the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Trayvon Martin

Owning My Racism

In ten days, thousands of bloggers, mostly smart and saavy women, will be heading into the beautiful city of Chicago for the annual BlogHer conference.

Another fun fact: Chicago is also the murder capitol of the nation.

In fact, at the same time as BlogHer, there will be another conference in town — an important emergency national summit on urban violence at Chicago State University, led by the Congressional Black Caucus.


The Sheraton, the BlogHer host hotel, has a special conference rate of $199 a night. Before I found roommates, I searched the Internet for less expensive alternatives. I discovered a good deal at a chain hotel a train-ride away. I DM-ed one of my friends in Chicago to ask about this hotel.

“You know anything about it?” I asked.

“Oh, you don’t want to go there. It’s in a very bad neighborhood.”

A very bad neighborhood. Chicago. I bet you are having the same images in your mind that I do — liquor stores, pawn shops, Fried Chicken places, unemployed men, gangs, and mostly black faces. And gun violence.

Poor. Black. Crime. Violence. Fear. The words easily come together in urban America.

“Better you stay at the Sheraton,” said my friend. “Why tempt fate?”


What does this have to do with the Trayvon Martin shooting or the George Zimmerman trial in Florida?

Nothing. But everything. I live in America. I am part of the problem.

Like the Hunger Games

Imagine a dystopian future. Society has split into two. The wealthy live in armed fortresses that are serviced by their own schools, hospitals, and shopping malls. The poor live in the chaotic, violent OUTSIDE, and have to fend for themselves. Those living in the elite private communities, which go by pretty names such as PARADISE GARDENS, hire unemployed, low-paid contractors to protect them from the so-called OUTSIDERS. These outsiders are feared as potential enemies, destroyers of the comfortable lifestyle that the wealthy have created for themselves.

This future already exists in high crime countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa. These armed fortresses are called gated communities. In Mexico, most of the middle class lives in gated communities to protect them from violent gangs. In Saudi Arabia, Western workers live in gated communities to protect themselves from terrorist attacks.

The one question that isn’t being raised in the Travyan Martin tragedy, is why are so many of us living in these heavily secured gated communities right here in the United States? Do we live in another Mexico? Are we so afraid of the OTHER? Is our country turning into one of haves and have nots?

It is the gated community which created neighborhood watch officer George Zimmerman. We want patrols to be on the lookout for suspicious individuals who might cause trouble. We want schools that keep our kids away from danger. And in many communities in America trouble is a code word for “young black men.” And after awhile, we get so scared, we forget that sometimes young black men just take walks to buy some candy.

Sure, we can take photos of us wearing hoodies. But shouldn’t the first step in creating a better society be to step out of our gated communities and rejoining society?

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