A few days ago, I was having lunch with a good friend who is Korean-American, and she told me that when she heard about the bombings at the Boston Marathon—the marathon itself being something she knew nothing about and immediately associated with white people—she found that she had a hard time…well, caring. I’m sure that sounds shocking to many people. But it didn’t shock me. Because I was having the same feelings myself.
I really noticed it a few months back, during coverage of the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings. As news outlet after news outlet flashed photograph after photograph of mostly white children across TV screens and computer screens alike, I felt something I hadn’t remembered ever feeling before upon hearing of the brutal murder of children: I felt numb. Not numb in the way that people in shock feel numb. Not numb because of the great weight of what had happened. This was a different kind of numbness.
I couldn’t help but think about Trayvon Martin. He wasn’t an elementary school kid when he was shot and killed by a racist with a gun, but he was just a 17-year-old boy, unarmed, walking down the street with a bag of Skittles. I thought of countless other Black youth who have been murdered by crazed gunmen with badges and police uniforms in the last few years. I also thought about the hundreds of brown children in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan who have been killed by US forces on the ground and by drone strikes. I thought about how many times I didn’t see any of their faces, smiling and innocent, splashed across the TV or the internet for days and weeks on end. I thought about how white people I know weren’t posting links to stories about those children and what had happened to them. That they weren’t writing Facebook statuses about how unbearable those kids’ deaths were. And, seeing pictures of those little blonde children—because the blonde ones are always featured most prominently—I felt numb.