By now most of you are familiar with Trayvon Martin’s story and most of you have probably concluded that the true culprit of this case is racism. We cannot blame George Zimmerman entirely (though I am just as shocked and angry as the rest of America) because he was just another victim of racism. To put it more clearly, we are all victims and perpetrators, if I may add, of racism because we all engage in racial stereotyping. Consciously or unconsciously we all do it. And unfortunately we can’t help ourselves from racial profiling, discriminating, or judging. The day of the shooting Zimmerman was engaging in racial stereotyping by assuming that the “black male in his late teens” who looked suspicious was a criminal or at least a potential one. Being a male is a threat already but being a black male automatically presents an image of animalistic, murderer, and rapist. Trayvon Martin was carrying these labels and consequently they led him to his death.
Racism and discrimination are two extremely powerful systems that are covertly present in politics, economics, at home, in the workforce, in school, and practically everywhere. Sadly, racism creates assumptions and stereotypes that certain groups of people must carry with them every day of their lives. It creates fear. Moreover, someone’s race and gender are only two of the many socially attributed characteristics or power of systems that affect a person’s life positively or negatively. The other characteristics are sexuality, level of education, class, and ethnicity to name just a few. All of these powers of systems interact with one another to either oppress or liberate individuals depending on how you identify yourself or how others identify you. This notion of intersecting systems is called intersectionality and white upper class, heterosexual males benefit tremendously from it. They obviously do not have to earn their power because they are “born” with them and society does exceptionally well in placing white upper class, heterosexual males on top because they give so much importance to whiteness, money, sexuality, and masculinity. Those who are not male, white, heterosexual, or rich inevitably face the most unpleasant challenges in their lives like poverty and racism. The following graphs illustrate how unsuccessfully certain groups of people fare.
And these inequalities will continue to exist. Those in power will maintain their power and some will use their power to keep others away from it. Inequalities and other systems of power don’t rise or exist on their own. WE are the perpetrators. We try, sometimes unsuccessfully, to mend this fucked up society and the changes seem so gradual it’s frustrating, yet we push and push forward knowing that along the way we will lose innocent individuals like Trayvon Martin to an ignorant George Zimmerman. We need to change but it takes action not words for anything positive to truly occur.