The White Female Privilege of Juror B37

juror b37

Our racial prejudices, the ones that we heard the older people in our family say, the racial jokes about Mexicans without regard for Latino and Hispanic ancestry that isn’t just from one country, or about Chinese or the Koh-reeans to the Aa-rabs, they all inform our worldview.  The offspring of these people are forced to navigate murky social waters seeing as how this society becomes more and more pluralistic, it could easily make going to a diverse high school even more challenging if being raised in a household where a certain ethnic group or nationality is constantly looked down upon for everything.

That being said, I’ll never forget a conversation in high school either my sophomore or junior year of high school in which a classmate, black and male made a comment about a teacher he wasn’t too fond of and he said “She got WWS.”  Naturally, I asked “What’s WWS?” and he responded “White woman syndrome,” to which I burst out into spontaneous laughter.  I immediately got the joke.  There was no need to explain what he meant by it; it was already understood.  In that moment at the turn of the millennium, two young black men, me from the South Side of Chicago and he from the West Side shared a moment that spoke volumes.

black teens on the street cornerFor us, even at the age of 15 or 16, we knew what it meant to be black and a male in a public high school in an urban city.  Our parent had already given us pointers on safety when riding the L at night from a late night band concert at school or something, and I’m sure his mother, like mine, had given us more than one pointer about how to avoid suspicion when riding CTA.  I’ll never forget in 8th grade my mother telling me to watch myself because people think I’m older because of my size.  And she was right.  At 14 and 15, I was always assumed to be 16 or 17 because of my height.  (To the point, I notice myself doing it now, the larger the young person, you automatically assume they’re older.)

What it also meant was that, at 13 I remember walking downtown on the bus and the first time I observed a white woman clutching her purse on the opposite side of her body as I passed her–and that was a pivotal moment for me.  I asked myself would she have done that if I had been white.  Now granted I was raised in a household where my skin color was affirmed and I never once had a feeling of disgust about being black as a result of it, but it did color my impressions of race relations moving forward.  And more specifically, it did lay a ground work for this concept of white female privilege.

I specifically say white female privilege because images of white femaleness are indeed specific to that gender and that ethnicity, particularly in pop culture.  I grew up hearing my mother speak with disdain about the movie “G.I. Jane” and probably why I’ve never seen it till this day.  My mother dismissed the movie saying to the fact that aside from it being unrealistic it was something to uplift white women.  And of course my mother said this as a black woman.  At the time, in 1997, how often did movies starring black women with this almost supernatural ability ever get showcased?

For me, growing up in the 1990s, these movies of white female supernaturalistic powers over blacks has been a dominate image in the media.  Let’s not forget movies like “Dangerous Minds” which in a sense showed that it took a white woman to get the ghetto children under control.  And oddly enough, movies like this have been played out more than once, lest we forget the exact same meme resurfaced again with the movie “Freedom Writers.”  Most recently, this sentiment fueled some criticism when  Sandra Bullock starred in the movie “Blind Side” even though it was based on real events.

Perception wise, it fuels this image of white women as the oft-times savior for the “darker” race.  I don’t speak in intentional hyperbole by saying “darker” race, but rather I use the stark term to illuminate the gap between distance analogies and proximate truths.  White women will never have to worry about the fear of being pulled over for driving while black that black men feel every time a cop car is found sitting squarely in their rearview mirror.  Images in pop culture show white women as being plucky or being the inquisitive ones that can “identify” with the plight of the ethnic underclass based on their womanhood.  It was even this same criticism that the movie “The Help” came under as well.

I did offer a pushback and simply asked the question “Are not white women, as a demographic entitled to telling their own story as well?”  The answer is a resounding yes, and should be a yes without any equivocation.  The problem with telling one’s story is that one then narrates the voice–or lack thereof–of the other characters.  When white women are imaged as the savior of the helpless and have the power to lift all others out of despair, it then causes some issues indeed!

One of the problems we have with the national conversation on race is that much of it is really based on cultural ignorance.  That was a lesson I learned back in 2008 when I purposely accepted a summer internship in a mostly white suburb of Washington, D.C.  I learned a LOT.  And it’s been fundamental to my approach to ministry and just social relations since then.  I left an email with one of the assistant pastors in an attempt to try and work through some of my hang ups and some of the cultural challenges laid at my feet.  (For a point of reference, on the third day of me being in the group, my supervisor, the 28 year old youth pastor who grew up there asked me point blank were white people allowed to attend Howard University as we traveled on the Green Line to Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street.)  It wasn’t so much that there was an inherent problem with the fact that I was black, and they were white, but more the cultural differences, ones that could similarly exist with someone from Maine versus someone from southern Georgia.

However, this white female privilege is one that masks itself it automatic bias.  It’s as if to say that because a woman may already identify herself as a “minority” because of her gender or someone from a discriminated protected class that the idea of being prejudiced or bias is impossible.  Well, Juror B37 in the George Zimmerman trial blows that theory out of the water.

freedom writersWhite teachers who sign up for Teach For America who get dropped in these urban schools with these altruistic intentions are in a for a rude awakening thinking that they watched enough episodes of “The Wire” and currently have 2 Chainz or Drake on their iPod playlist to fully understand black culture, and that’s where the disconnect happens, and this what results in this white female privilege: 1) the intersection of disbelieving that they can be prejudiced and 2) believing they already understand the non-white ethnic culture.  Juror B37 was the epitome of what that intersection looks like.

Based on the interview she gave to Anderson Cooper and despite the mixture of softball questions and relatively solid ones, it was apparent to me that she had no intention of ever convicting George Zimmerman.  Regardless of however the prosecution presented the case, she fundamentally believed that Zimmerman was in fear of his life at the moment he pulled the trigger and therefore was legally justified.

Her interview contradicted itself at many moments and her logic was grandly flawed.  Anderson asked if the trial was ever about race, and she said no, and pulled a line from the post-trial interview of Mark O’Mara and Don West that that was  a concoction of the media and “others.”  This was a grand rewriting of historical facts as Al Sharpton cleared up immediately on Saturday night.  The protests came from the fact that Zimmerman was never even initially arrested for the murder in the first place; the initial protests came so that Zimmerman would get his day in court–and so would Trayvon Martin.

For her to be so blind to the racial overtones surrounding this trial came off as disingenuous and insulting.  Namely because she had no problem with Zimmerman getting out of the car–and somehow misremembered it to the point that she recalled the 911 dispatcher “egging him on” to get out of the car, when in fact Zimmerman was told twice to not follow Trayvon–for the sake of being a concerned neighborhood watchman.  She said she felt that Zimmerman would have done the same thing if Trayvon had been white, Asian or otherwise.  I think that misses the fundamental fact that racial profiling exists in this country at an alarming rate and it dismisses the prejudiced overtones uttered by Zimmerman on the 911 tapes.

rachel-jeantel1This juror admitted that there were “fabrications” to Zimmerman’s story to detectives, but still valued “credible” witnesses versus “non credible” witnesses.  By all accounts, there wasn’t one witness that took the stand who was wholly non-credible on either side, and the way she discredited Rachel Jeantel proved her unmitigated bias.  Thankfully, CNN had Rachel Jeantel live directly after Juror B37s interview and let Rachel give a direct response to Juror B37 calling Rachel “uneducated” basing it on her speech impediment and such.

What I thought was even more telling of Juror B37s white female privilege and her clear bias towards George Zimmerman was the fact that when asked by Anderson was she aware of how the case had blown up, she said no.  I would like to know what rock she had been living under prior to her jury selection.  Fundamentally, her white female privilege resulted in a bias that was fully evident that regardless of what was presented, George Zimmerman was going to get a not guilty verdict from her.  Juror B37 scares me because she sounds like the typical moderate, maybe even liberal, who would pepper conversation with “Oh I have black friends” or “I voted for Obama the second time” and it makes me cry out the prayer my mother said many times “Lord, deliver me from liberal white folk.”

Juror B37 is the updated version of Miss Millie from “The Color Purple.”  Much like we are no longer dealing with Jim Crow laws, but the disparity in sentencing laws is very much like we’re dealing with Dr. James Crow, Esq. laws instead.  The juror’s bias was so pronounced and so blatant that I’m beginning to question the prosecution’s voir dire process.  She spoke with such impunity as she retold the story of the trial answering Anderson Coopers questions.  The white female privilege reared its ugly head again as she played the damsel in distress role decrying that the jury instructions and the law itself was too cumbersome to really understand.

White female privilege, as it appears to come off is that not only does it allow one to disbelieve in their own prejudices and automatically think they know another ethnic culture (in turn dismissing the racial and cultural gaps), it allows to them to flip flop between “damsel-in-distress” and supernaturalistic woman mode.  For Juror B37, when it was convenient she was able to tell the difference between credible and non-credible witnesses apparently just by looking at them and how they talked, but suddenly lacked the discerning power to understand the law or take the time to read the jury instructions.  I am bothered that for someone who seemed so overwhelmed with the law wouldn’t have taken more time with it to understand it.  I got the direct impression that rather than take more time, they decided to vote not guilty because it was the easier option!

I specifically say this is a privilege afforded to white women because in comparison the social system favors whites, namely white males, but white women have created a niche for themselves in which they operate from the positions of hegemonic power.  The juror’s seeming dismissal of Trayvon Martin’s life is the lynchpin for her privileged seat of power to say that she was sorry for both Trayvon and George Zimmerman.  It was not a mistake that Jeffrey Toobin, the legal analyst for CNN had a very sharp retort that “Only one of them was dead!” leading another panelist to say “Trayvon Martin is dead; George Zimmerman was inconvenienced.”

At the heart of the emotions surrounding this case is not the letter of the law nor even the spirit of the law, but undergirding issue that black male life is not valued and that for the sake of white sensibilities as evidenced by Juror B37, that it’s okay for the lives of black men to be undervalued.  Juror B37s white female privilege will allow her to go home and sleep soundly tonight.  And if not, the book deal she plans on signing I’m sure will provide her enough money to keep her company at night.

Her white female privilege did not provide a distance analogy enough as a woman who could potentially have a son walking, wearing a hoodie and possibly understand the fear her son could feel if a strange man got out of the car pursuing him.  Nor did she have her hands on a proximate truth that was relevant enough to drive the story home for her.  In grand cinematography, Jake Briggance brought those two concept together in his closing argument, and subsequently won the case for his fictional client in the movie “A Time to Kill.”

The frustration comes from the fact that this so-called “jury of peers” had at least one woman who had zero cultural relevance to the social strata or racial aspects that were in play: justice for Trayvon Martin never had a chance with Juror B37.

The dismantling of this privilege, at least to the point of acknowledging that it exists is the work that has been tasked to those of us who are still here in the land of the living.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

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20 responses to “The White Female Privilege of Juror B37

  1. I believe if George Zimmerman had stayed in his vehicle as adviced by 911 Trayvon would still be here today. I blame Zimmerman for everything. This kid had not done anything wrong, just walking back to his dad’s house from a 7-11 store. He should be in jail.

  2. I think it’s a shame that the author decided to marginalize all liberal white people. Theres a lot of us out there who felt pain, saddness, and shock over the verdict. I dont think this lady is anything close to a liberal…I think she’s a redneck trying her darndest not to sound biased even though she failed miserably (“the way those people live.. They, uneducated,etc.). I know that white privelege exists but most of us are struggling and grinding it out just like everyone else.

    • I was saddened about the message this piece sends. America should be trying to move past racism instead of ascribing and making character assumptions based on race. What good does this message send? How does it help us heal? The law is the law. Don’t blame the jurors -blame, target, and fix the system. Lend support to the victim’s family instead of judging and picking apart the race of a person who did not have the proof to judge as guilty. The system isn’t a great one, but if the author disagrees with it, perhaps he/she should put his/her frustration and efforts towards changing it for the better -I just hope that said author makes the choice to juge with respect to that law without the personal emotion, discrimination, and judgemental behavior that he/she is displaying here. As a nation, we need to move forward with love, understanding, tolerance, and a united effort towards ending violence toward any youth -Caucasian, African American, Mexican American, etc.

      Main entry: racism
      Function: noun
      Date: 1933
      1 : a belief that is the primary of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race 2 : racial or discrimination
      — rac·ist \-sist also -shist\ noun or adjective

    • Lol. So just because someones a redneck makes them racist/biased in this case. Would also like to point out that racism is a two way street there’s been plenty of times when I’ve been singled out for being white , and half the stuff that’s been said to me if I said the “equivalent” back I would have been fired and probably would have had trouble finding for being racist, it’ll take more than just 1 party to drop being racist… Just sayin’

    • @Garrett

      My intention really wasn’t to marginalize white liberalism. I put out on my Twitter TL that my tweets weren’t directed at all whites because in fact the white folk I know are majority liberal. I’ve run into a few who are conservative, but generally the issues of race, religion and politics don’t come up in our discourse. Not to mention, most of the protest marches that I saw were thoroughly mixed race crowds, with Latinos, blacks and whites protesting together.

      However, I think its interesting that you’re so quick to label her a redneck. Which I really don’t think she would qualify for such a designation, let alone the use of that word I don’t think necessarily helps the overall conversation.

  3. Wow! That was extremelu deep and very well put for the ones who will be able to grasp this concept through being able to relate. Thank you for writing!

  4. White privilege is all too real, and I’m 100% in agreement that it came into play in the trial in terrible ways that compounded the tragedy of young Trayvon’s murder. However, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FEMALE PRIVILEGE, and for you to say that is just as ludicrous, offensive, ignorant and irresponsible as someone claiming that “black privilege” exists. A black man does have privilege — male privilege — but for his ethnicity he suffers oppression. A white woman has privilege too — white privilege — but for her gender she suffers oppression. Please educate yourself about “intersectionality” and stop with this nonsense, it’s ignorant and misogynistic. Like your use of the “damsel-in-distress” trope, which is just as demeaning as that of the “uppity negro.” Like your crossing out of the word “protected” so as to imply that women don’t face actual discrimination (if you honestly believe that, you’ve been living under a goddamn rock). And you didn’t even attempt to explain or back up your assertion in this article, other than to say “women have created a niche for themselves in which they operate from the positions of hegemonic power” — which explains precisely NOTHING that white privilege doesn’t already cover so it doesn’t back up your assertion at all. I understand that you might be furious at those jurors right now — I am too — but their femaleness is not the issue. White supremacy, white privilege and systemic racism are the issues. Don’t get it twisted.

    • Amazing…you missed the whole point. And this is why white female privilege, and the blindness that comes with it, continues to exist. The plight of white women on the basis of them being women doesn’t even come close to being comparable to the plight of black men. Grrr…

    • @grrrr

      I stand by my claims of white female privilege because of the sense of entitlement that comes with the white privilege. Some white women feel entitled to certain privileges because of their history of struggle here in this country. I don’t think that’s the worst thing in the world, very much that most non white, non male, non heterosexual people who can document social and political and economic struggle in this country; once certain battles are fought and won they feel entitled to certain privileges and in some cases certain rights. I stand by my claim that white women rank higher in the social order of the metanarrative of this country: they outrank blacks, Latinos, Asians and any other ethnicity of both genders.

      The simple fact that a white woman will be perceived as less of a threat in a criminal case than that of a black male I believe proves my point.

      • You’re doing precisely what you claim that white women do — suggesting that the history of racial struggle somehow negates or erases male privilege. There’s a sense of entitlement that comes with male privilege too, and it needs to be faced if we are to move forward. You can’t see this because you are blind to male privilege in the same way that white people are so often blind to white privilege.

        By the way, focusing on one oppression to the exclusion of others is called playing “Oppression Olympics.” Intersectionality addresses this. Please look into it. http://theangryblackwoman.com/2009/08/02/intersectionality/

        Regarding your belief that white women rank higher in the social order than any men of color, I’m wondering how you reconcile that with the facts of reality. You mention the example of who might be seen as more threatening in a criminal case, which is only one tiny facet of a much larger picture (and conveniently ignores the fact that more violence is committed by men of any ethnicity than by women and therefore such a perception would not be based entirely on prejudice). Look at who’s president of this country. Look at who was granted the right to vote first. Look at the wage gap and the glass ceiling, still just as real as ever (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0882775.html). Look at the statistics for rape and domestic violence. A young black male is in danger when he walks down the street at night, but SO IS A YOUNG WHITE WOMAN. Look at the epidemic of depression and eating disorders among young women who are valued almost exclusively for their appearance. Think about how it feels to learn that your society considers you prey, not fully human (I would think that you might perhaps be able to relate?). Think about all the laws that have been passed or proposed (in the last year alone!) trying to take away women’s right to determine WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR OWN BODIES. Oppression simply does not get any more fundamental than that. Look at how patriarchal religions (and some laws) dictate that women are subordinate and the property of men. Property. Like slaves.

        As the song goes, “WOMAN IS THE N**GER OF THE WORLD.”

        Still I would never say that we have it worse or that anyone does. ALL oppression is an outrage and I will fight to end it all. I was out there in the streets after Trayvon was murdered and after Zimmerman walked. Would you take to the streets for me?

  5. Speaking as a white person of Scottish extraction (I am no fan of “white ‘splaining” to people of color regarding their own experience. I didn’t ask for white privilege, but I must acknowledge that I was always benefit from it regardless of my feelings)…I have to say that “White female privilege was exactly what came to my mind when I saw the interview excerpts. I appreciate what was said above about the lack of female privilege…but white privilege differs between men and women, and it should be examined with that understanding. *

    In any event, after watching her interview, I couldn’t help but think that her insulting, condescending attitude towards Rachel Jeantel is just the sort of thing that would have had my Scottish ancestors sharpening their claidheamh mòr swords and putting new leather grips on the warhammers. It made my skin crawl. She says she felt “sorry” for Rachel? How very smug…how very secure…how very white. Rachel didn’t ask for your pity, B37…she asked for your attention and belief about what she heard in the last moments of Trayvon’s life. But B37 couldn’t yield that to a young woman of color with a vastly different life experience. That would have required surrendering her own preconceptions and expectations. We can’t have that! Pity, however, demands nothing from B37 and actually allows her to feel secure in her “correct” attitudes.

    Lovely.
    *(note: I am a transgendered woman, and I had to learn the hard way about what it means to surrender male privilege. My observations are based on personal, anecdotal experience and not on academic research. As a person with a geology degree, I also freely admit I know nothing about sociology. Dr Edwins Gwako http://www.guilford.edu/academics/academic-programs/academic-departments/african-american-studies/african-american-studies-faculty/ did try to recruit me as an African American studies major at Guilford College, but I declined as I was already almost finished with geology and did not want to start another course of study)

  6. As a white woman, I agree. White people are always saying that we need to move past race but race, which is easy to do when you are white. If you are taking a trip across country, as a white person you have lots of perks like not having to worry about how people are looking at you when you stop to get gas.

    Race is at the core of most of America’s problems. Gun laws in the 70′s came about because the Black Panthers wisely armed themselves. Stand your ground gun laws are the result of the fear of those scary brown skinned people you see on tv. Cuts to Medicaid and foodstamp programs are promoted by the very people who use them because they do not want “those (you know) people to get any help. Government jobs have been demonized because these are venues that created a large African American middle class. Every f*ing thing in this country is about race. We can not right this ship because we are a racist country and we refuse to accept our past.

    I have always believed that this case was about the cold blooded murder of a teenage boy targeted because he was black and in a hoodie but let me confess, when I though of Trayvon I pictured him wearing an oversized hoodie, baggy pants… you know- The Wire. And then I saw the picture of Trayvon lying dead, in his tapered khaki jeans and regular old sweatshirt and white shoes. Looking just like every other teenager in 2013 and I felt sick. There was my white prejudice staring me down, assuming Trayvon must have looked
    kind of threatening and then my shameful tears poured out.

    • Agree with everything you said, Cattieb. I also believe that this country was founded on racism, continually acts on that racism and has yet to even think about moving past racism.

      I doubt that there would be such an outcry against the Affordable Care Act if this were an all White country. The thought of the Blacks/Browns getting healthcare is all that’s needed to make the majority White population say “hell no” to Obamacare..

      Looking forward to a time when Whites will be in the minority and will be forced to give up their privilege and get along with the Black/Brown minority.

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