In the days following the fallout from the “Not Guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, I, like many others, have had to do some soul-searching. As I watched the newscasts, read the blogs and witnessed the public outrage on social media, I began to look at the implications this case has for me, personally.
Of course, during the trial and in the nearly 18 months preceding it, it was easy for me to identify with young Trayvon Martin. Like thousands of others, I threw my hoodie up, spoke out and even wrote a few blogs on the matter. While no one truly knows exactly what happened in that gated community on the night of February 26, 2012, it is still unfathomable to me that an unarmed teenager was shot and killed and his admitted killer was set free.
However, as I reflect on the drama of these past 18 months, I came to the realization that, while it is much easier for me to identify with Trayvon Martin, I’m more like George Zimmerman than I would care to admit.
No, I have never shot and killed an unarmed teen for “looking suspicious” while walking home from a convenience store, but I have discovered at least five things about me that I have in common with George Zimmerman.
1. I have a tendency to judge others.
Trayvon Martin is dead today ultimately because George Zimmerman saw a young black kid in his neighborhood wearing a hoodie (in the rain, mind you) and automatically assumed that he was a criminal. It was this prejudgment of someone who didn’t fit his schema of who had the right to be walking down his street that set off the chain of events that led to Trayvon’s death.
Likewise, I often place people in categories based upon my own biases or experiences. And as much as we might hate to admit it, most of us do the same.
It’s easy to believe that because a few kids (possibly some of them black) had broken into a few homes in the neighborhood, that any black kid walking through the neighborhood had to be there to do the same. It’s easy to think that because some white people are racist that all whites hate blacks. It’s easy to think that the homeless man on the street is there because he’s lazy or just likes to get drunk or high.
That’s easy … but it’s also wrong.
When we judge someone based upon our perception of a larger group, that is called profiling. George Zimmerman was guilty of it that night in February, and I have been guilty of it many nights since.
I have discovered, however, that one of the best cures for judgement is communication. It’s hard to judge a person when you seek to know and understand him or her.
How different would the Trayvon Martin saga have played out if, instead of stalking him, George Zimmerman simply rode up to Trayvon, introduced himself, asked him how we was doing and about his family? He would have learned that the boy lived a few blocks away and was walking home in the rain from the store. Who knows, maybe George would have given him a ride home instead of a bullet to the heart.
This leads to the second way I am like George Zimmerman …