What The Trayvon Martin Case Can Teach Us About Stereotypes

The Trayvon Martin case and George Zimmerman’s verdict have raised heated discussions and debates on race relations and racial profiling not only in the United States, but across the world. Many are angry, hurt and incensed. Many have given up hope on the U.S. justice system , while many are taking to the streets in protest.

One thing is clear.

These individuals are all entitled to their opinions, feelings, thoughts and actions. After all, the United States is a nation that prides itself on individual freedom; the right to speak and be heard, the right to “be”. We have found that this can be pricey though, as the Martin/Zimmerman story has shown us. We have seen one individual whose freedom led to his death and the other whose freedom may actually cost him his life as he has known it.

In the midst of mixed emotions, we must be reminded of the need to take a deeper and more introspective look at the way we have largely chosen to represent ourselves. Have we consciously or  unconsciously perpetuated negative stereotypes that have inflamed the prejudices and notions that have influenced people’s actions towards us?

Through images of violence, crime, genocide and hatred as seen in our socio-political environments and in the media, have we perhaps freely paved the way for ignorance?

Have we deprived ourselves of self-love by negatively critiquing the very features that mark our beauty as a people and taught our younger generation who may not know any better to do the same?

Have we spent a disproportionate amount of  time and resources on superficial things that instill in us an inordinate need for more, instead of the very things that can help us grow and learn?

Have we glorified behavior that is otherwise disrespectful, demeaning and one that marginalizes our women and children in the name of culture and social norms?

Have we allowed ourselves to “settle” for a sub-par existence instead of actively pursuing and engaging the excellence that is in inherent within?

People can only treat us the way we allow them to treat us. In the wake of this sad story, it may be high time that we take a look inwards and begin to change the very attitudes and behaviors that may give people a reason to profile.

We keep Trayvon’s family and loved ones in our thoughts during this painful period. The reality is any one of our young black males could have been Trayvon; his ethnicity, tribe, background or creed was of no consequence when he was shot.  All he was seen as was a reflection of a man’s long ingrained attitudes and beliefs which were based, whether we want to believe it or not, on what he had seen around him.

Only the restructuring of education can root the plague of bias and discrimination out, and it begins with us.