It’s been a little over a week now since we heard the verdict and I’m going to be honest, I have made a fairly diligent effort to avoid most of the internet chatter about the Trayvon Martin case since learning of George Zimmerman’s acquittal. It’s not because I don’t think it’s an incredibly important conversation and it’s not because I’m lacking emotion regarding the issues at hand. Rather, the last few days I have found it more valuable for me to stop and listen than to speak.
I am a white woman, I always have been and I always will be. It’d be false to say as such I have never experienced my own amount of prejudicial oppression, but it’d also be ignorant for me to think it stands out in comparison to many others’ experiences.
I know the fear that has been spoken of in this case; the fear of walking down the street that keeps you looking over your shoulder, praying you remain unscathed. The difference is, more often than not, those who are a threat to me are the “bad guys,” not the people that are supposed to be good or worse, those who are put in to place to protect and serve the community.
After mulling it over in my head I decided that today at work, during our morning discussion I was going to approach the topic in an effort to continue the current cultural dialogue, as well as to listen to the hearts of some multi-race men that know what it feels like to be profiled with extreme familiarity.
We started the group by discussing the logistics of the case and then moved on to talk about the feelings that the loss of Trayvon invoked. I listened as a man, a friend of mine, spoke about his fear of walking anywhere late at night, afraid that he might be arrested or attacked for looking suspicious. As he shared I watched as each man nodded, affirming that they too have had these fears.
I listened as each man spoke of the heartbreak they felt over what they believe is injustice for Trayvon Martin and watched as a usually stoic man broke down in tears over the matter stating, “I’d almost prefer the overt racism of the past over this…this makes us either look like we really are to blame or like we’re crazy for feeling attcked. At least then I knew where I stood in their eyes back then.”
In these words, I am not trying to debate who did what on the fateful night Trayvon lost his life, but what I know and see clearly is that people are hurting. And although we as a nation may have taken steps forward in the way we value diversity, we still have a ways to go.
Each day we are granted the opportunity to love one another and cherish life, to treat others in a way that says I’m listening and you matter. My hope, my prayer, my longing is that we figure out how to come together and embrace those moments.