Monday, July 15, 2013

A few words for Trayvon Martin and the world we live in …

Statue of Liberty from National Geographic

It is not possible to directly feel the incredible grief this young man’s family, his mother his father and his friends must feel. I can only come to it by remembering my own grief from my own losses. I cannot imagine the rage they must feel at the senselessness of this loss. It doesn't matter what you or I believe the circumstances of his death were. His death is tragic.

What does the loss of Trayvon, and our nation’s reaction to it, give us? Have we gained anything from it? Is there something we can do better?

I think a great deal about bias and prejudice. I think it is hard-wired into us. Some would say it is “natural”. Some would argue that “nature” is right. It is the “right” way to be. I have heard this argument often. My answer to this is: “are we not human?” Are we not by definition at once a part of nature and outside it? Is it not our ability to operate outside our animal natures, or should I say natural condition, that makes us human? Is it not our obligation as human beings to know ourselves and resist those “natural” impulses that would cause us to repress or harm one another?

Am I not my “brothers’ (sisters’)” keeper?

Let us be honest with ourselves.

Ariel Castro’s treatment of three young women, his ability to see them as objects that he had the right to bend to his pleasure, is an amplified symptom of a lingering social understanding of women. The fact that society as a whole has a bias against women is borne out by simple statistics of leadership, pay and frankly perceptions of how women should act, should speak, should be. – Bias pervades our country, no doubt the world, few escape its presumptions, but the consequences for the individual vary widely.

Trayvon’s death is no less a symptom. The jury found that George Zimmerman had reasonable fear for his life – but they were not tasked with considering the assumptions that put him in that situation and that ultimately lead to an innocent young man’s death.

Meanwhile Marrissa Alexander is sentenced to 20 years for trying to protect herself.

Bias – prejudice – makes assumptions about groups of people rather than seeing an individual. It produces templates of identity that are then projected onto “the other.” A prevalence of bias assures that individuals must work to overcome, sometimes without success, these imaginings of who they are. These templates impede their success and by extension the progress of the whole of humanity.

The main systems we have for promoting opportunity and protecting civil rights – leadership, education and the judicial system – depend on your access to wealth and influence in order to access them.

Current statistics paint a clear picture of the patterns of privilege. It is undeniable and why in a country where we elect or reject leaders based on their religious affiliation don’t we have the political will to do something about it?

… And what is that we can do? What is that we should do? What is our responsibility to one another?At least let us begin with compassion and concern. If we see social ills, if we see struggle or lack – then less us take seriously how we can affect for good the lives of those afflicted.

We must at some point move away from assumptions, anger, mistrust and move toward conversation, dialogue and exchange. At some point we must take seriously what it means to “love one another.”

The New York Times: Reports Find Racial Gap in Drug Arrests

ABC News experiment having to do with profiling

The Wage Gap, by Gender and Race

Slate: Gender Inequality by State and County

American Bar Association: Domestic Violence Statistics –