Take a look at the pictures below…
Now take a look at this meme below. I came across this meme on Instagram a couple of days ago. The imagery brought the idea that so many expressed verbally, to life… and it had an impact on me.
I looked at the meme above as unbiased as I possibly could be… but the images stirred up a shameful reality in me. I took time to introspect on my personal biases and views and forced myself to accept some hurtful truths. I concluded that if Trayvon was white and Zimmerman was black:
- I would have probably been saddened by the fact that a black Zimmerman killed a white teenager but I probably would not have been as infuriated as I was in regards to the black Trayvon. The reasons being: his image is one that I can relate to. My brother, uncles, many of my cousins, relatives and friends are black males and have been wrongfully treated based solely on the initial knowledge of their color/race. So, because of these experiences, my first thought in cases like Trayvon’s is possible racism. In addition, I lived in South Florida for 7 years and it was the only place in the United States where I encountered outright racism towards me and friends and have witnessed racial profiling committed.
- The image of the black Zimmerman, just by looking at the picture, would have caused me, unfortunately, to criminalize him in my mind before knowing the matter. Truth be told, within the USA and Western countries we have been brainwashed by the media to criminalize minority men, especially when they come in the shades of brown. The darker they are, the more likely we are to criminalize them just by looking at them. Now, I am a woman of color but even I have seen that I too have been affected by this brainwashing and am earnestly trying to break the habit
I would like to emphasize, that the Media is not TOTALLY to blame in regards to stereotypes, racial profiling and criminalizing black males. Shamefully and sadly, SO MANY BLACK MALES fit the stereotype.
As much as we do not want to hear it, stereotypes exist because there are those who fit them. In regards to black males, specifically in the inner cities, many have been raised in poverty and around criminal elements. Naturally, several are products of the environment that raised them and lacked the examples and motivation they needed to be productive citizens in their society. What worsens the matter is that the media capitalizes on their vulnerabilities and continues to portray this “hood” and “thug” image as “manly” in relations to black males in particular, to the point that they even glamorize it, eg. through rappers and actors with the typical “black” roles. Thus, the cycle continues.
I must admit, I was one of the people at the Million Hoodies March for Trayvon Martin in the streets of Manhattan after I heard about the situation. I was infuriated and I wanted justice for this teenage black, male that I didn’t know but could relate to him and his parents’ pain. An unarmed teenager with a hoody on, with skittles and ice tea in his hands was shot and killed by what seemed to be a racist, overzealous crime watch volunteer. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back…. and I guess many people felt the same way too.
It wasn’t Zimmerman’s race that infuriated me because, to me, he looks Hispanic not necessarily Caucasian. Nevertheless, you don’t have to be Caucasian to be a racist. What infuriated me was the fact that the Sanford police let him walk after he killed the young man and hearing the 911 tape when Zimmerman said “those niggers always get away.” It boiled my blood and I instantly felt like he was a racist looking for a reason to kill a black person. Now, in all honesty, that may not necessarily be true. Not everyone that has used the word “nigger” is necessarily a racist. However, it’s so hard to remove that element when it comes to this case. I was on the “Justice for Trayvon Martin” bandwagon representin’ HARD! Until I came across the video below that caused me to pause, reflect and try to look at the situation from a broader perspective:
After listening to what this gentleman had to say, I tried to put myself in Zimmerman’s shoes and came to these conclusions:
- According to records, there were a lot of burglaries in the area and it’s only HUMAN to be suspicious of a hooded individual, at night, walking alone in the area under those circumstances.
- If Zimmerman shot Trayvon to save his own life, according to Florida law, it may be excusable. Can you blame him if he was getting his butt whooped and felt that his life was being threatened? I wouldn’t stay there and let anyone whoop my butt and would find whatever possible way to stop them, especially if they were winning. It’s human nature.
- This is where Zimmerman messed up. He was told to stand down and he didn’t. He took action that he was not supposed to and brought about a situation that would not have happened if he would have adhered to what he was told. This is where I believe he should be held responsible, to some extent, for the action he took and the consequences.
- Sanford police were trying to do their job but messed up when they let Zimmerman walk after shooting and killing that young man.
I may have veered away from the point a bit but all this was a part of my thought process while trying to conclude if this case would be a lot different if Trayvon was white and Zimmerman was black.
Taking all the above into consideration (plus other thoughts and facts that came across my mind that is not included in this post) I honestly believe, that if the white version of Trayvon was lying dead on the grass and the black version of Zimmerman was the killer, the Sanford Police, on initial sight of the crime scene, would NOT have let black Zimmerman walk the way they did “white” Zimmerman.
I believe the law would EVENTUALLY set everything straight and Zimmerman would be out on bail… well…. actually… if Zimmerman was black… there would probably be no bail for him or it would be excessively high.
My assumption is that when Sanford police initially came to the scene, stereotyping, racial profiling and criminalizing definitely took place according to what they saw: A black hooded male shot dead by a “white” male (plus the information from the 911 call made by Zimmerman) This is why they let Zimmerman walk. And you know what? I can’t blame the police for that either. How many times have scenarios like this taken place and the black male that was shot was ACTUALLY a criminal! Yet, this particular action that the Sanford police took in this matter is what sparked this entire “Justice for Trayvon Martin” uproar and movement.
The reality is, as much as we no longer want racism (on both sides of the spectrum) and stereotypes to exist, they are not going anywhere anytime soon. These stereotypes, strengthened by the experiences many of us have had, the Media’s portrayal and those who fit them, causes us to NATURALLY react (eg. racial profiling, criminalizing and victimizing) to the biases we have formed because of them.
It will take a whole lot of conscious effort on all of our behalves to eliminate racism and stereotypes. It is NOT impossible though. The question is: Are we willing to make the effort beyond the fact that our effort may not be acknowledged immediately or may never be acknowledged in our life time? Beyond the fact that we may still be hurt in the process? Are we willing to sacrifice our own feelings, hurts or even ourselves to eliminate the monsters that are racism and stereotyping?
Something to think about…