I am sure if you are reading this you are already familiar with the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case. If you’re not, then briefly; it is about a black teenager (Trayvon Martin) who was shot by a white man on his way back from the store while carrying an iced tea and a bag of Skittles. The white man (George Zimmerman) in an attempt to protect his neighborhood follows Trayvon, an altercation takes place (exact details are unknown) and Zimmerman ends up shooting Martin through the chest from feet away. Zimmerman uses Florida’s “stand your ground” law as his defense and he is let go by police.
This story has intrigued me since it first happened, when someone claimed “this isn’t a black and white thing… it’s a right and wrong thing.”
As soon as I heard it and every time I hear it…. I shake my head.
Let’s be honest. We all know that’s not true. If it were true this situation would not have become the chaotic circus it has and certain “establishments” would not have become involved, on both sides.
But I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about the general problem with ALL of us and the simple solution that would solve so much profiling, fear and misunderstanding. So, before picking a side, put yourself in each of their shoes.
To stay true to the “not a black and white thing” statement I will leave all color details out. Let’s view the story with an open mind and look at what can be done to avoid this continuing to happen because, this isn’t a remote situation, this happens all over the country, every day.
On one hand you’e a teenager out late at night, minding your own business, just going to the store for iced tea and skittles. Suddenly there is an adult man following you. It is not your imagination, he is keeping pace, taking the same turns… he is definitely following you.
On the other hand, you’re an adult man who is aware of a string of burglaries that have taken place in your neighborhood. You have reported these break-ins along with the victims of the crimes and watched as the perpetrators were let go. Suddenly there is an unfamiliar teenager walking through your neighborhood.
Doesn’t it seem, when the colors are removed, such a simple conundrum? The answer to the above problem is an easy one: COMMUNICATION.
If you are an adult and see a strange teenager walking around your neighborhood, be polite and ASK THEM IF YOU CAN HELP THEM! Sure, call 911 if you feel you need to but-
when did we stop giving each other the benefit of the doubt? Better yet, did we ever?
It works both ways. If you are a teenager being followed by an adult- you KNOW they think you are up to something. If you know you are not, stop, be polite and ask them if you can help them!
See how simple that is?
Pretty painless if done at the beginning of the meeting and not later when the fear and anxiousness has escalated to the point the conversation is nothing more than short, shouted words of anger.
You tell me. Had George Zimmerman stopped Trayvon Martin when he first saw him and politely said “Hi. I’m with neighborhood watch and we’ve had several burglaries in the neighborhood. I’ve never seen you around before, are you here visiting someone?” Trayvon Martin could have replied “yes, I am visiting my father, he lives at _______ .”
As you go about your day to day life count how many instances you had a chance to talk to someone but didn’t, judging them solely on their appearance. This isn’t a remote problem, this is everywhere and it will never change unless we can be open, honest and not fear each other… no matter what color we may be. We’d be surprised to learn how much we have in common.