Two words have provoked sweatshirt hoods to rise, students to march, a president to speak, reporters to argue, races to clash, and an entire nation to evaluate itself: Trayvon Martin.
The story has become so controversial that as I share my opinion on it I am practically guaranteed to receive some dirty looks, a few deletes on Facebook, and about a dozen people who will unfollow me on Twitter.
Nevertheless, as a black male three years older than Trayvon and an American citizen, I feel compelled to comment.
One question that hovers over this story is the role that race plays in this tragedy. Despite what others say, I believe that race does play a part.
I’m no Black Panther, but in light of this country’s over 300 years of racial discrimination and inequality, the fact that an unarmed 17 year-old Black male was fatally shot and the Caucasian (half-Latino) man who shot him remains uncharged makes it hard to reject the significance of race in this event.
At the same time, I believe that it would be morally irresponsible to categorize this story as simply a racial issue. The scope of this event is more than an issue of white versus black, it is is an issue of perception versus reality.
Whether we realize it or not, this story is directly related to the false perceptions we all have of others. It is related to the perception a custodian has of a businessman and the perception that a businessman has of a custodian. It is related to the perception that a nerd has of a jock and the perception a jock has of a nerd. It is related to the perception a teacher has of a student, a girl has of a boy, and a Christian has of a Muslim.
The root of racism and discrimination is not an inner hatred that some people are naturally born with. Rather, the root is the urge to judge someone based on a lack of understanding.
People discriminate, judge, and stereotype because they don’t truly know the person they are discriminating, judging, and stereotyping. If they did, they would see how similar they are to that person, not how different.
The richness of American diversity is beautiful, but if the uniqueness that makes each individual different continues to override our common humanity, tragedies like this will continue to occur.
If George Zimmerman could see the image of his son or nephew in Trayvon’s face I’m sure he would have been much more reluctant to pull the trigger. At the same time, if we could see our dad or uncle in George Zimmerman’s face I’m sure we would be much less likely to presume his guilt.
Of course, many reading this article are wondering whether I think Zimmerman is innocent or guilty. Before I answer that I will preface my statement with this: I am not a judge or prosecutor and my limited information on this case is based on the biased and skewed opinion of reporters and the limited perceptions of others.
With that being said, based on the evidence I’ve seen, it seems obvious that Zimmerman is guilty, and for that I think he should be punished.
Overall, however, I want justice, not the confirmation of my own subjective opinion.
So if by some chance it becomes clear that Zimmerman was acting out of self-defense (which I highly doubt), I will stand corrected.
It’s important for us to remember that from God’s perspective we all are Trayvon Martin. But if Matthew 5:22 is correct, we all are George Zimmerman too.
Presuming that this case is true, I’m saddened that a white (half-Latino) neighborhood watchman killed a Black teenager.
But ultimately, we all should be saddened, because like the first murder in history, a man killed his brother. Think about it.