All my life I’ve been the kid on the edges. You know the one; the one sitting on the side of the playground, reading. She’s the one pretending it doesn’t hurt to be left out or made fun of. The one standing along the bleachers at the high school dance, bouncing along to the music that no one asks to dance. She’s the one that’s learned to do things on her own. No one’s going to ask her to join them. It hasn’t been easy, and sometimes it has been very hard, but there’s an advantage to knowing how to do things on your own.

That life I have integrated into myself and embrace it. I am who I am and make no apologies for that. I’m a libertine, a polyamorist, pansexual, lover of life who makes her own way mainly by brute force and sheer determination. Would I like to have a clique? Sure. Then when things go horribly wrong I have someone to blame. I only have a small group of very good friends who remind me that when things blow up in my face, it’s my responsibility. They also come to the front and help me celebrate life’s victories. Those are many and they are sweet because I got there on my own.

I have battles I choose to fight. One of which is bullying. Of course, bullying comes in many forms including; abuse, rudeness and racism. To me, all of these are just bullying. They don’t always take priority; I simply don’t have that much energy. Which form I’m battling depends on what’s happening in my life. This time it’s racism.

By now, everyone’s heard of Trayvon Martin and how he was gunned down by a bully. Yes, George Zimmerman was nothing more than a bully with a gun and a stupid Florida law behind him. There are so many issues here that I want to address that it’s hard to keep them from crowding each other out. However, recent events in my personal life pushed me towards making a statement.

Let me say I never intended to say nothing. This is such a huge issue I felt it was vital, as a writer, to take my time and really mull over what I felt and wanted to say about this. This is not a simple situation and, as a Canadian and a writer, I felt it would be irresponsible to pound out words said in the heat of the moment. Now I’ve had a chance to think about it and I have something to say.

I am no stranger to racism. Growing up, my father was a closet racist. He held to the idea that “those” people were inferior, but tried to keep that to himself. I loved my father, don’t think I didn’t. I was very close to him but I heard the “jokes” and the snide comments. They were very subtle and I only heard it as I stood at the periphery of the adults speaking. When I got a bit older I questioned this attitude and the rest of my family defended him. It was harmless, I was told. Or, I was told that he was simply pointing out a truth about a certain culture. Indians drink, for example. Blacks like hot weather (please don’t ask me how this one came to be. I’m not sure myself).

As an adult I protested this subtle racism and was pushed to the edges of my family. I was being over-sensitive. I should learn to live and let live. I was tilting at windmills. Yet, my mother contended that Chinese were the best accountants and my father insisted that blacks were best at blue collar jobs. Finally I told my family that it had to stop or I would never talk to them again. Luckily, it never came to that.

I have friends from all walks of life; asian, white, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, pagan, black, you name it. I try to respect everyone’s beliefs and am very curious about their lives (which generally leads me to asking questions other people don’t ask). It was a shock, then, to be the victim of this subtle racism I’ve fought against all my life.

One of my friends is Polish and is very proud of his heritage. I ask questions and try, in vain, to pronounce his name as it’s meant to be said. Usually I give up and revert back the Anglicized version of his name. Recently, he posted a picture on Facebook with a caption in Polish. I assumed it said something positive so I posted, “I agree”. The picture was pretty.

He sent a message back to me saying how rude I was to post in English on a Polish posting. That I shouldn’t have said anything and stayed in my place. I wondered why my place suddenly became the back of the bus. When I replied, I pointed out that ostracising someone based on their culture or language was racism. He didn’t like that. I cried.

So let’s go back to Trayvon Martin. I would like to make a comment about Florida’s “stand your ground” law. From what I understand, this allows a person to shoot first and ask questions later. Okay. I’m Canadian and maybe I’m being a bit dense on this, but it seems that this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.

Let’s do a comparison. A police officer, in most places around the world, has to train for months, learn the laws of the land, take counselling and generally prove he is worthy of both the badge and the gun. If a shooting does occur, an inquiry is called. He is questioned by his superiors and by the local internal affairs department, has to fill out paperwork and takes more counselling. In all of this he MUST have “just cause”. This means he has to be able to prove, beyond a doubt, that he believed his life or the life of someone else was in imminent danger.

In Florida, if I understand right, if you’re a private citizen all you need to have is a gun. This law says that the owner of said gun only needs to PRESUME the threat of imminent danger. The danger doesn’t actually need to be there. No one sees a problem here? What about a gun-happy idiot like Zimmerman who was told by the 911 operator to take no action? No. Zimmerman creates some imaginary threat in his head and kills a boy with skittles in his pocket. I imagine there are unicorns and werewolves in Zimmerman’s world, too.

Now, why was Martin killed? He was a black kid wearing a hoodie. That was the threat. I’m not sure which Zimmerman found more threatening; the hoodie, the fact he was black or the skittles. Skittles can be scary, you know. That whole “taste the rainbow” sure sounds ominous to me.

Racism is such an odd creature. I’m not sure I understand the idea of ostracising or hurting someone because they’re different. To tell me I can’t comment because I don’t know the language is patently silly. To shoot a boy because he’s a black kid wearing a hoodie is criminal. All of it is just sad.

My heart goes out to the family of Trayvon Martin. I would like to show my support but, as there are so many ribbons out there, I’m choosing a different method. I’m going to wear a hoodie for Trayvon. Maybe if more people wore them, people like Zimmerman wouldn’t find them so frightening.

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