I profile people. A LOT
I profile the white guy (who looks to be about forty) walking up and down my street in the afternoon, wearing a pair of gym shorts and dirty t-shirt, smoking cigarette after cigarette. Sometimes he is staggering. If I was outside, on a walk with my husband, I would wave to him, maybe strike up a conversation with him. BUT, when I am in my house, alone with two babies and one on the way, I profile him and he makes me nervous.
I profile the black guy that sometimes sits on the swings across the street in the middle of the afternoon at the park across our house. He looks to be about 35. He swings for about fifteen minutes at a time, sometimes when kids are there, sometimes when they are not. I am aware of his presence and he makes me nervous.
I profile the group of white teens hanging out at the same park in the early evenings. They wear all black, they have drinks in brown bags and hand back and forth cigarettes. Sometimes, they eat candy. They could just be drinking soda, but I profile them. Sometimes, I stand out my porch, just to let them know an adult notices.
I profile the black teens walking in front of our house in big packs. I watch them shove each other and it makes me nervous. They don’t generally have smiles on their faces, and I worry about the young girls who hang out with them. Sometimes, I stand out on my porch, just to let them know that an adult notices.
You see, we profile people. We are SUPPOSE to. We are encouraged to follow our instincts especially when we feel we are in danger. I do not take out a gun and shoot people because I sometimes perceive a threat. This case wasn’t about racial profiling. It is about a man who shot a teen because the laws in Florida ALLOWED him to shoot a teen if that teen made him nervous/he felt aggression. People shouldn’t mix up the two.
I judge the character of others
I stay pretty clear away from judging the personhood of those I run into contact with, but I think character judgments matter. I have worked with teens before who have lied, A LOT. When a teen lies a LOT, I take what they say with a grain of salt. I have worked with teens/hung out with adults that do a LOT of drugs. When I am hanging with people who are addicted or regularly use drugs, I don’t anticipate I will have the most intelligent conversation with them. When I am with someone who I know steals, I lock away my stuff. When I know a teen is easily likely to lose his temper, I’m not surprised when he gets in a fight. When I hear that a teen who hangs out with the ‘wrong crowd’ has gotten himself in legal trouble, I am not shocked. You see, the decisions that we make in our lives define our character, and character matters in times of questioning.
Was Trayvon’s character put on trial? Absolutely! Should it have been put on trial? Absolutely. It matters when trying a case, working to prove that Trayvon threatened George Zimmerman. It should be a lesson to all that character matters. Do I know Trayvon? Nope. But I sure as hell know that he wasn’t the sweet 12 year old who’s picture was released to media. Nor was he the picture of the rapper ‘The Game’ that I received in an email forward a few months ago with the title, ‘this is what Trayvon really looked like’. Trayvon was a bit of a punk kid that made some bad decisions. Does that mean he should have been killed? Nope. Does that make his death less tragic? Nope. Does it matter when a trial is occurring in a state where ‘Stand your Ground’ laws allow for a very liberal reading of self-defense? Yup.
This case became about race because of the media.
The media spun a tail and unfortunately, so many people bought into it. George Zimmerman, a man of Hispanic descent who worked with troubled youth of all races, was an idiot and killed a kid. That is nothing but tragedy. He was an over-aggressive neighborhood watch man, who felt threatened and under the laws of Florida was allowed to kill a teenager because of it. And that is tragedy. And EVERYONE (in my opinion, but people will disagree) should be working to change laws in a state where you can kill a kid if he punches you, or even throws you on the cement. Trayvon Martin did NOT deserve to die. But, make no mistake, Trayvon Martin did NOT die because he was black. Trayvon Martin died because the laws in Florida allow people like him to be killed.
This case was not about race, but I was SICK to my stomach when the verdict was released. Not because of what went down on my facebook newsfeed. On my newsfeed, 90% of people commented that justice was served and that prayers needed to remain with Trayvon’s family. A person very close to me had a very different newsfeed *you can draw your own conclusion*. Although about 60% of the comments said kind things like, ‘Can’t believe this is happening, prayers for Trayvon’s family’; 40% of the comments said very VERY different things. I wrote them down…because I was shocked. These are quotes, not exaggerations.
***WARNING- STRONG LANGUAGE***
“Zimmerman not guilty? My beautiful black ass…it’s okay, someone is going to kill him”
“Street Justice will prevail”
“Zimmerman and the jury nd to be fkd up”
“Ppl talking about riots, this time dt fuck up the black neighborhoods, fk theirs”
“I dt wish death on anybody but he betta b careful…Zimmerman Freddy’s goin to get you”
“You want justice? Drop him off in Detroit”
“They say stand their ground I say we stand ours I say it’s time for a 2013 black panther party…
Now, you might think I went searching for these status updates. I didn’t. They were within the first fifty updates in the newsfeed I was reading. Pretty sure these status updates won't make the news, pretty sure people won't be fired for writing them...but make no mistake, they are disgusting.
Well played media, you have once again proved you can manipulate people into a tizzy about something that NEVER had anything to do with race. NEVER. And, because of that, you have made the world a little less safe for my little family, half black/half white, existing with very little signs of racism on a daily basis.
Make no mistake, we have a problem with race in this country, and why we do is complicated. BUT it certainly has something to do with leaders in our country who continue to try, intentionally, to find a story and create a reality that isn’t there.
To close (because I am now closing). Trayvon Martin did NOT deserve to be killed. He was a 17 year old kid walking home. For some reason, we will never fully know, he and George Zimmerman got into a scuffle. George Zimmerman was able to prove he felt threatened and under the laws of the state of Florida, that meant he could use deadly force. Want to work for change? Start challenging the laws that allow for people to be killed so senselessly. Don’t think the laws are the problem? Then leave it alone. But don’t twist the story. Don’t create a narrative where a white guy killed a black teen for being a black teen. Because that isn’t fair to anyone.