Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Dividing Nation (Part 1)

          When I first heard of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman situation, I wasn't sure whose side I was on; but, then, that was because I didn't have all the facts. It's easy to come to an arbitrary conclusion with preconceived assumptions, when one doesn't have all the fact. The assumptions being: "The kid shouldn't have been dressed like that in the first place. He was out looking for trouble!" Or, "You know he was a trouble-maker; he'd just gotten suspended from school!" "That's just another thug off the streets!" How about the assumptions: "Zimmerman was no more than a wanna-be cop, looking for someone to push around!" Or, "That toy cop was out looking for someone he could bully!" "He was prejudice, anyway! Everybody knew it!"
          The truth is, we tend to--in this society--assume to know everything about a person just by looking at them, or spending 10 minutes in their presence.  We assume to know why a person does what he or she does by the look on their faces, the way they dress, their status in life...even by their past history. In this society, being in trouble once or twice means you're a troubled person...period. Coming from a poverty background means you're low-class, and not capable of doing something so simple as commanding the King's English.
          I don't know much about either Trayvon or Zimmerman, aside from what the media says. But, what I do know is the automatic prejudices of people, and I know this from personal experience. Being an extremely light-complexioned, so-called "black" or "African-American" woman, I suffered prejudice--even from within my own household--at a very young age. It was said I thought I was better than others because of my skin-tone, when I wasn't even old enough to know the differences of skin-tones, or what it meant! I was called chicken-sh-t color by my step-grandmother whenever I upset her, and "high-yellow" by everyone else! By the time I was a teen, I was the "white" cousin or Baby Red! As I got older, it was said I talked too proper to which I tried changing my diction in an  attempt to sound more "black"---whatever that sounds like, in hopes of fitting in. I've always had a High IQ and was told because of it, I thought I was better than everyone else! Of course, I thought no such thing! Because of people's attitudes and statements, I've--to this day--never put my Degree on the wall. Not in 30 years!
          Now, as a disabled person on a fixed income (after having mastered several Professional jobs and two micro businesses of my own), I'm treated like an imbecile who don't understand basic English and/or can't fill out a simple form. It's not just frustrating, it's downright insulting! What does any of this have to do with Trayvon vs Zimmerman, you might ask? Everything!
          The first thing the media pointed out about Trayvon was the hoodie he was wearing, as though wearing a hoodie automatically makes one of questionable character, if not a low-life criminal or thug! It was February, a hoodie was appropriate attire for said month; not to mention, hoodies are popular with all teens, everywhere. The second thing mentioned was he had just recently been suspended from school, as though this automatically made him a problem person. And, yes, I know why he was suspended...for being young, impressionable and stupid! But, that didn't make him a bad kid, no more than showing extremely bad judgement on that fateful day makes Zimmerman a bad man.
       I did read somewhere that George Zimmerman had been turned down for the police department before, but who hasn't? Oftentimes, it's simply because one didn't pass the written or physical exam. However, it was noted (from prior police reports) that he had a history of a temper and violent behavior, which should have kept him from ever being issued a gun permit in the first place. I'm still not saying he was a bad person, as it was also reported how he worked with troubled teens and treated the African-American teens no different than the others. In fact, in early 2011, Zimmerman participated in a citizen forum at the Sanford City Hall (in Florida), to protest the beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white Sanford police officer. During the meeting, Zimmerman called the behavior of officers on duty "disgusting." So, what happened on February 26, 2012? How did these two people collide? I'll tell you how...via social prejudice! Determining a person's character, intentions, even their worth by how they look, act, talk, dress, and by where they live.
          It didn't matter that Trayvon belonged to a family living in the same "gated" community that Zimmerman also lived in. To Zimmerman, he was a hoodlum...plain and simple; at least, that's what Zimmerman saw. A young African-American man with a little swag in his walk--trying to look cool like kids do. Instead of a pair of slacks with a button down shirt and sweater--and, of course, the unsuspecting windbreaker--he had on a pair of jeans and a hoodie, of all things! Did I mention that he walked with his hands in the waistband of his pants? Kind of like cowboys do, but Zimmerman didn't see a cowboy, he saw a hoodlum...looking for trouble. Trayvon didn't "know" that he was looking for trouble that day, he just thought he was being himself; listening to his music, in his own world, on his way back home from the store. He thought he was just a cool kid with a little swagger!
          The problem developed when Zimmerman decided he knew more about Trayvon than Trayvon knew about himself, simply by the way he walked and dressed... and by the color of his skin. He was doomed from the moment Zimmerman decided he knew him...or rather, he knew his kind! The kind that drifted about the neighborhood, peering through windows, scoping out homes, seeing what they could come back later to steal! He was tired of Trayvon's kind...infiltrating, drifting through, and harassing his neighborhood. He had had enough! It was time to take action; time to make his community safe again! It was time to get "guys" like Trayvon off the streets! And that's when he decided: This time, the "guy" isn't going to "get away!"