I am not Trayvon. But I AM the woman in the elevator.

The whole country seems to be unsettled now that the trial is over and George Zimmerman has received zero punishment for the undisputed fact that he provoked a fight with and then shot and killed an unarmed teenager named Trayvon Martin. All I keep thinking is imagining myself in his parents’ shoes, my baby killed and getting no justice. But the truth is, despite all the folks saying “We are Trayvon,” I’m not, and my babies *aren’t either. We are *unlikely to be perceived as threats based on our race. We *are unlikely to be held to a higher standard of suspicion. We *likely won’t be required to moderate our clothes or behavior or whereabouts in order to make others feel safe and thus ensure our own safety.

And Questlove has written a great piece about what it feels like to be like Trayvon, to be black and male in this country, to constantly be worrying about how others perceptions of his danger level affect his own safety. And I think we should all read it, and I think we should all think hard about the way racism and segregation affect our own day to day lives, and the fact that a lot of us live in neighborhoods where seeing a black man walk down our street would be so unusual as to be perceived as a threat. My friend Kyran, for example, has been asking some great questions about the intersection of economic and racial injustice in our communities.

But at the same time, the central story Questlove tells, about how hurt he felt by a woman who lived in his building clearly perceiving him as a threat when she was alone with him on an elevator, well, I am that woman, and I can’t say I blame her. If Questlove wants us to all walk in his size 14 shoes, then he needs to know a thing or two about that woman’s high heels, about what it means to be a woman in rape culture.

We are told over and over again that rape is something that happens to girls who aren’t vigilant enough. Who walk down the wrong streets at the wrong time in the wrong company. Who have too much to drink. Who wear the wrong clothes. Who send out mixed signals. You are constantly on your guard or you “get raped,” a phrase that has always bothered me because it’s like “got milk?” As if I went and picked it up at the store or had some say in the matter.

I’m not often alone in public these days, but I chronicled lots of harassment and intimidation from the days when I used to be, which you can find under my Bus Stories tab. It was daily, and the general message I got was: to be female, alone, in public is to be at risk.

When I am alone in an isolated place, my keys are between my fingers in case I need to use them as a weapon, and I have my phone out and ready to dial 911 if I need to. I would certainly be wary to be on an elevator with a strange man of any race, because an elevator is an isolated place. And this vigilance is exhausting and numbing, and there were days I have come home and literally cried because one more man yelled something ugly and intimidating at me as he drove past.

To be a woman in public is ALSO to be told you “aren’t shit,” as Questlove says he’s learned. It’s to be told you are an object for the taking, a message made clear not just by words shouted out of moving cars like “HEY SUGARTITS,” but also in the looks, and in the ways people talk about those unvigilant girls who get themselves raped.

I think, somewhere, there’s a place where Questlove and that woman in the elevator have something in common: patriarchy tells them both they ain’t shit. They both have varying levels of privilege, him as a man, and her as a white woman. It’s only in taking down the patriarchy that they can both feel safe in public.

*Words changed slightly from original post in response to comments and in an effort to make clear that I am attempting to recognize the privilege afforded to women perceived as white in this country. I don’t want to leap to the assumption that we are never seen as threatening by others, simply recognizing the fact that we usually aren’t.

**Traffic and comments keep rolling in on this post, and while I’m really happy with the attention it’s received, I’m also busy chasing 16 month old twins, and don’t have time to reply to every comment. I would also urge you to check out this beautifully-written, painful post that’s another take on the woman in the elevator. The comments and responses to this post have been thought-provoking and inspiring. I’d say a great step toward dismantling the system I believe hurts both the “woman in the elevator” and Questlove is to think about our fears, confront and examine them. I believe there are reasonable steps toward self-preservation, but there are also walls and barriers that separate us from one another. I need to focus more on reaching out.

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93 thoughts on “I am not Trayvon. But I AM the woman in the elevator.

  1. Thanks, Sarah, for being a faithful, clear voice on issues of sex and power. I hope we (especially white males) demonstrate with our actions and words that we have listened well.

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  2. This is something I’ve thought about a lot lately. My own white privilege and how I don’t want to come off as perceiving someone as a threat strictly because they’re black, which I don’t. But I *do* perceive people as threats strictly because they’re male. And I often wonder, if it’s a black male, it they immediately assume that I feel threatened because of their race. But the truth is, I feel equally threatened by men of all races. It’s a tricky place to be, one of overlapping and interlacing privileges and oppressions. Thanks for writing this.

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  3. Forgive me, but as a black woman – at least perceived as black , although my mother is white and my skin is light brown; this statement “I’m not, and my babies couldn’t possibly be. We are never and will never be perceived as threats based on our race. We won’t be held to a higher standard of suspicion. We won’t be required to moderate our clothes or behavior or whereabouts in order to make others feel safe and thus ensure our own safety.” is racist!
    Do you believe that because your skin is white you will never be perceived as a threat to anyone? That others will never be suspicious of you, that your clothes, behavior and whereabouts will never be found offensive or questionable. Honestly, how high and mighty of you. Just so you know I don’t feel any safer when I am around people with white skin. To the contrary, you won’t catch me walking into ANY good ol’ boy shops. I went to an all white school and I promise you – danger lurks.
    I have babies and grandbabies who are every range of color from sunburns easily to mocha-choca-latta-ya ya. There is nothing thus far in my lifes experience that has led me to believe that any of us is safe from judgment or stereo-type. Nor do believe that any one skin color is any more or less likely to act out in hatred or racism. If you aren’t a minority, you really have no idea how substantially and subtly racism travels through our culture.
    Unless your whereabouts are only there among other white people (which speaks for itself), you will be, and probably already have been, perceived as a threat based on your race, and you certainly have caused suspicion. Being white does not disqualify you from being seen as dangerous.
    Let me further assure you that the only way any of us, of any color, in any circumstance can truly trust that we are safe, is if we are in the company of any color of people who have demonstrated by action or word that they are genuine, kind and compassionate. This wasn’t about that one child being black, it was about that one man being evil.

    I have followed your blog since before the pregnancy announcement and have always thought you lovely. This post deeply frustrated me.

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    • Summer: clearly I should have qualified that statement. I was attempting to express the privilege afforded to women who pass as white, who are, truly, not generally treated as threats by those around us. Even if others perceive us as threatening, we don’t get looked at with scrutiny or shot because over zealous neighborhood watchmen think we’re there to rob someone’s home.

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  4. Thank you for this Ernie. I am in an odd position as a person who has the ‘white privilege’ yet who has a kid who may face discrimination a la Trayvon due to his skin colour. Yes, white people are judged and seen as threats, I have received comments about how dare I steal a ‘good black man’, and I have been told I’ll have no idea how to talk to my son about race as apparently I will never get it. But as you say, it is highly unlikely that authority figures will ever see me as a threat and judge me negatively because of how I look. Or that I will be shot because of my skin colour.

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    • Good to “see” you, Jamaicam! I am impressed you haven’t punched someone for insinuating you stole your husband or that you won’t be able to speak with sensitivity about race with your son. Have you ever read the blog Rage Against the Minivan? She comes to mind as a white woman parenting black sons, and she’s also a therapist, so she writes very sensitively about this sort of stuff. I like her blog a lot.

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  5. Ernie, nice post. You might find common ground with Amy Davidson’s column “What Should Trayvon Martin Have Done?” at: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/closeread/2013/07/what-should-trayvon-martin-have-done.html

    Among other things, Amy writes: “There is an echo, in what people say Martin should and shouldn’t have done, of what people say to women when bad things happen to them in dark places. Why did you walk that way, why were you out in the rain? Why did you walk in the direction of the man instead of running? Why did you think you had the privilege to go out and get candy for a child? You didn’t; you should have known. It shouldn’t be that way. A woman should be able to walk on a dark street in Florida, or anywhere. That she might not be able to doesn’t make a similar restraint on Martin any more reasonable—one injustice doesn’t vindicate another—and, in a way, only adds to the pain.”

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  6. Okay a couple of questions a) it’s possible the woman shrunk away and acted all shady because she was afraid of being raped and she would’ve behaved the same way alone in the elevator with *anyone. It’s also possible she saw a big black guy and clutched her purse with nothing but (possibly subconscious) racist thoughts in her mind. Her reasons are unknown. Though Questlove also went out of his way to describe the *insane amount of security that sort of delegitimizes her fear at all b) Just curious. Would you shrink away and exhibit your fear in the elevator if you were alone with a woman? a white woman? a black woman? a *young black kid? how young would they have to be? a gay man? are you just always afraid? Basically there must be *some demographics that you take into account when your fear is ignited right? What would you say they are? d) “where seeing a black man walk down our street would be so unusual as to be perceived as a threat” the perception of black men as threats has nothing to do with their scarcity in certain places and everything to do with the roots of American racism. e) I think there is privilege inherent in the fear that you’re talking about. rape and slutshaming are obviously problems. Very *serious ones that deserve attention, and that I wouldn’t dream of dismissing. But I feel I should point out that the fact that you feel afraid when alone, presumes that you have places of safety to retreat to and systems in place (911, the police) that you feel can protect you; whereas much of what people like Questlove and others in this society are talking about is that they are *constantly* in danger because they are perceived as dangerous or as Michelle Obama once said when asked if she was afraid her husband might be assassinated “He could get killed at the gas station”. Whereas you grew up being told things to do to stay safe, what we’ve learned from the Trayvon Martin case is that in fact there’s nothing you can do. no precautions to take. I hear you when you say there may be some common ground, but contrasting a white woman’s privilege because she’s white to a black man’s privilege because he’s a man does grate, because a large part of this national conversation is about how it is also Trayvon manhood that got them killed, *as well as his blackness….

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    • Crystal: thanks for the comment and for making me think. The point about actually having safe spaces to retreat to is huge.

      I can only speak for myself and say that I don’t fear being robbed. I have never really been a purse clutcher, not even when working with the homeless or in places others might worry about being robbed, but that might be because I try to cultivate the mindset that I would give my material things if asked. That’s a tangent though.

      I would also say that being alone with pretty much any man my size or larger is what triggers my fears about being harmed physically. I feel less afraid with a crowd around because I have the possibly naive and definitely privileged view that someone would help if I screamed for it, which is a big thing to realize.

      I definitely did and do not want this post to be about minimizing someone else’s oppression, or even comparing oppressions. I just wanted to a) give voice to that woman, because suggesting that her actions were inappropriate seems to ignore rape vulture and b) show how patriarchy at root for both people in the elevator’s oppression, as it holds one in suspicion and victimizes one and others both.

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    • Also, because I forgot this question: having the building be secure doesn’t preclude it’s residents from being rapists themselves. I’ve been largely harassed by white business type dudes. And would definitely not tell one I didn’t know what floor I live on. But I absolutely should and will allow that the woman in the elevator could have simply been racist, not afraid of assault.

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  7. The term “undisputed fact” is a little bothersome. That he picked a fight seems to have been the very thing that is in dispute and the ultimate reason for the verdict, unless I’ve got it wrong.
    Otherwise, I’m very sorry for all that you’ve been through. As a white man, I am thoroughly ashamed for having been born.

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  8. It depends on the situation. But yes, being alone at the wrong time, place reminds one …is vulnerable, human.

    I don’t jog…and know for certain I wouldn’t travel as I do now if I did. I’m a cyclist and I’ve wondered about lone joggers that I see in much more isolated areas while I’m cycling onward.

    As for feeling threatened, etc., it is also useful to be alert all the time. However, and I say however, I owned a home in an area of Toronto where there was some drug dealing and shooting. It was also an area where more visibily..non whites lived, shopped and were around. Did it bother me? Are you kidding me?: No

    Crime is all over..even in lovely rich neighbourhoods…the crime is just more hidden. And the suburbs aren’t any safer. I would say the opposite, because of greater isolation on the streets, less pedestrians around to witness stuff, etc.

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  9. This is the first time I have read your blog and I found it interesting to sat the least. This thing on Trayvon. I have been around the law for over 40 years. There wasn’t a case to be made. No matter how bad a certain segment of the culture wanted a certain verdict it wasn’t there. People need to keep in mind that no one case is bigger than the system. Its tragic what happened but the odds are both parties started flapping their lips. As someone who inter racial dated in the 1970’s this stuff today is a walk in the park compared to those days. Chicago is in the middle of a gang war and 90% is black on black. Where is the media on that? We have over 10,000 murders in this country every year. One of the sad trends that has happened the last 30 years or so is this. When something bad happens in life someone needs to get blamed. Sometimes its just called life.

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  10. (Yikes, I don’t know what I did to my computer, please delete my last comment.)

    Thank you for this piece.

    I have never been a woman (with and without my kids) who got on elevators alone with another man that I didn’t know or even barely know. I rarely drive within the inside lanes of a street or highway for the same reasons. I also don’t do any shopping out in public at night time, and as I browse during the day, I too am aware of the position of my keys and quick access to my cell phone.
    My little boys will tell you that I don’t let just anyone in my house either. If a strange man comes to my front door to sell something or Jesus, even if he has a woman with him, I do not let the pair into my house. Repair men, and delivery men only come inside when it is made clear to me that they are scheduled to be at my house, and my husband ALWAYS knows who is coming and about when they’ll be in our home.

    It’s a shame that all women and children have to be that way, but we do. I live in a good neighborhood, but have a registered sex offender a few doors behind my house. I am very plain and clear when I speak to my children about that person, play time outside, and curfews for them to adhere to.

    What upsets me so much about the Martin/Zimmerman situation is knowing that Martin was being stalked, and was just trying to defend himself! It bothers me because I often tell my little boys to NEVER start fights, but don’t let anyone beat them down either. If someone starts crap with them I would want them to defend themselves or run away if they can. I’m sure Martin’s parents taught Trayvon the same thing, and look at what happened to him. That really, really upsets me! I wouldn’t want to tell either of my boys to cower themselves before a violent person because that person may kill them. I can’t even begin to understand the insane, unfair, and rotten position this whole scenario puts people in, especially the Black community within our country. It’s sick, sick, sick! To insinuate that Blacks should cower so the man doesn’t kill him hasn’t advanced us much past slavery, and it’s disgusting!

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  11. @ Summer Brown…..You said., “…..If you aren’t a minority, you really have no idea how substantially and subtly racism travels through our culture…”>> I’m saying, “Preach it!” You slammed the nail right on the head…And no idea at ALL is the truth..The ONE good thing out of this entire case of outright MURDER? Is that it is opening up the discussion, again!, about race in our country..America. It baffles the heck of me that folks can think that racism is DEAD..There is simply nothing further from the truth..I think, in my heart of hearts, that old adage about ‘people see what they want to see” is so very true. The saddest part about all of this? Is when one reflects on how many, many, many years have passed since the so called setting free of slaves; with the Emancipation Proclamation….As a Black woman, who was RAPED by a white man as a very young teen(it is how my virginity was stolen many moons ago) , I find it highly offensive for what happens to Black males(the elevator scenario) ; to be compared to being afraid of being potentially raped. IF said woman were to get off the elevator when a White man entered; that example might hold water. But I daresay that is the case…Because Black folks children/husbands/relatives/friends have been KILLED or imprisoned unjustly in our country; this will be a time when said folks just need to release/vent the many years of such “ish”..If anyone reading this, whose family hasn’t been touched in any form by racism; can recall a time when they were quietly frustrated about something major; and then one more thing happens that just bursts open the damn of frustrated emotions? I think its called the straw that broke the camel’s back? That is where Black folks are post – Trayvon verdict…

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  12. This is a really great blog, and it should stop and make us all think about who we perceive as dangerous and why. As an African American Women. I truly perceive everyone as a potential threat. Men, Women,Children, Blacks, Whites and everyone and everything in-between. The thing is not to allow it to take over and create conflict.

    I consider myself to be rational and able to process well. I don’t run when stopped by the police, some people think I should lol. I don’t hold grudges against an entire race when I get called a n*gg*r b**ch right before they attempt to run me over while I am walking on the sidewalk, or when I am in the car with my husband who is white and we get pulled over by the police because of course I am a druggie prostitute. ( I tell my husband that is what happens black women ride in cars with men named John) LOL

    We all have instance in which things cause us to feel unsafe or threatened. In all of this and for everyone who has felt truly threatened, how many of us actually harass, follow, call names and then attack the person we claimed we were so frightened of while we were armed with a gun? How is the person being followed threatening again? This is what I can’t wrap my brain around.

    As a women I know what it is liked to be followed or to perceive that I am being followed when walking in the dead of night trying to make it home without a car. I know what it is like for your heart to beat so fast and so loud and have your mind racing a million miles an hours deciding what you are going to do if this threat is real. I know what it is like to feel that you will probably loose your life but that you are going to have to fight this person to the death, either theirs or yours.

    Never, never have a pulled up on someone in my car, carrying a gun, get out of my car and start to follow someone and think that I am actually threatened by this person or that I fear for my life. What planet does that happen on.

    Ok, so I had no intention on writing this much, which only means I have been very bothered by the state in which we live.

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  13. New folks are rolling in thanks to Freshly Pressed. First of all: welcome and thanks for reading. I will try to stay on top of approving and replying to comments, but, as you see above, I’m taking care of baby twins, so I’m not always around. I also won’t be approving any hateful comments, but so far there haven’t been any. Disagree with me or other commenters, fine, but do it reasonably.

    Secondly, and pre-emptively, I do not and did not intend for this post to set up some kind of “Oppression Olympics.” I simply felt uncomfortable with the suggestion that a woman’s only reason to be uncomfortable in an elevator with a stranger might be racism, though I acknowledge that it may very well have been this woman’s motivation, and if so, I don’t agree with her. However, I did want to show the rape culture context that might inform her perception of her safety, and to suggest that the very culture that causes her to live in fear is the exact same culture that vilifies people of color and suggests they should be feared. Both are caused by patriarchy.

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  14. Great post! There’s a lot I agree with and a little I don’t. I am a Black female. I too worry about being raped, but not as much as being imprisoned/killed for being black. I am originally from DC and currently living in NC. Let me say racism is everywhere, but much more prevalent in the south. I attended Strathmore Elementary 5th grade which was predominately white. Most of my friends were white with the exception of the other 3 black kids in 5th grade as well. There was a popular cute white boy named Terance my friends and I played with at recess. It was basically a game of tag. He ran, I caught him before my 2 white friends did and I held him until they came. We were all laughing, giggling, and playing until he spit in my face and told me to get my black paws off of him. This was my only brush with racism in all of grade school while I lived in DC and/or the surrounding area.

    Since 1993 when I moved south, I have witnessed much more racism and I’m getting rather disgusted with it. At a Chuck E. Cheese in the “white” side of Raleigh (how it’s referred to), my niece who could not have been more than 6 at the time was hit in the head by a basketball a white male was shooting. He was in his late 20’s to early 30’s, casually dressed. When my niece told me what happened, I politely told the man he had hit my niece with the ball and asked him to apologize. He refused saying he didn’t hit her, it was the ball. Fighting the impulse to punch him in the face, I found the manager who happened to be a white woman, maybe in her 40’s. I told her about the incident and she seemed appalled. She scanned the facility looking for this monster I just described to her. When I pointed to the casually dressed male, she tilted her head and informed me she’d handle the situation because it had to be a misunderstanding. Making a long story short, his reasoning for not apologizing was explained in his question- “Would you have apologized if you had hit my child in the head”? YES DUMMY!!! It’s a child!

    The other commenter was right. This Trayvon Martin case has taught us that we are not safe. We can be killed with or without reason and the American Justice System will NOT label it a crime. It confirms the traditional though that a black man is half (of) a man. Humans come in whole figures. There are no decimals.

    I say all this to say, you think you have it bad being a white woman… can you imagine being a black woman? If I defend myself, I’m a thug or a bully. If there’s a question as to who is wrong, it’s always me because I’m black. At least this is what my justice system says. According to them, my life is invaluable. This world we live in breaks my heart sometimes….

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    • Mrs268200: thank you for the comment. My heart hurts for your niece, and I can only try to imagine the double bind of facing all the same fears as a woman with the added burden of being disbelieved or blamed because of race. I also agree that the South has a loooooong way to go. I live in Little Rock, which is deeply segregated. I know a lot of people doing good work for reconciliation, unity, and connection, though, so I have hope for the future. Cases like Trayvon’s though sometimes make me doubt it.

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  15. Thought provoking but too much to get into. I told myself not to comment on blog posts related to the Zimmerman case. A while back I wrote a post related to an incident of fear caused by my race and gender. The man who scared the bejesus out of me was not white or black. “A Very Uncomfortable Cab Ride” http://wp.me/p1sXPw-FV

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  16. Appreciate this post. After President Obama talked about the experience of white women checking their purses when he got on an elevator with them I also realized, that’s me. What he doesn’t know, what no one can know because we all only see out of our own eyes, is that this reaction doesn’t necessarily mean “I distrust you because you’re black.” It also means, “I distrust any unknown male (of any color) who gets into an elevator alone with me.” It means I understand that vigilance is my primary defense against crime of any kind, and, as you have described, against personal attack. Not because I think all men (again, of any race) are a threat… but because unfortunately some are.

    I do hope that one day we’ll see this change for the better, for everyone.

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  17. Love this post! I honestly feel for both sides. I can understand how blacks feel and I agree that racial profiling has gotten out of hand in this country. It’s not fair to them, but then again, it’s not fair to anyone to be judged solely on their race and the stereotypes that they come with. I’ve been the victim of plenty of racist remarks and it is not a fun thing to be a part of. I just wish this world would all come together so we can stop all of this nonsense and focus on what really matters.

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  18. We are all vulnerable. At one point I was living in NYC, but it could have been any city. I lived alone. One sweltering day when arriving from work a hand reached into the elevator to stop the door from closing. I had already pressed the button for my floor. As the door shut I realized the man/boy in the hoody had not pressed the button for his floor. As we rose, my mind was cursing myself. When we finally reached my floor I had decided that if this hooded man was going to hurt me, it would happen in the hallway and not my apartment. I stepped off the elevator and waited in anticipation for a blow. After a lengthy pause, the man took a sidestep around me and ran down the emergency stairs. To this day I do not know the color of the man’s skin or why he chose to run down the stairs. Maybe I was being paranoid or just vigilant. Maybe he forgot to press for his floor. All I know is that as a woman living alone in a city I was vulnerable. We are all vulnerable. Evil is not a sex or a skin color. If only it was that simple….

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  19. Great post! And while I respect it, I have to slightly disagree.

    I do feel that black men and white women (or women in general) do have something in common. It might be the perception that we both “aren’t shit.” However, as bad as it sounds, these are two different levels of shit. One is perceived as weak and their opinion doesn’t count, for instance in this sad and ridiculous women’s rights battle going on in a lot of states. The weak are always given a chance in society simply because their possible threat of over-powering the machine or whatever you want to call it is so small that they are inevitably accepted. One the other hand, black men are perceived as a threat because they are men, and raised to ironically “stand your ground” in the face of opposition as opposed to women who in most situations can’t physically stand their ground.

    Women’s rights and the Civil Rights battle for African Americans are two scars that have cut deep in American history. But, as a black man who was raised by a strong black women, I’d have to say that the affect and depth of those scars are totally different.

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  20. I can honestly say that I don’t know what “white privilege” is. I’m white, grew up mostly in the south, and was regularly harassed/heckled/bullied because I am white and my mom had the nerve to move us into “their” neighborhood. Did those kids see me as a threat? Did their parents see my mom, the one Caucasian woman in the whole neighborhood, as a threat?

    I’m an adult now with many friends of all ethnicities. The only “threat” I perceive is hatred of anyone who is different than the norm. Hatred of our fellow humans. Hatred is powerful poison and it doesn’t see color, only opportunity.

    When I am in an elevator alone with someone, I ask them about their day or the weather or football or cookies or the pollen count or whatever. I’ve seen more violence from preachers than I have from boogie men in the elevators.

    Good grief, stairs can be exhausting.

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  21. Thank you for this. As a woman, I am wary of most men. It isn’t so much a race thing, as it is the situation and actions (what’s he doing, is he walking towards me?, what’s the vibe? where did he come from?). I don’t know about the black experience, I only know my own experience. Sexism is alive and well, racism too. When I am alone, I feel like prey. I once got in an elevator with a (white) man and he made all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up – I felt like I was doused with ice water. I still got in. Nothing happened, but I was so scared I’d offend him, I put myself into harm’s way. And judging by my internal reaction, it wasn’t safe.

    I feel like the only way it will change, if we tell our peers it’s not ok. When someone makes a racist comment, tell them you don’t feel the same way. Check your own racism – why are you (not you, general you) suspicious of the young, black kid? When a group of men are making derogatory remarks about women, please men, please tell them to stop.

    Also,black women are also seen as suspicious and I wanted to bring that up, because it’s not just black males. My black roommate in college used to get security called on her by our other floormates for being loud, when a simple “can you guys be quiet?” would suffice. And one of her friend’s roommates (white) hid all her stuff because she thought “they” would steal it. :( :(

    Thank you for explaining this. I hope it makes all men realize why we’re afraid.

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  22. Your points are well taken. I also remember feeling vulnerable when I was in my 20s and lived in the city. A woman offered to walk with me from the laundromat because some guy was acting suspicious and was about to follow me from the laundromat. I recall when I felt threatened by a man who was following me as I walked down a heavily-traveled city street on a sunny day. Both men were white. Yes, I was vigilant and fortunate to have gotten thru that period safely.

    Friends have told me that they worry about their children, afraid that they might be vulnerable to an attack just because they’re “walking while black.” I know people who have been profiled unfairly … and it’s something we need to address. We all need to see each other as individuals and not as a stereotype representing a particular race, gender, religion, political preference, etc.

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  23. That was a really interesting post. I’m you shared.

    Personally, I think the media made all of it way more of an issue than it really was.

    We live in a crazy world. It’s messed up, blown out of proportion, overly-sensitive and downright evil.

    I, myself, am a young white woman who is frequently objectified by men of all different races, who is held by standards to society, and who is more than a little nervous about being “out” on her own. Why? Because the world is a dangerous place. There are EVIL people out there who are white, black, yellow, whatever, and they view me as a sex object. I could be raped. I could be abducted. I could be murdered. There are some crazies out there. But, that is the way it is. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be protective of ourselves, or that we shouldn’t stand up for women and their rights, but the crazies our communities aren’t listening. They’re thinking with some weird combination of their messed-up brains and their “little heads.” It’s not our fault if we are raped, but, like you said, it’s also our responsibility to cover up, to not go out alone (especially at night) and to not be foolish or ignorant.

    Likewise, the Trayvon Martins of this world should be aware of the implications of their behavior because of the societal implications. I don’t know who was innocent in that situation (or in the elevator situation) and maybe nobody is completely innocent in those types of situations. Maybe they are freak accidents. Maybe Mr. Zimmerman felt threatened just like the woman in the elevator did. Maybe Martin meant no harm, and nor did the elevator man. I don’t know. You don’t know. None of the commentators on this post know. There are two people, and two people only, who know EXACTLY what happened in each of those situations: Mr. and Mrs. Elevator Situation, Trayvon Martin and Mr. Zimmerman.

    In the mean time? I think we all need to pay our respects to the families involved by leaving them alone.

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    • Kitchen: I think you missed my point if you think I’m arguing that it’s on women or people of color to stay away from certain neighborhoods or wear certain things or not be out alone in order to not be harmed. I will never agree that the marginalized should just accept their oppression because I disagree that there’s nothing we can do about it, and I disagree that people don’t change.

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    • Kitchen: What we do know is that Trayvon Martin was unarmed and walking home. I believe it’s safe to say Trayvon was minding his own business. We do know that Zimmerman continued to follow him after the police told him not to. Ten minutes later, a murder is committed. Rule #1… listen to authorities.

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  24. First time reader here, and all I can say is thanks for the different perspective. We all have more in common than we realize, but our prejudices cloud our vision and perspective to the point where we’re clueless.

    One thing to 1959duke, you bring up Chicago as a point of reference wondering about media coverage. The media covers it but just not in the,manner you wish to see it covered. I’ll take your 10,000 deaths and raise you one. Twice as many suicides are committed with guns as there are homicides. Why don’t you bring them up in addition to Chicago? The problem has less to do with race as it does with guns.

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  25. It’s especially not good to go to a hospital by yourself. Statistics show it’s the most dangerous place on earth. If you have a head injury you will get disemboweled while still alive. Doctors call it organ donation. Most thugs in the street only want your wallet.

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  26. Mrs. Sarah, thank you for your post. I appreciate your honesty and I appreciate you helping us see the world through your eyes. Geoff, I could not have said it better myself. That’s exactly how I feel about this issue. My prayer is that one day we will learn how to treat everyone equal and treat a person with respect rather than treat a person of his or her skin color. Everyone deserves a chance to prove themselves as an upright man or woman, but until we as black men and people of any other statistics like the rape you brought up in your post, until we prove the statistics wrong consistently as well as other statistic issues then you have every right to feel a type way about walking in public having your guard up. I’m a black man and I still have my guard up daily. This can be one ugly world. But to sum the Zimmerman subject, I just believe no one, black, white, yellow or purple should loose there life over someone else’s suspicion……..shake my head! Again, thank you for this post.

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  27. This is in repose to Zimmerman being called evil in the post by one follower of Sara’s Post.

    I ‘m so tired of people who weren’t even at the scene of the crime, how they can think that they know who is innocent or who guilty. Who can call a man or women whom they don’t even know nor have ever met evil. In God’s sight we would all be judged as evil, by the things we do and say. Form what I hear from many people are words of hatred and venom towards Mr. Zimmerman. I’m a shamed to hear so-call Christian acting in the same manner, with emotions and not with the facts of the case.

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    • Bryer: I would agree that it’s going a bit far to call pretty much any person evil, largely because I think it oversimplifies the problem of evil in the world in an effort to separate ourselves from it (look at all the discussion over the Boston Marathon bomber’s Rolling Stone cover to see a bunch of people who think evil should always be twirling its moustache instead of looking like an attractive teenager) I think many/most folks would agree that following, accosting, assaulting, and murdering an unarmed teenager is an evil act.

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  28. I am hysterical , while reading some of these posts It is unbelievable that white people feel that they are not threatening to blacks. I am a chocolate black woman and will only come into white neighborhoods in daylight’ and when I do it is usually because I have an appointment in that neighborhood. My fear is that I will get raped by a white man or get shot, and they will get away with it. A great many of black people feel this way. There is a perception that many blacks have about white people, that is you are all natural born killers. Due to the historical documentation,and the knowledge of horrid crimes carried out on our ancestors, we are still replaying these scenarios in our minds. There have been little healing as far as this goes. People are trying to live life from day to day with hope that we all can forget and forgive trespasses. I am a Christian, and Jesus said that love fufills the law. I try to be a humane person, respecting all mankind, but the truth is we have a lot to work out with each other. Perhaps, many white people trust not blacks because of their ancestors wrongs and fear blacks retaliation. However, I experience socialization with white people at work, sometimes at social gatherings because I have cousins that are married to white women. Maybe one day the much younger generations will get to a point that all this baggage gets played out or at least they will be able to sit down in a forum and discuss problems and be in one accord with the solutions.

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  29. Great post. Whether people agree or not, starting debates and conversation is stimulating and interesting. Both the debates discussed – racism/sexism- are due much, MUCH more energy and thinking in our society. I totally identify with the ” how it feels to be a woman” slant. Salesmen, taxi rides, being alone with unknown men….you don’t know how that feels until you’ve walked in woman’s shoes. Just like how horrified most white people would be if they could be black for a mile, too. AND how about being a man? White or black, and have people instinctively think you might hurt them? All worth thought. Anyway, well done!

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  30. I’ve been watching and following this issue from the other side of the world and this has been one of the more interesting reads I’ve come across of late. The issues are complicated and interwoven so I applaud the fact that you’ve highlighted this issue. It’s definitely valid to raise. These conversations are essential though, even if they’re painful. Without them people can’t go forward. And these issues are universal – how we view each and how we interact. Hopefully eventual outcomes are positive and meaningful.

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  31. This is excellent! Thank you for so succinctly summing up so many concepts (although I imagine, especially by the comments, that not every one will “get” it.) There are a lot of dynamics in this county at play- Racism, sexism, ageism… and frankly, a lot of people’s reactions to these events only fuel the problem. We need to recognize everybody has their own issues with how society perceives them. Meme’s passed around Facebook and other stories indignantly proclaim all the victims of interracial crime that no one has heard about. They have VERY valid points, BUT they are also a form of “reverse” racism. They are just making the divide between us larger.

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  32. As a black woman in America, I must say that I agree with you that white women are not viewed as a threat. Although black woman are often viewed as threats, we are more often viewed as inferior. This is only from my experience. I am not rich nor am I poor. I am a simple middle class American maybe even upper middle who is with a white American man. I live in a decent sized town in the south in which the “good ole’ boy” and girl system is still very present. I don’t know if I should use the world fortunate, but I was fortunate enough that I was raised in a home where my mom did not push the race issue on us. (Just like white families black families teach their children to be racist.)

    I have friend s of all colors but sometimes my friend’s friends really throw sticks at me. Example: When you sit down at a table of predominantly white women, some you know and some you don’t, and the first thing out of one of the unknown’s mouth is, “oh I have lots of “BLACK FRIENDS”. Then she proceeds to ask you what thrift shop did you get or luxury bag from and assumes it isn’t real.

    Or when you walk into a store and the clerk starts telling you prices, or follows you around the store to make sure you don’t take anything.

    Not because you look like you can afford these things, I am fully aware of my appearance and others, but simply because my skin is dark.

    Or when someone assumes that my white husband supplies me with an endless amount of money and “I should be ashamed of myself”
    “And how dare that handsome white man marry that N*G*E*?!!!!”

    I don’t say these things to point out the materials, but tot point out in my mid-Georgia town, Black woman are not suppose to have anything, or be able to get anything on their own. Because we are not as good, don’t deserve should never have more than a White woman.

    So thank you for your honesty.

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  33. The TRUTH of the matter is…is that it has and always will be some level of unsafety for women in this country period…we, unlike men, have to maintain a constant guard at all times to let unwanted undesirables know that we are not an object of THEIR amusement or pleasure unless you are invited! It’s unfortunate that many young girls and women around this world are being raped daily and most of it goes unknown out of fear and blind emotions that some depressed female has so strongly that she would tie those feelings to an action so destructive and evil. I have seen this happen first hand so I know what that looks like…however…in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case it has become very visible (not that it was not already), that there is a direct relationship between race and crime in this country. There need to be more conversations surrounding these significant correlations and why women are so open to attack because they are deemed as weak, and why our African American community continues to be the subject and victim to such blatant racial injustice. This has been happening for the last century…this TM case was just the straw that broke the camels back in the Black community…not mention the John Spooner verdict — (76 year old white male who murdered 13 year old Darius Simmons because he “thought” the young boy had stolen his shotgun). There are many versions of the truth in these replies that I have read thus far, but there is only one truth — I believe in blogging for this very reason — we do not know the stories of the next person’s life and how singular events can not only affect that one…but the whole. What is going on in our country right now is the result of the GZ Trial and something that has needed to happen — we need to have open and honest discussions about the issues that affect our communities, and our minorities (women being a minority). Whites have their setbacks just as the African American community does, however, what is completely obvious is that Blacks have more to fear — it cannot be denied that we contiune to struggle through race relations in this country and it is time for serious talks about how we can unify. I appreciate this post Ernie and your attention to how women are affected in this country everyday. How we struggle through many invisible boundaries just to be counted in the whole number. We have a long way to go as woman but we have come very far — we have a long way to go as a country and we need to start dealing with the issues that separate us — all the issues — Thank you for your words and I wil lbe following… S.

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  34. I admit that it’s been frustrating to me to see the whole world act like it’s a cosmic injustice for as young man to have to worry about:

    1) where he walks in the city,
    2) how he’s dressed and whether he’s “provoking” anyone,
    3) how he presents himself and comes across, and
    4) whether anyone will conclude that he’s “asked for it,”

    when every single human female on the planet has to live like this from cradle to grave. How many women are bemoaning how unjust it is that they have to teach their young black sons to worry about this … and then turn around in the next breath and tell their equally young black daughters, “You are not leaving the house in that or else you won’t make it home,” and they don’t even see the irony?

    It’s called an injustice when the world conspires to force the unjust constraints on men that women have to deal with all our lives. Fears for our lives, concerns that anything we wear will get us blamed for being attacked, concerns that speaking out too loudly will “provoke” somebody, that we should have just taken it “quietly” in order to survive …

    It’s a very, very disturbing world we live in … when this happens to a young man. When it happens, as it does over and over and over and over and over, to young women, it’s called life.

    This dear young man did not deserve to die. He did nothing. Neither did that girl you heard about in high school who got raped walking home from a late class. That battered wife didn’t “ask for it” or “start the fight.” The women who are killed by stalkers did not “ask for it.” That woman who got mugged didn’t cause it to happen by “mouthing off” or wearing the wrong clothes.

    And by saying this out loud, by simply caring about women, just mentioning this sick contrast, I’m an awful person who doesn’t care about Trayvon Martin. Who would dare to compare such a noble, terrible loss to the stereotype stupid, drunk b*tch in a short skirt, or whatever.

    But there’s only so many times I can hear this without saying something.

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  35. Pingback: The Daily Scraps

  36. I am from a different continent, a different culture, I speak a different language, our viewpoints may also be radically different; but I too am the woman in the elevator. I too am insecure. I too am scared, not only in isolated places in the dark but sometimes also on the busy streets in broad daylight.

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  37. Maybe this post could have been written where color has nothing to do with it. Just men and women. Without mentioning Travon in the title to add appeal. It seems even bringing up color now-a-days is ‘racist’. For racism to end, pulling the race card must also. So, no more Negro college fund, Miss Black America, or National urban league…

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    • Midwestern Plant Girl: if you read the post, you know I was writing in response to Questlove’s piece on Trayvon, not just throwing his name in the title “to add appeal.” Also, as is obvious to all non-racists, there is a clear difference between talking about and even celebrating race and ethnicity and racism. The Negro College Fund is not racist.

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  38. Pingback: To: The Woman in the Elevator From: The Black girl next door | whoiscinderella

  39. I really enjoyed this blog post. I was telling my parents the other day, it’s not about the person’s race, I am suspicious of nearly everyone, but honestly, especially men, because they are more likely to be able to overpower me. I am a mixed race woman who ‘passes’ for white, I guess you could say, but I am still a woman. And this resonated with me quite a bit. However, I still understand the ideas that Questlove was going for. I thought the imagery of both people in the elevator being a victim of patriarchy was beautiful and so very true. It makes me wish for a world where no one needed to be afraid of the unknown.

    I’ve recently been thinking of my younger cousin, who turned 13 recently, and thinking of the correlation between how he could be perceived as TM was is just heartbreaking, just because of the color of his skin.

    Either way, I liked this post a lot. Will be sharing.

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  40. How exactly does one “take down the patriarchy”? What does that look like? I don’t get the connection between patriarchy and race. It’s almost as though you are conflating two issues. Please don’t misunderstand: as to gender I’m egalitarian in faith and practice, whose mother is an ordained minister. As to race I’m a white man married to a black woman (I’ve seen and experienced racism in this relationship). I believe in standing up for BOTH causes. I’m not asking to pick a fight, but curious how you would extend the conversation into practical take-aways for action.

    At any rate, thanks for posting and being open and honest.

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  41. Unfortunately, sometimes people are conditioned by their past experiences or the past experiences of the groups they associate with to assume that my actions might possibly be racist. Locking the car door. I always do that when I get in my car. Immediately. If someone walks by and assumes that I do that because I am white they are black, they are mistaken. I am more afraid of being in an elevator alone with any young man who dresses aggressively, regardless of race. I am a lot more relaxed around people who are my age, who dress the way I do (professionally), I think I am more likely to be fearful of young people who act aggressively. Young people who walk down my street three across, and then call me names like racist if I look them cross-eyed (because they shouldn’t be walking in the middle of the street in my opinion), are acting in a threatening way. Young people who walk down the sidewalk, joking around don’t get the same look.

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  42. I think everyone has to walk in their own truth. The lady on the elevator may have felt threatened because she was on an elevator by herself with a man (who was back). And Questlove may have felt slighted because she acted a certain way in the elevator when he was the only person on it. We can’t control others’ thoughts only our reactions to it. I was followed around a grocery store last week by an employee who was supposedly “scanning” items on the shelf. I mean I was in the place for close to an hour and just about every aisle I went on she suddenly appeared in. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt but after 20 minutes it becomes hard to imagine the incident as a coincidence. Rather than be confrontational I decided to follow her around the store. And low and behold she disappeared. As a black person in this country I feel that I always have to be on guard and that it will always be this way. No matter that I drive a benz, live on the “good” side of town and am working on my second graduate degree. I know that most of society will always see me as a threat and treat me accordingly. Sadly it is what is even coming up on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. I do think Queslove might have felt the way he did because the lady lived in his building and since he recognized her he felt she should’ve recognized him too (or at least chalked him up to being a non-threat).

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  43. As a white woman, I find it difficult to find a voice that will actually be heard in this discussion. What I feel I can say is how unfortunate it is that so many people are living in fear of ANYONE. There is a difference between being aware and being fearful, because living in constant suspicion of those around us is no way to live.

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  44. You have voiced exactly what I was thinking when I read Questlove’s article. If the girl was as gorgeous as he described, you know she gets harassed ALL THE TIME. I think Questlove (and all other thoughtful and respectful men with good intentions), forget that they can still be seen as a threat. If he had been the woman in the elevator, I think he would have done the same thing.

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  45. A couple of things here. One: “undisputed fact” is inaccurate. It’s wildly disputed, just not in the “mainstream media”. (Yes, this is mostly quibbling with wording, but since it was in the first few words of your post, it suggested you were going to be dishonest. I have fallen into this trap myself.)

    Two: I am a very large white male(6’7, 270 lbs). I wear black most of the time because, well, I like black and I don’t have to wonder whether I “match”. Put these two things together, and I can, at times, drip with threat. I don’t mean to, and my kids call me “the gentle giant” to their friends, but that’s no help at all when I walk into a room or an elevator and everyone eyes me out of the corner of their eye.

    I do one simple thing to ease people’s suspicions: I smile at people. It’s not much. It costs me nothing, and with a smile I can usually find a way to include a kind word, trying to get the person to smile as well.

    The fear that you feel, I wish I knew how to fix. Let me ask you this, hypothetically… If I stepped into the elevator with you and smiled and made a comment about the weather or something, would you react in abject fear, thinking only of how fast you could escape my presence, or would you smile back, even clutching your keys, prepared to drive them into my jugular?

    :)

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  46. the same selfishness that dwelt in George Zimmerman causing him to make the choices he did that fateful night dwells in many, many men. It surfaces in different variety of self-centered actions that care not of the cost to others… including lewd comments in others… or even rape. The greatest value one can search for in a man (or woman) of quality is selflessness.

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  47. Hi, great article and My sister and I just had a discussion about this subject today :) I can’t help but think though that I am not all together understanding why so many people even view this as a race issue as Zimmerman is brown(Hispanic) and Trayvon is black and as i see it, Hispanics seem to get treated worse in society than blacks now days and so if Obama is going to say that black people are justified to be angry than by argument you are claiming that people have the right to react because of their previous experiences. Doesn’t that qualify Zimmerman to have overreacted if he has been shaped by his experiences with teenager kids lurking around the neighborhood. I am not justifying Zimmerman. I believe he overreacted in a tragic way but Obama needs to decide what his words really mean before he spouts off supporting the kid like him when he never spouts off when the victim looks like me.

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    • Billiemay: I don’t think we can so easily say that George Zimmerman wasn’t acting out of racial bias just because he himself is Hispanic. I think a key reason he was suspicious and afraid of Trayvon is that he thought a black kid was out of place in his neighborhood. The words he used in his 911 call indicate that he saw him as one of “those people” and a punk. As for “who has it worse,” that’s a game I’d rather not play, whether we’re pitting women against people of color, or one ethnic group against another. It’s absolutely true that Hispanics are subject to racism and prejudice and oppression, but I would also point out that in many spaces, “white” is essentially “light skinned and doesn’t speak with an accent,” which includes guys like GZ. Even his name facilitates “passing” in a way that say, Jorge Zapata wouldn’t be able to, you know? Also, I think we need to be careful using words like “spout off” in reference to the president’s speech and discourse on the topic, which, if anything, has been measured and considerate. The speech he gave the other day before the press corps was measured, sensitive, heartbroken, and reasonable.

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  48. Interesting post – as a white male, I’m least likely to get harassed but sometimes find myself cautious when walking alone, especially late at night. It’s a catch-22 – I understand both Questlove’s POV AND the woman’s. (despite rarely if ever finding myself in their shoes).

    When I lived it Queens, my wife and I helped a young woman who had been attacked – randomly, with no particular intent that we ever discovered. She was just walking along, not particularly late at night, on the phone with her mom at that, when a guy ran up and cold-cocked her – just flat out punched her and fled.

    It took the cops YEARS to show up while my wife and I tended to her. When they did, they said there had been a rash of attacks like this that night – mostly against women, but not always. As far as I know they never got the guy.

    Anyone can be attacked, any of us can be vulnerable. It’s good to be vigilant.

    It does however, lead to unfortunate incidents like the one in the elevator.

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  49. I did not see Obamas speech as sensitive at all. I was quite offended that he chose to speak up about this murder when he never spoke out about casey anthony being acquitted of killing her daughter or many other highly profiled cases. And I consider it spouting if we do not consider the implications of what we are saying. I can’t imagine the president weighed his speech from the perspective of anyone that doesn’t look like him 35 years ago because if he did he would have realized that he was giving permission to people to react based upon their negative experiences rather than acting from a place of understanding and morality. By Obama asking us to rise up against our own judicial system and the judgement of the women who were on the jury, in favor of “al sharptons” viewpoints. He is asking us to discriminate against our system. They system is not perfect but when we overcompensate for perceived wrongs we undermine those we are compensating for. I may not like the outcome of the trial but I have the duty as an american citizen to respect it and the jurors.

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    • Billiemay: if you think he asked people to “rise up against the jury system,” then you didn’t hear the speech. Find that in a transcript, I dare you. He said: “The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries were properly instructed that in a case such as this reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury has spoken, that’s how our system works. But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling.” He also said, ” I think it’s understandable that there have been demonstrations and vigils and protests, and some of that stuff is just going to have to work its way through, as long as it remains nonviolent. If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family.” And Al Sharpton too has called specifically for *nonviolent* demonstrations.

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  50. Sorry about the double post. haha didn’t mean to do that. I understand that he didn’t SAY to go against the system but by speaking out about this case and not those where the victim did not look like him it implies a message to those that don’t look like him, that this matters more. Why did he pick this particular issue to speak out on. He ignores so many issues and crimes that happen but he spoke out about this one and it struck a cord with him because of the color of his skin. Those of us who believe in the stand your ground law and believe that the zimmerman verdict was just (tragic and sad as it was), might be offended that he did not make a more unbiased statement that supported the law more enthusiastically. Violent demonstrations are not what I fear but rather the fear mongering that compels people to fight against my rights whether it be through boycotts, media blitzing, or any other pressure based tactics. I believe in their right to demonstrate but having the president basically equate himself with Trayvon, shows he is pitting himself against zimmerman despite what he says. His position speaks volumes to the country.

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    • I’m fine with him opposing laws that radically redefine self defense and remove a person’s obligation to retreat if able to do so, which has been historically a part of laws concerning self defense. It’s kind of part of his job to advocate for and against laws. Just because you don’t happen to like his stance doesn’t make his taking one inappropriate.

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  51. Erniebuffalo, i think you a missing my point, My point is that he has no right to even talk about this subject as the justice system did its job and he is placing power behind the notion that this case has anything to do with race. He is giving more voice to it by comparing himself to the victim. He is non directly giving credit to those who are making this a race fight thus polarizing the country further when it is his job to pull together the country. He can advocate for laws but advocate for the law, not the kid that looks like him. Sometimes it would be good to stop reacting because of emotions and start acting based on the facts. We have no PROOF what Zimmerman felt towards Trayvon, only our guesses and assumptions so why do we condemn him. That reaction makes us no different than what we are claiming to want stopped. May the person with no prejudice cast the first stone.

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  52. I’m black and a woman, and I have a problem with the woman in the elevator. The problem I have with her is not that she feels the need to protect herself, as a woman, I too feel the need to be safe, but with her perception that black men are dangerous. I have seen it happen time and again, I get on the elevator with single white woman, she glances at me and keeps texting, white man gets on the elevator with white woman, she glances at him and keeps texting, but black man gets on the elevator with white woman and her grip on her purse tightens (she may even bring it into her chest) and she takes obvious steps back to distance herself from black man. It even happens in my very professional office building. I mean seriously, what does this woman in the elevator think is going to happen at work and with everyone else on the elevator too? And, why does she have the pre-conceived misconception that she is in greater danger when the black man walks onto the elevator than she is when the white man does? If it were just her reaction to men in general out of concern for her safety and that of her handbag, then ok, but it’s not, it rarely ever is.

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    • todayspsa: thanks for the comment. You’re right, I don’t see much reason to fear in a crowded office elevator. I definitely agree that the culture generally suggests that black men are somehow more dangerous than whites, which is part of what I was trying to point out with my “common ground” for “the woman” and Questlove: patriarchy maintains its power by vilifying people of color and victimizing women (of all races) while pretending only Other men actually do the victimization. And when we act on those illegitimate, trumped up fears, we’re perpetuating the system.

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  53. I’m sorry but I just had to laugh at some of these post, a women being afraid of a white men at night, are we living in south? I have to look over my back no matter what the color of the person skin is, trust is not based on the color of someone skin or lack thereof. In today’s society it would be foolish not to look over ones shoulders or out the corner of your eyes, I do it every day. One thing I don’t understand is, if women are so afraid. Then stop listening to music with your ears covered. How will you know if danger is around if you’re not aware of your surroundings?

    My brothers and sisters, you are being played and manipulated by the powers that be. They don’t care about you at all. they use fear to control you and cause you to be in agreement with things (policies, laws) and the like, that under normal circumstances you would not be in agreement with. Fear causes one to use their emotions and not their common sense. It causes you to react without thought of the consequences of those actions.
    It reminds me of the 1930’s Orson Welles – War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast 1938, it caused great fear because some people thought the program they were listening to was real. They thought the news program was a legitimate warning of aliens attacking earth. The problem is they only heard part of the program. Not knowing the complete story can bring great harm to one’s self and those around them. Case in point, Zimmerman apparently thought that Trayvon was up to no good. And Trayvon apparently thought that Zimmerman was a (gay, white cracker). I say apparently because even I don’t know the full story, nor does anyone else who has an opinion. The fact is, not even Zimmerman or Trayvon had the full picture of who each other were and what each was doing that night. So the result of not fully having all the information leads us to make terrible assumptions and make very bad decisions. And in this case, that bad decision ended up being deadly for Trayvon Martin

    Forgive any typo’s

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  54. I think how you are perceived, whether as the “threat” or as “easy pickings” depends on how you carry yourself. I travel often and work alone a lot, often in “sketchy” parts of town but I keep my head up, make eye contact w/passerby and try to smile at people in passing. I try to make conversation with people when and where I can. By meeting them with head up, shoulders back, I present myself with confidence, by smiling and making eye contact I diffuse tension and put us both at ease. I am not afraid but I stay aware of my surroundings, I won’t hesitate to defend myself should the need arise but I’ve never been challenged either

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  55. This is a beautiful post. I work as an exotic dancer and I have a bouncer walk me to my car every night after work because I’m afraid someone will get the idea that they can try something because of my job. What’s worse is that society gives the men who harass me after work validity. Society says because I dance and take off my cloths in front of strange men they have the right to treat me with less respect because I am bad. Society ignores the fact that dancing is what pays for my university or that I volunteer, pay my taxes and follow the laws like a good girl. I understand how you feel because I not only face that in public alone but I also face it every night when I leave work. Thank you for writing this post.

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  56. So…. In the end you don’t blame the woman in the elevator…. Because you are that woman. White woman, about to be raped by a black guy. Great how you just end up reinforcing the stereotypes.

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  57. I really don’t understand how some people took this post as racist. You were very clear that what happened to Trayvon was a tragedy, and that it didn’t matter the color of the man. The fact is that the majority of men are stronger than we are and can overpower us. You can’t judge who a rapist is by what they’re wearing, how they’re standing, what color they are, what they look like. It’s not like all rapists are huge, lumpy ferocious looking creatures with tongues hanging out of their mouths. As women, no matter our color, we have to be alert. Rapists aren’t in it for the actual sex – they don’t care if you’re young or old or skinny or fat. Elderly women have been raped before.

    Is it racist to think someone is a rapist ONLY because he is black? Yeah, but you didn’t say that. You said any man, which would include a black man. Some people seem to want to look for racism everywhere, even in places it clearly is not. It takes away from your very good point about rape culture. This was a great post, and thank you for writing it.

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  58. One of the previous comments already refered to OVERREACTION. I guess the Trayvon Martin case is a very very sad example of overreaction due to the lack of intercultural competence and prejudices. Media generates lots of different images and people become more and more lazy when it comes to create own opinions…and simply believe what media tolds them. As long as people do not start a dialogue, share their stories and experiences and find out that we are all human beings in different skin tones, racial crimes will take place.

    Nevertheless, I guess the female issue you pointed out is even more difficult to solve. Moreover, I can totally understand your point of view Mrs Sarah – when I think about my mother, she grew up in a small village (only Germans, no intercultural mix) and everytime she visits me she is afraid because my neighborhood consists of lots of immigrants (Turkey, Middle East, Russians) and especially because she is a blond women it is even worse, because she gets “these looks”. I would wish to say that women should not overreact…but the truth is as long as MEN do not value women as they should – with love and respect and see them as equal – it is a natural cause that it is a risk for women to be alone in the streets or the elevator. I do not know if you heard about the case of a norwegian woman who was raped in Dubai and was sentenced to jail for having sex without being married…when I first heard that story I couldnt believe it. The law said, as long as there are not at least 10 males who have been eye witnesses to this incident it is not a rape therefore she was found guilty.

    However, what we learn from all that…no matter if you are black, white, man, or woman…some things will never change. We need unity in our behaviour, set of values and standards and this is not going to happen in the foreseeable future.

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