We were supposed to feel bad for HER. SHE was put in a difficult position. SHE cried. SHE signed with a literary agent to tell HER story. SHE went on Anderson Cooper to talk about HER experience.
Nowhere in Juror B37’s interview was a sense of empathy for her Black sisters. There were plenty of tears, of course, but they were not tears of rage at a racist judicial system at which she, as a citizen of Florida, was called to participate in. There was plenty of empathy for George Zimmerman, to the point where she put words in his mouth, but there was no empathy for Sybrina Fulton or Tracy Martin, no sorrow that a child died for simply existing in the world, one of the greatest tragedies I can think of.
Juror B37 is the monstrous specter of white womanhood, the plantation mistress, the mother who said My child’s school will not be integrated!, the woman who puts her whiteness over her humanity again and again.
I say this as a white person who generally reads as a woman and who cares deeply about gender equity: this is the failure of empathy that Black women, genderqueer people and other WOC/TWOC/QPOC have been telling us about for forever and a day. There is a history of white women in the Klan and other racist organizations. There is a history of white capital-F feminist organizations ignoring the specific stories, histories and contexts of women of color. It is something that persists to this day and beyond.
And we have been covering our ears and saying Not me. I would never do that. I’m not racist! Not ME. Why are you being so divisive? Why are you making this about race?
Not ME. It is that centering of ourselves and our experiences again. Yes, white men push our experiences and stories out of the way so that they can hear themselves talk - and we do the exact same thing to the stories of POC. We, like juror B37, are raised in a white supremacist world, in which our bodies are not devalued simply on the color of our skin. We will never intimately understand that. But we can listen, we can put aside our egos, we can understand that we will never not be complicit in white supremacy but that we can work actively to dismantle it by offering our support, love, and empathy, by decentering ourselves, by asking ‘How can I help?’
Sometimes the answer is that we can’t. Sometimes it helps for us to do the shitwork - the flyering, the phonebanking, the spreading of the word. Sometimes it’s showing up to an event in solidarity (and not making ourselves key organizers/the center of attention unless we are very explicitly invited to do so).
But we need to listen.
We need to set aside our egos.
Otherwise we are no better than Juror B37.
(Thanks to Brittney Cooper from the Crunk Feminist Collective for pushing for pieces of this type. I am not sure if I would have been able to put it together in such words without her post this morning.)