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Thoughts On Trayvon

April 8, 2012

The more I read about the death of Trayvon Martin, the more upset I feel.  It was such an avoidable tragedy and I feel like people are using his death to promote their political views.  It almost seems like some people want another riot, specifically the media.  I also feel like if you speak up about this as a public figure, you are also obligated to speak up when additional wrongs are added to the situation, like placing a bounty on Zimmerman’s head.  I think President Obama should condemn that behavior and am still hoping he will.

I grew up in the Seattle area and as a child, I didn’t know racism existed.  All I knew was that I loved our black neighbors across the street.  We had water fights, BBQ’s, and when they had one of their baby boys, I told his mom with no shame that I loved the feel of his hair.  It was different than mine.  I was maybe 8 years old and was overjoyed to meet him.  Moving away from our friends was one of the hardest things for me.  They still live on that street and I keep hoping that there will be an affordable house we can buy there someday.  How I would love for my kids to get to know them!

I didn’t know racism existed until a class in school.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I wanted to cry.  Why would a human being treat another human being that way?  Years later as I was walking to school with a neighbor girl, another girl wanted to walk with us.  I didn’t know her very well, but my neighbor said, “Come on, let’s walk ahead of her.”  I had no idea why she said that, but it was mean.  I told her, “No, you can walk ahead by yourself.”  It didn’t occur to me then that maybe it was because she was black, but my mom thought her parents were racist and had taught her to behave that way.  Whatever her reason was, I never tolerated being cruel to anyone and I lost a lot of respect for the girl I had played with for years.

I don’t know what it’s like to be black.  One of my dearest friends tells me stories about how she never learned to swim because she wasn’t allowed in the pool when she was a kid.  I forget sometimes that it wasn’t that long ago in our history that African Americans were treated that way.  She has encountered racism more times than she can count and people have even said to her, “But Martin Luther King came and fixed all of that.”  She still runs into situations where it is obvious to her that a potential employer is racist.  I wondered how can you tell the difference between a person not liking your personality or perhaps not liking you for another bogus reason, but I take her word for it when she says she knows it when it happens.  She and her colleagues were repeatedly passed up for promotions when they had more seniority.

So I was thinking about what it was like to be Trayvon Martin and the things said about him.  How many times was he mistreated because of the color of his skin or stereotypes that young black males wearing certain clothing are thugs?  I think I would start to feel pretty angry and if I were approached on a dark, rainy night by some random guy, I would probably feel threatened.  If he did punch George Zimmerman and beat his head on the ground, maybe he felt like it was to defend himself?  Was he too scared to say, “Hey, sir.  I’m just visiting so and so.”?

According to reports, there had been a lot of burglaries in George Zimmerman’s neighborhood and the perpetrators were described as black.  Based on the full 911 call, Zimmerman was calling due to Trayvon’s behavior and it didn’t sound like he was moving from Point A to Point B.  I can understand finding the behavior suspicious, but it frustrates me to no end that he didn’t just call the police and let them do their job.  I also know the frustration of not catching criminals and the police only being able to do so much, but there is a reason they are cops and we aren’t!  They are recognized as authority figures.  A person on a neighborhood watch is not.  One doesn’t know the difference between a guy trying to protect his neighborhood and someone who wants to hurt you.  If that were to happen to me, I might wonder if the guy were going to rape me or something and I don’t think I would respond too kindly either.

I understand the anger that Zimmerman wasn’t arrested.  I think he caused the situation and should at the very least be charged with manslaughter, but I also know it can take a while to build a case before a person is arrested.  It angers me though that it was automatically assumed Zimmerman is racist.  I don’t know.  Maybe he is.  But I suspect what happened that night was a combination of fear and bad judgment.

Whatever happens, I’m afraid it’s going to cause another riot that results in innocent people being assaulted and murdered, but without question, once again it will be because of the color of their skin.  This of course is counterproductive when it comes to trying to improve race relations.

We are all brothers and sisters.  I wish everyone knew that.  I wish everyone could have their preconceived notions about others erased and we could all wake up one day feeling like innocent children again.

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