I struggled with writing this post. I feel a lot of emotions so just bear with me this time.
My son, The Kid, is 16 and wears hoodies. All. Year. Long. We fight about this fashion choice, particularly on days when it’s 86 degrees and by some miracle (or curse) a designer created a linenesque hoodie that I’m sure was designed with people like The Kid in mind. The point is I hate when he wears hoodies because of my perception of people who wear them and I don’t want him to fall into someone else’s bias based on it.
As a mother, Trayvon’s death brings mixed feelings. First, I feel the usual anger that a proper investigation wasn’t performed. It’s not about race, but simply about getting the facts and determining what, if any, crime had been committed before allowing the shooter to go on with his life. If that had been either of my kids, I don’t know what I’d do. I know I’d be angry and grieving because I can’t replace those lives. And The Kid fits Trayvon’s physical appearance to a tee. Add a few smart comments and you’d have an almost perfect replica of The Kid. Zimmerman would have shot my son.
What I also have to look at though is my own biases about people based on how they look. As much as we claim open-mindedness, our brains file information and makes decisions based on our own and others’ past experiences and sometimes what we see on TV. I sat with this thought and realized I have several ingrained prejudices:
- I assume that my professional racial and gender opposites don’t see me as equal until I speak
- I assume that people who talk loud and use profanity in public places have no home training
- I assume that overweight people make poor health choices and use excuses not to care about their health
- Sagging pants annoy me no matter who wears them
- I assume that women who wear provocative clothes should expect a man to say something out of line
- I assume people with what I consider odd colored hair can’t possibly have ‘real’ jobs
- I assume women with weaves think they’re better than me with my kinky locs (sometimes it’s the looks on their faces)
- I assume that people who buy and wear body-enhancing garments are lying about how they really look and are too lazy to work out
- I sometimes assume that some dark- and light-skinned people have something against people lighter or darker than they are
I put my biases out here for everyone to read because it’s easy to point fingers and not deal with self. I hope that Trayvon’s death is a wake up call to everyone about judging others and really want each person to look at him/herself. While I would want to kill someone who murdered The Hero, The Kid or The Girl, I can’t sit by and say that I haven’t made an assumption about a person without just cause.
I am in no way excusing Zimmerman or the Sanford Police Department. But we’re waiting for someone to do something, to make people change and see beyond race and economic status stereotypes. Change happens within each person though. If a person is inclined to hold on to her biases and let those distortions lead how she lives and acts, what can we, as a society, do about that? Instead of looking outside of ourselves, we need to examine how we can think differently and how to teach our children the same.