Nate Beeley,

I’ll Be There

Thursday, August 8, 2013
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I’ll be there, I’ll be there. Just call my name and I’ll be there.”

Sitting, listening to those lyrics of the Jackson 5 song “I’ll Be There,” I realize it is a blues. It should be the official song of Trayvon Martin remembrance. Because it reminds us that despite his absence, he will always be with us, watching over us, defending our right to be a man just like other men, to be a woman just like other women, when that manhood, that womanhood, is trampled on, just as he defended his manhood, his humanity that night in Florida.

Trayvon Martin has become the patron saint of America. His death and the acquittal of his murderer, George Zimmerman, expose a sin buried in the heart of racially self-congratulatory America – it cannot accept the black man as a man despite hundreds of years of black self-policing, liberal handwringing, and conservative males repeating that we “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Trayvon reminds us that those last three – the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – are not “self-evident” when it comes to black “men.” A lie Americans tell one another has been revealed. Also revealed is that not a single thing is going to change in the wake of his death, to stop it from happening again, unless we continue to remember Trayvon.

I’ll be there, I’ll be there. Just call my name and I’ll be there.”

If we keep calling his name, then we will have the courage, as a nation, to change. Trayvon’s gift is a challenge most of us will, unfortunately, ignore.

Trayvon’s other gift is permission to speak about the constant harassment, arrest, and murder of black bodies in public spaces.

A young man shows up in the line to get into a club in downtown Santa Barbara. He is black. College educated. Properly dressed. As the admitter turns to let him in, he stops and says, “Your shirt is too baggy.” “What?” the incredulous young man replies. “Your shirt is too baggy.” The young man tries to compose himself. “My shirt is not baggy. It is clinging to my skin.” An unknown white girl standing behind him in the line chimes in. “His shirt is fine.” “Your shirt is too baggy,” are the words that are repeated with the now unrelenting gaze. The young man makes an instantaneous decision. He steps out of the line and goes on down the street, where he is admitted to another club.

Why? Because he knows how this movie will end. To argue further will escalate an already ridiculous situation, attract law enforcement officers, and lead to his arrest. Because his rage at yet another insult to his citizenship may mean he will find himself fighting with this whiteness-enforcer. And if he does so, he will not be considered a patriot, the Samuel Adams of contemporary America, a man defending the equality of men as stated in the Declaration of Independence, his “self-evident right” to the “pursuit of happiness.” He will be just another Trayvon who stood up for himself and was punished.

As one of my colleagues put it, the one emotion black people are not allowed to have in America is anger.

The transcendence of that legacy is captured in the Motown emotion of “I’ll be there.” I have not died in vain, because I have renewed your consciousness.

Look over your shoulder!”

Trayvon will be there every time a person is stopped and frisked without any provocation, every time a customer is followed without having any intention of stealing, every time a person is stopped while driving unimpeachably, every time a person is rejected because of his shirt is “baggy,” every time a person is accosted because he traversed the “wrong” space.

Because Trayvon will say That is wrong.

Jeffrey Stewart chairs the Department of Black Studies, UCSB


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Ideology is EVER so much more satisfying than conclusions based on the whole spectrum of facts. Ideology gets to pick and chose among the facts to suit its tastes. College students gobble it up, as compared to other demographic groups.

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2013 at 1:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The fact is that no white person will ever understand what it is like to be black in America. When they tell White America what it is like, White America doesn't believe them. Even when it's the president, who is half white, but in America he's all black.

spacey (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2013 at 2:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Interesting that someone quotes the Declaration of independence in an attempt to subvert the bill of rights. Travon Martin had the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" just as George Zimmerman was "innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of his peers".

The author seems to want to sacrifice part of the legacy of the founding fathers in order to make up for the violations of those rights in the past by others.

If you believe in our form of government, you can't choose which parts of it to follow only if and when it suits you. It has to apply equally to everyone.

Botany (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2013 at 2:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Complete and worthless drivel. Every decent black family also gives there kids an alternative lecture "Stay away from groups of black youths as you have a higher chance of getting assaulted by them than by any other racial group".
Start screaming about the abject lack of respect for life between blacks and black on black crime before you elevate these cases to the top of your list.

Golda Meir on the Israeli situation "Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs learn to love their children more than they hate us."
Over quoted, yes. Relevant to this situation-yes.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2013 at 2:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As a white male (through no fault of my own) I can certainly attest to being harassed by cops, and if this issue could be expanded to go beyond the spectrum of racial ideology, more headway could be gained. If anything, I tie in my own harassment (and that of people I know) to my belief that it is of utmost importance to ensure that unless we're sure someone is guilty, we don't convict. As I've stated in other posts, while O.J. Simpson's being acquitted was very unpopular--and he *probably* killed Nicole and Ron, from what I saw, the evidence was circumstantial--like the evidence against Zimmerman, and "probably" isn't good enough, but ideology trumps reason.

The dialectic of "you don't know what it's like to be (fill in the blank)" misses the point because it infers that if one isn't of a certain demographic, then they lack humanity. Is Mr. Stewart less qualified to be outraged at the Holocaust because he wasn't Jewish in Europe 70 years ago?

Would Mr. Stewart and those attempting to appease his ideology be willing to address the cause-and-effect of the lack of fathers in black homes? While it appears noble to speak of strong women heading families, the real issue is the psychology being men abandoning their families. Does it bother Mr. Stewart (and other well-paid people in Left-wing academia) that their appeasing white supporters make fun of and despise other white who talk in uneducated double-negatives as being "White Trash" while expecting Blacks to speak that way, even considering it to be cool and trendy? Two words: "Low expectations". On the same note, why do these same self-congratulatory whites call any black person who doesn't speak in the uneducated parlance of the "white trash" they despise as "articulate"?

For me, this is not an issue of race, it's an issue of a man who like O.J., may well have been guilty, but the evidence wasn't enough to convict, but clearly the concept of social justice has been apostatized to fit the vested interests of an ideology of emotion over truth.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2013 at 3:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think I can see the author's point, and spacey's as well. It is not drivel.
At the same time, while able to grok that "the one emotion black people are not allowed to have in America is anger", I do have black friends who have NO problem displaying their appropriate anger.
The issue for me, as a white male and member of this society (with all its inequalities), is that identity politics is overwhelming most other discourse.
No, I can never feel the pain of a woman having a child or enduring job discrimination in pay. I can't feel the pain that anti-Semitism causes to Jews. I can't feel the full pain of being elderly and talked down to, but obviously I've seen it. I can't really understand Stewart's pain, but do have respect for it. However, if we end up a howling wilderness of each and every group, certainly all of them important, pushing just for ameliorization of their own pain... how are we unified? How do we get anything done?
I can't respect the one-issue people who are only about their precious gun rights. Another e.g. is that while likely to vote for HB Jackson, she has been quite one-dimensional in favoring women. She supported "take your daughter to work" but had no time for father's "taking their sons to work" program.
These are tough issues.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2013 at 3:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

DrDan: What you are experiencing (I am assuming--so forgive me if I'm wrong) is what I experienced some years ago which is the crisis of realizing that those who claim to represent your views, really don't.

As an "Old School" liberal, I am very disturbed at how the civil rights/feminist movements are more about us versus them then about bringing people together. The fact that we went from Martin Luther King--an idealist who gave his life for his beliefs and who preached "we must learn to live together as brothers lest we die as fools" to the likes of Al Sharpton who's claim to fame was lying about the Tawana Brawley case ( is indicative of where we're going as a country, and yes, Jackson is inconsistent as well: I called into the Paul Berenson Show one day when she was a guest back in 2007. She had been going on about how she was against the U.S.'s war against Iraq and I agreed with her. However, she was also saying that she supported Hilary Clinton in large part because "all things being equal" it was time for a woman president. I pointed out that her argument was not consistent because Clinton was pro-war while Dennis Kucinich (who was still in the hunt for the nomination for president) was totally against the war. She could only respond that Kucinich had no chance of winning. Once again, agenda over consistency.

What we're seeing today is not about helping the underrepresented, but so-called leaders dividing us. This is NOT what people put their lives on the line for back in the 60's when they hit the streets protesting.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2013 at 3:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Speaking of Rev. Sharpton, I wish someone at MSNBC would tell him that on TV, you don't need to overcome the distance with sheer lung power.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2013 at 5:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Are we sure that a black guy who made himself white and had white kids(?)
the one to sing the "official" Trayvon Martin song.
Stevie Wonder would is a better choice as he never turned his back on his community and is truly color blind-oops!

garfish (anonymous profile)
August 8, 2013 at 6:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Jeffrey Stewart is proof that you can be stupid, ignorant, and a bigot and still chair an academic department. Poor lil Jeff is probably self loathing which would help to explain his lack of personal responsibility.
DD and bc both get it right by acknowledging that these are obviously multiple point issues and that by professing juvenile explanations of complex problems we do not get closer to actually solving the problem.
But hey Jeff, keep fueling the fire of your shrinking percentage of sycophants. I look forward to your next post so that I can stay current with the views of race baiting pea brains.

A Brown Guy that is American having immigrated from Italy, but looks like a Mexican

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
August 9, 2013 at 7:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't see race. I just see cars going around in a circle. That being said, Trayvon got what he had coming.

SBLifer (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 10:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

SBLifer, you're making some people rethink their plans to purchase Skittles and Iced Tea.

ahem (anonymous profile)
August 31, 2013 at 9:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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