Since news of third-year UVA student Martese Johnson's brutal and unjustifiably violent arrest came in a week ago, there have been some important updates to the story: first and most importantly, that 20-year-old Johnson was not attempting to use a fake ID, as earlier, unconfirmed reports (and my earlier blog post) had suggested; second, that—as per Johnson's lawyer and the bouncer working the door at Trinity Irish Pub—the holdup stemmed from a zip code discrepancy (Johnson had moved in recent years, and his ID was four years old); third, that Johnson, according to that bouncer, seemed sober and cordial and "just disappointed he didn't get in."
Another photo has come out of the night of his arrest, showing him in chains:
"I go to UVA" is a nasty little golden ticket, born of a frothy mix of classism and institutional racism, and it's doled out to only those certain African Americans that ventured into the hallowed white spaces deemed off limits just a generation before (UVA didn't integrate until 1972). I used it exactly twice, once while being harassed by a shop owner at a store across the street from where Martese Johnson was beaten, and once more when I was being stared down by a cop that pulled me over.
I was lucky it worked.
"I go to UVA" is used sparingly, as a black person you know that at best it bestows a few minutes of privilege upon you that white kids at UVA take for granted. The image of Martese Johnson beaten and bloodied, screaming "I go to UVA" exposes the greatest, deepest fear that every single one of us had at UVA — that nothing protects us. That no matter how well-spoken you are, what clubs you're a part of, or who you're with, you can be infantilized, emasculated, and stripped of all your hard work, and public status in the blink of an eye.
Image courtesy Martese Johnson
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