... everything would appear to man as it is - infinite.”
My intent was not to write about Trayvon Martin again. I thought the discussion needed to taking place between people, and there was no point in writing anything further on the subject. President Obama changed that when, on Friday, he spoke so eloquently on this reality of being black in America.
In response to a NY Times editorial, President Obama's Anguish, I wrote:
The truth of the matter is all We, the People, whether black or white, red or yellow, green or purple with pink polka dots, profile. We do it in our heads every time we see a kid in a hoodie, or with baggy-saggy pants, or even with cap turned backwards. We have been programmed by the media to fear those images. Watch enough LAW AND ORDER or CSI: Whatever, and, most of all, the news...and those are the images we are taught to fear.
If you say, "Oh, no, I don't do that," you're lying through your teeth. It's human nature.
I am one of those white women who, in downtown parking ramps, clutches her purse a little tighter when a couple of black teenagers get on the elevator with her. But then again…a black teenager tried to mug me…in Chicago. (He didn’t realize he was trying to mug a New Yorker, okay?) The truth is, whether or not you’ve been mugged, you profile. We all do it. We do it to black kids. We do it to people who look Arab or Asian. We do it to our neighbors, and even to our co-workers.
It’s human nature to make snap judgments. Grok that concept first.
The President was spot on when he talked about his own experiences as a young black man. He talked about the reality of it:
And the fact that a lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African American boys are more violent -- using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.
I think the African American community is also not naïve in understanding that, statistically, somebody like Trayvon Martin was statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else. So folks understand the challenges that exist for African American boys.
President Obama’s remarks
July 19th, 2013
|Just imagine this kid |
in a hoodie
It’s about packaging. It’s about what we see with our eyes and in our brains. It’s how we process the information. It’s how we learn to protect ourselves. But…are We, the People, in danger of condemning an entire population based on appearance?
If you pay attention to the George Zimmermans of the country, the answer is very much yes. Had we been there, peering out our window and seeing a black kid wearing a hoodie pulled over his head, can you say you wouldn’t have immediately wondered what he was doing there? What if he was wearing a khakis and crisp button-down shirt? Is the response any different?
The other question must be asked: how much of this reaction is owned by young black men who dress, sign, and present themselves in an intentionally dangerous manner even when they’re not gang-bangers? How much of the package is for show, and how much is real? And how is the casual observer supposed interpret the message? And how should one respond?
Used to be people wore "colors" to identify with their school. I still have and occasionally wear a Pirate sweatshirt in Minnesota …and people have stopped me, incredulous that they’re seeing someone who actually went to Wellington C. Mepham High School. Gangs are no different. It's a club. There are colors and symbols. Kids think this is cool and emulate the look. But how do you tell the real gangbangers from the wannabes?
We all train our kids to be street-aware, to be alert in parking ramps, and not to walk alone in areas that are known for criminal activity. Here in the Twin Cities, we know not to run along certain paths because in recent weeks random groups of young men have been attacking single runners and beating them senseless before robbing them. How do you not be suspicious in those situations? How do you not profile when descriptions of the antagonists are all over the media?
This is where the conversation begins. It’s not easy to talk to yourself about this stuff, but you have to. If you’re white, the examination must bluntly address perceptional prejudice. If you’re black, that conversation has to include the scary factor and the concept of perception. How we each read the message that is sent is very much at the center of the internal...and ultimately the external conversation.
It’s time to have those internal conversations, folks. In fact, it’s past time We, ALL the People, had ‘em.
The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Shopping for alarm systems> There are people who actively want your business and
then there's ADT who, after 24 years, is not interested in keeping mine.
The Wifely Person's Bonus Observation o'the Week
First the freezer...and now the house security system.
Considering this week's blog, that's just a touch .....weird.
PostScript: So I went upstairs to the lady's room and lo! the float valve in the toilet snapped. No problem; I had a spare fill-valve thingee on hand, so no sweat. Changed it right out. Toilet works great.....but now, freakin' water shut off valve is leaking. Spartacus is NOT happy.