In the wake of the murder of 17-year old Trayvon Martin on February 26th, I am moved to begin discussing intercultural and interracial protocol. Many people believe we already have a handle on how to interact with others of different races and ethnicities. I beg to differ. When we learn to look at a young Black college student and have our brains register possible College Student instead of Threat; when we learn not to shoot first and then make irrational excuses later, then we may begin to claim that we no longer need guidance in this area.
The back story:
On the evening of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, a young Black man in a hooded sweatshirt named Trayvon Martin was walking back from the store with ice tea and a pack of Skittles. Upon seeing this young man, self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman identified him as a threat, called 9-1-1, and pursued Mr. Martin. Mr. Zimmerman was directed by the 9-1-1 operator to not follow Mr. Martin. Mr. Zimmerman ignored the directive and ended up shooting and killing Mr. Martin. Mr. Zimmerman claims he acted in self defense and his family claims that he is not racist because he is of Hispanic background. Mr. Martin was a teenaged college student who had no weapon in his possession. Mr. Zimmerman still has not been arrested and the police investigation of this matter was questionable. These facts have lead to protests, the Million Hoodie March, letter-writing, emails, phone calls and the mass signing of a criminal justice petition to garner media attention and force the local police department, local courts, as well as local and federal governments to investigate and prosecute Trayvon Martin’s murderer.
I am asking all of my readers, social media friends and family to take this first simple, but powerful step: Look closely at your own thoughts regarding people of other races and ethnicities. Have you equated a Black man in a hooded sweatshirt to the thug or criminal images you frequently see on your television? Do you assume the Latino woman in front of you on line is an illegal alien, manual laborer who is stealing your jobs and getting away with paying no taxes? Are you fearing that your White male coworker has no conscience and treats multicultural people poorly when he thinks no one is looking? What stereotypes are you subconsciously harboring each day that you and only you have the power to change right now? Now that you are recognizing what those thoughts are, I challenge you to begin changing them.
No one deserves to be removed from this earth solely because of another person’s racial prejudice. No one deserves to lose a job, be degraded in public, get rejected by a school, get turned down for funding, and so forth due to another person’s cultural prejudice. And when this does happen, we must bring the perpetrator to justice. They must answer for what they have done.
Currently, people – young and old, across communities, of different races – are taking a stance and voicing their outrage against this latest instance of hatred. I encourage you to see where and how you can make a change. Today, you can start by signing the criminal justice petition to prosecute the killer of Trayvon Martin at change.org.