Perception is a dangerous thing. Internal bias, stereotypes, etc...we all have them, but are we aware of how they manifest in our daily lives.
I told myself I would refrain from watching the George Zimmerman trial because personally, I could not handle my own emotional response to the proceedings. Having a father who was born and raised in the Jim Crow south, I have always known the reality of the "isms" in America. As an educated black woman, I am always conscious of how I am perceived when I walk into a room. I know the struggles of being seen as "intimidating" or having to ensure that I am not being seen as a threat to the individuals I am around. This is exhausting to say the least, but unfortunately it has become second nature to me.
As I begin to read the facts regarding the tragic encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, one thing was clear to me...that Trayvon died because he was perceived to be dangerous. No one will ever know what happened during those moments leading up to his death; however we do know that George Zimmerman felt threatened because of how Trayvon looked, his demeanor the clothes he wore, and the color of his skin.
As I begin to sit and reflect following the verdict. I thought about all of the responses I saw coming across my facebook timeline. My facebook friends were angry, in shock, and disappointed. Some of them were indifferent and others felt that justice was served. Despite the split verdict from the public jury that is facebook...many people agreed that social change is needed.
This morning I awoke and as I cleaned my kitchen, I thought about my small space in the world and how I could turn this tragedy into a triumph. As a woman in love with a black man who will eventually bring black men into this world, I am overcome with fear at my inability to shield them and protect them from tragedy. I read countless status updates from acquaintances and friends who have to have conversations with their children about what this case means...and how their lives are still valuable no matter what a justice system says.
Your disappointment or lack thereof regarding the verdict is not my concern. I am focused now more than ever on how we as people...not black people, because this is an AMERICAN problem not a black problem, will ensure all lives have value in the world we live in.
George Zimmerman's voice was heard during this trial, and unfortunately Trayvon Martin's voice was silenced over a year ago. As an educator, it is my duty to ensure the voices of my students, specifically my under-represented students are not silenced. I am not a future Dr. Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks...and I will never claim to be, but in the spaces that I occupy, I can be a light; I can be a voice.
I am reminded of a session I attended at the NCORE conference in 2011. I wrote a blog post in regards to this session and I'd like to share those words again:
"As the women were discussing the obstacles that they had to face on the path to leadership, one woman reminded us that we are all going to be discouraged as we fight for change, growth, and access. She encouraged us that no matter how hard the road gets we must not give up, but instead remember that our voices are needed around the table.
Although it sounds so simple, this nugget of wisdom will stick with me probably forever. Sometimes it is hard to be the only voice around the table advocating for a certain group of people, a certain initiative, a change…but instead of giving up we must keep our focus on the need.
Whenever you become discouraged remember my first lesson learned from NCORE and say to yourself “if not me, then who?” There is a reason that you are around the table; your voice is important. If you stay focused on the “need” during the adverse times, you will persevere."