Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Practicing What I Preach

I have deliberately not published anything on my blog about the Trayvon Martin case because emotions were so high and I don't know if I could have said anything anyone wasn't saying better or more clearly. But the events of the other night have me thinking about it and are central to some of the things I want to say. So here goes...

The only black hoodie my son owns has the Shakespeare Tavern logo on the back of it. That being said, had it been my son walking down the street in a black hoodie that night, I can't 100% say he would still be alive today. But I know, for a fact, that he had a better chance than Trayvon Martin did.

I also believe, had that been my son, that more care would have been taken in the investigation. A harder look taken at George Zimmerman's attitude, disobeying a 911 operator, failing to identify himself, having previous assault arrest record, etc. I believe the witnesses would have been questioned more carefully. I believe my son's hoodie would have been handled with more care. Placed in a paper bag instead of a plastic one. That is the part that bothers me the most...they put the hoodie in a plastic bag knowing it would contaminate the DNA evidence. Was it carelessness...or an attitude that this case was done and no further investigation was required?

The thing that frustrates me the most is the media's polarizing representation of both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. If either the conservative or liberal media (FYI people, they both have an agenda.) had taken this opportunity to report facts and open up dialogue, perhaps change could occur. But instead they go to their corners, scream, point fingers and twist details to suit their version. And we the people, follow after them blindly.

Here are three things I think we need to discuss in light of the Trayvon Martin case:
1) Discrimination...it is so much more than just a black/white thing. I realize George Zimmerman identified himself as white but he has a Hispanic background as well and we desperately need to take a more thorough look at racism, where it comes from and how to change it.

2) Culture...Trayvon Martin thought guns and drugs were cool. Where did he get that idea? A culture that tells him so. Music that glorifies drugs, violence, gangs, mistreatment of women. To the upper middle class mom driving a minivan and wondering why "those people" listen to "that kind of music" I'd bet money your kids are listening to it as well. To the parent who is relieved their kid listens to country music...have you listened to the lyrics? How many songs refer to women's body parts as "money makers" or talk with glee about smoking pot and drinking?

3) Our own prejudices...don't try to sugar coat it, justify it, or ignore it. For many of us, it is a culture or environment. For others, a family tradition. And for others...well, just plain ignorance. For all of us, it needs to be faced and dealt with so that we are free to live in community.

The other night I was driving home from the theatre and just a couple of miles from my house there was a man walking down the road. I noticed that he wasn't wearing a shirt, that he was a black male, and he was walking funny. I've had years of experience in watching a drunk man walking but this guy wasn't drunk. He walked like he was hurting. He was also walking on the road as opposed to the side walk. I couldn't tell his age since he was walking in the same direction I was driving so I couldn't see his face.

I wanted to stop. I wanted to help. But I was afraid. And I made myself ask the question, would I have been less afraid if the guy had been white? For a second, I was afraid of what I was going to find out about myself but I can honestly say, no. I was scared either way. But I knew that I was supposed to offer the guy a ride. By then, I'd already passed him so I had to turn around. He was actually an older gentleman. I pulled up and asked if he needed a ride. He seemed alarmed...and then puzzled. He told me he was okay, that he was almost home. I said okay and started to roll up the window. He wanted to know "why did you ask if I needed a ride?" I explained that I'd passed by, knew he was hot, and had observed he was walking like he was in pain. He admitted his legs were tired and hurting...he'd been working and then had to walk home. I again offered to give him a ride the rest of the way. It took more time than I thought for him to get that I just wanted to do something nice. He asked if I wanted him to clean my car. I said no but thank you and explained I have teenagers who do things like that. He asked if I wanted my grass cut. I think in this conversation he was trying to figure out what the white woman wanted and I started thinking he was in need of money. I explained again that me and my kids did that kind of stuff, that I didn't have the money to pay anyone to do it and if he was sure he didn't need a ride, I was going to finish my way home.

When I got home, I told the kids about it and we talked about how hard it was for the man to understand I just wanted to be nice. Then Trey remembered something. Getting on Facebook he showed me a meme that said "I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman stopped and asked Trayvon Martin if he needed a ride home." Looking at me, Trey said "You are part of creating that world Mom"

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