of the highest paid NBA player the year of his or her Games victory. Nike and Pepsi can sponsor everything.
Mr. President, I sincerely implore you to seriously consider this proposal. The deaths of the aforementioned young black men feel so senseless. Creating a Games not only eliminates such pointlessness, but also quenches the American thirst to voyeuristically and racistly consume black bodies in peril. Further, it ends the needless killing of black people by not eliminating such madness, but rather creating a method to it. Americans are entertained; you avoid a riot on your watch. Your prison population doesn’t even feel the impact. And black people can send their children to the store, take out their wallets, drive a nice car, go home, and breathe without fear. Ok. Less fear. At this point, we’ll settle for less fear.
I trust that you will recognize the reasonableness of this request and act affirmatively. Black people can only hope that giving such structure to this truly American pastime would allow the odds to finally be in our favor. Ok. More in favor. At this point, we’ll settle for your approval rating. Please advise.
Best of luck with your re-election.
Race Woman Emeritus