Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Thoughts on Trayvon

I find myself in a peculiar position... commenting on a incident that has become fodder for national gossip. On top of that, the facts are sketchy at best. No one saw Zimmerman and Martin or could tell you who instigated the fight... not to mention whether Zimmerman truly falls under the Stand Your Ground Law. (Wikipedia has a decent article. CBS has an interesting timeline of how this incident was handled.) Tensions are running high with deep emotions stemming from very personal experiences.

But, as before with Joseph Kony, there are issues beyond just the facts that bother me.

Racism. That ugly word has been slapped all over this incident. What appeared to be a law-abiding citizen defending himself has suddenly been construed to be a vicious attack on a black teenager. Even the President had the nerve to comment on it - an ongoing investigation, I might add - saying infamously, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."

Wow. No pressure there, Florida, to serve up justice. Sheesh. Thanks Mr. President.

I'm pretty tired of hearing the air whistle as that card is whipped out. I heard the slap as it was played during the last federal election and it's already making its voice heard in this current election.

Before you write me off as a nut who lives in white bread West Michigan void of any reality... please understand me. Racism is most certainly not dead. Civil Rights are still violated in many states without regard to the laws of those states. I have read The Help and was outraged, yet humbled by the possibility that had I lived during that tumultuous time, I might have gone along with the social norms simply because it was expected.

Those expectations, social norms, can be so dangerous. We are facing a set of those right now... in this tumultuous time with this very case. The problem is that those expectations are reversed.

George is expected to be proven guilty. The victim is given the highest priority and therefore least culpability. We automatically land with an emotionally appalled "I just can't believe this kind of thing could happen to a young man like this." Well, believe it. This kind of thing does happen and it happens far too often. However, consider the statistics. Young black men feature prominently with hispanic young men on the list of "those most likely to cause trouble" - even if they truly are law-abiding citizens and only want to be left alone. This is not racism. Nor is it racial profiling. It is simply the ugly truth of what police officers are forced to deal with every single day.

As a mother of 2 boys, I cannot imagine what Trayvon's mom is going through - her baby is gone, forever. As a member of a close-knit family, I cannot imagine the trauma the Zimmermans have to deal with as they deflect accusations and uphold George's character even when they don't know the full details of what happened.

However, as a previous white resident in a high-crime predominately black area in Chicago, I can tell you that your perspective on "race" changes drastically when you are confronted daily with people who look different than you. You begin to see each person as simply that - a person. They are not a possible thief or mugger but a person with hopes and dreams. You also begin to read people, taking them at face value, whether alike or different... the way women have intuition. Any woman can tell you the men around whom she has gotten "the creepy" vibe. It doesn't matter what color - people are people. Good or bad.

So what if we take color out of this...

What if there was a 17 year old young man who was acting suspicious in an area with frequent burglaries... meandering in the rain without an umbrella? What if a neighborhood watch guy called it in to the 911 call center in an attempt to do his duty? What if... I could go on.

Isn't it easy - once you take out the color of the young man - to see the neighborhood watch guy's response as logical?!

However, because any situation of this nature has high emotion and adrenaline, either man's frame of mind can and should be questioned. Was the young man just fed up with being suspected of everything and decided to teach this guy a lesson? Was the other guy being "over-dutiful" in his job as neighborhood watch?

Honestly, we will never know, that is largely due to the vast amount of facts mixed in with fiction and repeated by everyone and their grandmother.

I genuinely hope the prosecution can protect the investigation and truly give themselves to the search for the truth of what really happened - not what the President makes known regarding his feelings on the subject.

On that note... may each one of us see the other as a person with inherent dignity and worth given by the Creator.  If we can do that, racism will truly be wiped out.

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