An important letter I got in response to the Trayvon photo post.
I added the fact that I never email writers in the subject in the hopes that you understand how much your article moved me. But probably not in the way that you think.
I am absolutely filled with sorrow that you put Trayvon’s murdered body on a big website the way you did, and for the REASONS you did. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m glad you’d like to incite anger. As a Black woman, I am angry. livid. distraught. BUT, you should have asked permission from Trayvon’s parents. They should have had that right. Trayvon and his parents had no respect/hand in how he was portrayed in the mind of his ignorant murderer. That decision cost him his life. He was killed because Zimmerman saw him as a dangerous Black body. He was not human. Not a person with a family.
You saw him as a call to arms. A sorrowful Black body. No regards for his family, his dignity as a human being. And you didn’t even reach out to his parents. Your picture was too Emmet Till for me…except Emmet’s mother, the person who brought him into this world and poured all of her hopes and dreams into, made that decision. Not some righteously indignant reporter (though you have a right to be angry, you had no right to do what you did. You TOOK it. In the same way George Zimmerman took Trayvon’s life).
I realize your intention behind posting the picture. This is what many Black people in America see in their head when they think of Trayvon Martin. This is what many White Americans REFUSE to think about. Bravo, for forcing wanting to force the image on those who couldn’t see his humanity. But how incredibly inhumane to re-traumatize those of us who feel this deeply every time we think about the trial. Those of us who already see our brother, cousin, child, ourselves, in that picture. But more importantly, you took away his humanity when you did not seek permission. In trying to highlight some humanity, you took some away.
I get it, but bad fucking form. I hope you reach out to his parents and have a conversation.
There is no part of this critique that is not on point, and troubling in its truth. Most of the writer’s thoughts did not occur to me as I wrote the original post, but they should have. I wrote her back:
I definitely indulged my personal anger, and denied some agency to Trayvon’s parents, and — unintentionally but very clearly — co-opted Trayvon as an object to focus my anger. I cannot deny that where I stand is a product of my privileges.
Then I asked the letter writer permission to share her perspective. “Definitely share it,” she replied. “I appreciate you acknowledging your privilege.”
A little too late, probably, but thanks.