For the past week, we have all been hearing commentary about the Trayvon Martin case. I’ve heard arguments in support of Trayvon, that he was racially targeted and murdered. I’ve heard arguments in support of Zimmerman, that he had the right to stand his ground. I’ve heard complaints about the arguments and complaints about the complaints. And I’ve seen older news articles posted about a black man killing a white child and getting convicted. In the end, everyone has their opinion, and everyone is extremely angry. Right or wrong, we have all lost! To the people who have clearly taken a side, the loss you all suffered is apparent. Whether your supported Trayvon and grieved over his death, or supported Zimmerman and worried about a conviction, all of you have lost something.
But what about the rest of us? What about those of us who tried to be a neutral party, and those who did not get involved at all? We all lost! Why? Because this case has fueled the fire of racism. It has increased the divide between Black and White. It’s only getting worse. Last night my wife read me an article titled: IT BEGINS… Trayvon Supporters Leave Nasty Notes Instead of Tips at FL Restaurants. The article was short and showed a picture of a napkin left at a Florida restaurant for an (apparent) white server. It stated: “Your tip is justice for Trevon Martin!!! We didn’t get justice so you gets no tip!!” Underneath, the writer of the article wrote: “They can’t even spell Trayvon correctly.” Although the ending of the article states that this is what happened at one Florida restaurant, it implies that this will become a growing problem in retaliation for Trayvon’s death. This story, and the coverage of stories like it, are the reason why this will become a growing problem. It angers people and it makes a one-time incident feel like an epidemic. I wonder what type of retaliation will spread from this article. Will white servers spit in black customers food? Will white managers refuse to hire black employees? I hope not, and find myself wondering why we aren’t sharing more stories that foster the positive interactions among the races – like the young black man who rescued the kidnapped white girl. Why can’t we focus on the positive?
There was a time when I did not understand the black community. I was incredibly ignorant to the culture and very intimidated as well. I only knew stereotypes. Stereotypes, however, are not necessarily bad, depending on how you apply them. For example, as an advertiser, one can generalize the use of certain products based on cultural norms. It does not mean that everyone in the culture uses a particular product, but it would be a safe bet to market that product to that particular culture because of its popularity. Stereotypes become a problem when choices are made based on that stereotype that negatively impact people of a particular culture. Stereotypes exist, and there are people who fit the profile of such stereotypes. Unfortunately, when there is a stereotype that negatively affects one culture, in this case, the black culture, we are shown examples of people fitting that profile everywhere. To a person ignorant of culture and people, each example of this stereotype only fuels their belief that all people of a particular culture are the same way. Posting a picture of that note scrawled on a napkin directly targets those people. It tells people of an ignorant mindset in the white culture that black citizens are racist and poor spellers. It advertises to the ignorant mindset within the black culture that targeting white people not involved in this issue will somehow bring justice for Trayvon. This type of propaganda fuels riots, wars, and the senseless killings of innocent people. People see this propaganda, and they are ready to hurt someone.
On July 14th, Reverend Al Sharpton posted on his Facebook page: “Real soldiers don’t leave the battlefield when they lose one battle. We must win the war.” We are not at war, Reverend! But your promotion of such propaganda instills such a sense of rage in all of the people who follow you that it may just cause the unnecessary suffering and loss of life to many of our brothers and sisters. What many fail to realize is that the only reason there is a “war” is because we allow ourselves to be participants in that war. It sickens me that many of our influential leaders are poisoning the minds of our youth. I wonder where our society would be today if the good Reverend followed the philosophies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who stated: “I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.” Dr. King understood the actual “war” that has been waged among us. We have been staged to fight amongst ourselves to hide the greed of an elite few. Dr. King knew that the only way to win this war was to embrace one another. He recognized that when we fight amongst ourselves, we fail to see the puppet masters behind the scenes, profiting from our ignorant hatred and violence. We have been tricked into believing our differences are bad, instead of embracing the beautiful gifts that new perspectives offer. Dr. King stated: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” His words ring true for this case, regardless of where you stand. The greater injustice is the divide that is being wedged between us. We need to stop fighting amongst ourselves and start working together.
After working very closely within the black community for the past five years as a teacher, I am proud to say that I love the black culture. It has a deep richness, a loud sense of humor, and a strong sense of loyalty. It has been my honor to work with some of the most amazing children I have ever met in these communities, and the feeling of acceptance I have been granted by them is a gift I cannot put a price on. We have learned about each of our respective cultures, and all of us are now wiser because of it. I will not fight in this war of racial divide. I have waged war against those who aim to keep us divided. I am not Trayvon Martin. I am not George Zimmerman. I am Dennis Nappi II, and I will make a difference. Peace to all of you.