In my last post, I wrote that the real tragedy of Trayvon Martin was that he wouldn’t be the last.
I made a mistake.
The real tragedy is that I failed to remember Trayvon, first, as a person, a child. A child with his life in front of him. A life that would have been full of dreams, mistakes, and maybe one day a family of his own. Dreams, mistakes, and a family not so unlike my own.
His English teacher described him “… as an A and B student who majored in cheerfulness.”
His uncle said, “He was trying to start driving. He was just finding out about girls.”
He was … a person.
Starting with a stereotype removes the person from our mind, and instead, crams them a into a small mental box, neatly labeled.
None of us are immune. But perhaps if we are willing to admit that succumbing to a stereotype is a flaw in ourselves, we’ll permit others to be flawed as well. And then maybe we’ll be a little less quick to judge a kid in a hoodie walking down the street, be a little less quick to get out of a car, and … well, you know the rest.
Yes, George Zimmerman is human too. The son of a Peruvian mother and white father with flaws, fears, and failings of his own. Flaws, fears, and failings, not so unlike my own.
A person with feelings and emotions, and perhaps the person best positioned to turn this tragedy into something positive. He has the opportunity to admit his mistakes, to wrestle with his weaknesses, to soften his aggression, to erase his own media stereotype, and work to help stem the tide of violence instead of perpetuate it. He still has a future. I hope he, the person named George Zimmerman, uses it wisely.
I made a mistake by not seeing the humanity of two people who met on a street in Florida. In doing so, I lost sight of two people, each unique and human. Each one, in so many ways, like me. When I lost sight of the person, I lost sight of myself.
Maybe that’s the real tragedy for all of us to consider.
Yesterday’s gift of time … Tried to see the humanity in others, especially those with whom I disagree. Thanks to Karen E. Bender in her Salon article, “What great writing can teach us about Trayvon Martin” for reminding me, indirectly, to see the person not the stereotype.