Let’s be honest with ourselves

I haven’t written lately because I just haven’t been inspired. Burying my thoughts deep within myself, I’ve felt that I’ve had not much to share or contribute (and that’s not a bad thing).

Ironically, I flipped the page on my perpetual calendar and this is the quote for today:

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. Thomas Jefferson

Exactly what I’m thinking of today – being honest with ourselves.

I’ve written about the problems inherent in seeing only color rather than character before, but this entire Trayvon case has me just at odds with so many things. We’ve see so many crazy cases where obviously guilty people have been acquitted (for example, OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony) and now Zimmerman. I do believe in trial by jury. I do believe in karma. So, I can’t necessarily say that the verdict was wrong, but I will say that I disagree.

The Trayvon Martin case has gotten so much press. And that’s a great thing. It has people talking. Unfortunately, it became a focus of race rather than a focus on right and wrong. Bottom line – an unarmed teen was killed by a neighborhood watchman. Black, white, Latino, Asian, the teen was unarmed and the armed, non-police officer, shot and killed him.

If Trayvon had been my child, I would demand justice. I would be devastated that Zimmerman walks free. Yes, his life is absolutely changed. And, yes, we need to let the universe sort this out. But – what about the teen?

I don’t care if he smoked weed that night (while, I’m not a fan, it doesn’t make people violent or volatile). I don’t care if he posted pictures of himself in poses that some claim make him look like a gangsta. (A look through my photos could probably paint me in several different ways. It all depends on how the photos are framed in conversation and presentation – which photos you choose.) Add in racial comments (“cracker” or those people type comments) and it’s a gas bomb exploding everywhere.

A teen lost his life because a watchman did not stay in his car as he was instructed by the police.

To me – that’s all that matters.

Why is everyone outraged? Is it because the shooter was a different skin color and he was not convicted? Is it because the laws are skewed? Is it because some cases get so much attention and others not enough? Is it purely racial? Is it because racial discussions are at the forefront and people are forced to be uncomfortable with their conversations? Is it simply a bad decision by the jury? Let’s be honest with ourselves and find the reason.

Let’s flip for a moment.

A woman is walking down the street with her infant son in a carriage (she had already lost a child to violence). She is approached by teens who demand money. One then shoots the baby in the head.

The teens cannot face the death penalty because they are under 18 and in Georgia. People are outraged. The teens should face trial this year. The verdict will be interesting. Why are people outraged here? Lack of media attention? Is it the law that is wrong?

Does it matter that the woman and her child were white and the teens black? No. Evil happened. A baby is dead in cold blood.

A celebrity admits using the N-word and wants a “traditional” service where African Americans are dressed as slaves/servants. In 2013 America, it’s just wrong. Consider history and how inflammatory those statements can be. She’s lost many of her current business deals and potential future career because of her lack of awareness. What is the real issue here? A woman voiced her thoughts, but because she’s famous, she needs to be more aware? Is she perpetuating raw stereotypes and opening up wounds? Why does this bother us?

From all the comments on social media and across this amazing internet, these types of cases are further dividing our country based on color of skin. Race relations continue to suffer.

To me, none of this is a matter of color. But, my eyes are open more every day to the concept that trying not to see color is not typical. Yes, I notice what someone looks like. Yes, I even said it to friends in passing recently – “These Asian kids are cracking me up.” Why did I have to specify Asian? I don’t know. They spoke English, obviously lived in the neighborhood in which they were playing tennis. Maybe it’s because we’re so busy classifying one another, so busy trying to stand out – make our children stand out – or feel important that it’s just who we’ve become as a society, as a world.

Where are you from? I’m from Cleveland, Ohio. Well, not really Cleveland, but Northeast Ohio in one of the suburbs. It’s an Italian Catholic neighborhood primarily, but I’m not Italian or Catholic. I went to one of three elementary schools that had been in the town – two of which closed when I was a child. To this day, my friends from my hometown and I divide each other (in jest) by which elementary school we attended. It’s who we are. The girl with brown hair. The boy with the wide eyes. She wore green. He played football. He drove a beat up car. She lived on the other side of the tracks. We constantly divide ourselves.

We are all stereotypes of some sort. We are continually classified and pigeonholed by what we look like, how we speak, what car we drive, what job we have.

But that shouldn’t be how we base our thoughts and decisions about others.

On any given day, I could be dressed for business, then wearing mismatched clothing when I work outside – fitting into different stereotypical demographics. I’m in my early 40s, but certainly don’t feel like it. I’ve been told I look even 10 years younger than I am. I can dine at the fanciest of restaurants and enjoy food at a dive bar. People are different in these places, but does it make any of them all that different at the core? I can say I’ve tried the experiments – going to an upper scale mall in crappy clothing vs nice casual wear. I’m always treated differently. I still act the same – polite, courteous. It’s not me who is different aside from my clothing. But the one thing I typically have in my favor is that I’m basically an unassuming white woman. I can get away with a lot. I’ve learned to work the system when I need to. I’m not above wearing a tight low-cut shirt to the auto parts store to get extra help (it works). I know if I want the best service in certain places, I need to fit in. I can typically talk my way out of a speeding ticket. It’s not too difficult 90% of the time. I am 1,000% sure that the way I am treated is NOT always based on my character. It’s based on my appearance.

I don’t know why the middle aged woman at the restaurant is a server her entire life. Nor should it matter. I’ve been the 30-something woman serving coffee and treated like I’m a moron because I’m looked at as “less than” because of my job (for the record, I love food service). I know who I am and try very hard not to be offended although I’d love to set the record straight every single time. I go home to my nice house in my 2013 car and sit comfortably although paying the bills has been tough. I’m extremely fortunate to be who I am. And I don’t lose sight of where I’ve been (food stamps and free lunches).

I’ve been told I can come across as arrogant. But is that what it is – arrogance? Is it someone who has seen and learned and keeps a distance for a reason? Is it the battles I am fighting that cause me to close ranks to protect myself so I don’t cry in public? Is it my insecurities you are seeing? Or yours?

Why does a friend work so many long hours? Is she compulsively trying to prove something to herself? Does she not want to be home? Is she making up for a lag in her career? Is it just part of her character that she does everything 120% or not at all? Does it really matter?

Why does another friend sequester away from everyone? Anti-social? Having problems and overwhelmed? Burned so many times it seems easier to keep a distance? Does it matter?

Step back. Breathe. Look at the situation from all different angles. Why are you thinking first of a person’s appearance? Are you looking AT the person, or INTO the person trying to find motivations? Are you looking to see a situation for what it is – based on a person’s character? Or are you looking for an issue based on appearance?

Compassion and empathy don’t take much, but they seem to be very difficult for some. “Until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, you have no idea where I’m coming from,” could not be more true for any of us. It’s all about awareness and what we want to see. Look within yourself to find your motivations. Be honest with yourself.

The road to self-awareness never ends. We’re all walking it in some way, at our own pace. We need to remember that what we don’t like in others tends to be what we dislike in ourselves. We are all one human race, at our core, in our DNA. When are we going to realize it and look beyond the obvious?

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Patricia J Grace

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