Do I Look Suspicious?

by Courtney C Horne @FireezDragon

Back in the day, when I was 14 or 15, me and two of my friends had a couple sleepovers in my Grannie’s “Little House” – a tiny house behind my grannies house that is essentially a mini studio apartment that stood on it’s own.

And (sorry Mom and Dad) we happened to sneak out of the little house. Not to do anything bad- we weren’t doing drugs or even drinking. Rather we would sneak one street over to a friend’s house to hang out around his backyard pool late at night. Late enough at night that I am surprised his parents never questioned us being there.

Now, our town had a curfew and at our age we weren’t supposed to be roaming the streets at night. And as young teen girls are likely to be we were super paranoid about this. We would dive for the ditch/bushes like crazy people if we heard a car.

So if you were driving by, you would see us acting in short- suspiciously.

Now- I would like to state a humble theory. If someone had been driving past and was bent on catching people “up to no good,” we could have easily been thought of as such. We were acting shifty. And we were sorta up to no good. We had  after all- left without permission late at night. But we were certainly not up to anything criminal beyond breaking curfew and obviously were not a threat to anyone.

Still, a man eager to prove himself as a neighborhood defending hero may have followed us.

And you know what? If he grabbed me, I might have reacted by punching him.

Thing is- unlike the case where Martin was shot by Zimmerman, with Martin not even breaking curfew like we were- people don’t generally look at me and think I am suspicious and threatening. If I punched someone who was following me and heaven forbid he shot me- even if it was now and not when I was sneaking through a neighborhood to a friends at 14- no one would agree that an unarmed me was somehow a threat to the person who shot me’s life.

And likelier, I wouldn’t get shot- or even followed because I would be assumed to be non-threatening.

I keep hearing people squawk that Zimmerman “isn’t white” so this isn’t about race. That is bullshit on so many levels. First, Zimmerman is close enough to white to get grouped into white privilege. Whiteness as a concept is very fluid. Irish didn’t get included back in the day. And some Hispanic people still don’t. But Zimmerman- partly because of skin tone and partly because of societal place- is white enough to get some white privilege. I don’t in any way think that the police wouldn’t have arrested a black man or a darker skinned Hispanic man with limited English skills (and therefore less “whiteness cred”) the night the shooting happened.

And even more importantly is Martin’s race. I have explained to countless people that if Zimmerman shot a white teenager- things would have gone down differently. It is possible that if Zimmerman had shot a black teenage girl things would also have been different. (Though I am not 100% certain of that) But Trayvon Martin was a black teenage boy. Someone who, because of a terrible amount of prejudice inherent in our social structure, the jury looked at and went “well of course he was in fear for his life.” If it had been me- do you really think that jury of white women would have looked at the evidence and gone “of course he was scared to death?”

I hope one day people don’t have to live in fear of being treated like criminals because of their race and until then I think it is important for people who don’t have to suffer through that to look at it and see how messed up it is. And see how lucky we are that someone cannot shoot us with impunity because they can successfully argue to a court that our very existence made them fear for their lives.