Eli Kaplan suggests that if we’re going to be participating in the marathon that is race-relations, we’re each going to need to run a few miles in the other’s shoes.
The news is everywhere about Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager who was gunned down in a gated community in Florida. And we shouldn’t expect anything different, when such a tragedy occurs. Allegedly, Martin was walking back to his father’s house from the grocery store (an iced tea and a bag of skittles in hand), when he was approached by George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer.
Zimmerman had called 911 because Martin looked, according to him, “suspicious”. Zimmerman was told police were on their way, and to wait until they arrived. But he did not wait, choosing instead to confront Martin. A scuffle ensued, and a terrible tragedy occurred. Martin, a young man, allegedly minding his own business, is now gone, while Zimmerman, as of this article, has not been arrested in connection with the crime. Martin was black. Zimmerman is not black. It goes without saying, there’s race issues at hand here.
Unfortunately, I think we’re looking at this whole issue wrong. This is not simply a race problem, and in this case, things aren’t quite that black and white. This is a HUMAN race problem, people! It is not just limited to one ethnicity, or a select few.
If you listen to the 34 plus minutes of 911 calls for Trayvon Martin, you will hear the genuine concern in the voices of (most) ALL of the callers. The best part (yes, I know the word best is misplaced in light of such a tragedy but…) is that we can only hear these concerned people – we cannot see them. And thus, we aren’t allowed to let our eyes judge them with bias and discrimination. We just get to hear their honest worry for human life. The callers could be white, black, Hispanic, Asian, etc… we don’t know. We just know they’re seemingly afraid for Trayvon Martin (and maybe themselves too).
If you want to make this a race issue, limited only to a select few ethnicities, you can. But the more we choose to isolate, separate, and segregate our experience and existence from others, the less chance we give people to sympathize, empathize, care for, and understand our battles, struggles, and visions. If we want people to walk a mile (or perhaps a marathon) in our shoes, we have to be willing to share our shoes.
If we don’t allow for this exchange, we all end up blistered, you should never make a habit of wearing the same shoes all the time. This tragedy encompasses all of us—the human race. Listen to those calls and you will humans caring for humans. Force yourself to close your eyes. All you get to do is listen. We all like to talk a lot, but let’s not be prisoners of the moment.
Sure it’s always time for action. But it’s also important to stop, think, observe, and hear. Then maybe we can all be better prepared, and ready, to have the important race talks that lie ahead. Those talks will, and should, take place, regardless of our own preparations. But it would advantageous to all if we prepared ourselves to listen before we speak.
We’re all in the same race here. And most of just want to cross the finish line on our own terms, alongside our fellow man (and woman).
Listen to the 911 calls—warning, this is 34 minutes of graphic content.
Photo courtesy of Francisco Antunes