Monday, July 15, 2013

Seven Steps Back

George Zimmerman was found to be not guilty in the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin.  This case was significant in more ways than most people want to think about.

When Martin was first killed, I was working in Newark.  I could not help but see many of my students in the photos of Trayvon that were all over the news.  Many of the young black men in my school were already growing up in difficult circumstances.  When they saw what happened to young Trayvon - one of their own - it truly scared them.

What has blown my mind pos-verdict is people's attitude when it comes to profiling.  I have always taken the stance that if Trayvon weren't black and wearing a hoodie, non of this would have happened.  Many friends, neighbors and acquaintances have addressed profiling in a very "matter of fact" tone.  Someone even went as far as to say to me "If a young black kid in a hoodie was walking down your street in the middle of the day, that wouldn't freak you out?"  When I answered "No" he said "I don't believe you".

Too many of us live lives of separation.  Most of us live in "white" or "black" neighborhoods and some of us never leave either.  I spent a year working in an inner-city school and became a part of the community.  It changed my life forever.  The biggest result of my work was the sense of empathy I developed for African American children.  I also developed a deep emotional connection to my male students.  I can't imagine what it's like to be a young black man in America today - especially now that the Zimmerman verdict has made it perfectly acceptable to openly and aggressively profile them.

Too many of us live sheltered lives and that needs to change.