Mixed messages

Images are powerful.  We base our first impressions on appearances.  And unlike the Dramatics song, what we see is not always what we get or, to be clear, what we ultimately understand.  Sadly, it is easier to have impressions over understanding. In the case of Trayvon Martin’s death, that problem is made worse by the mixed messages the media has put forward. 
I have responded to this case in a number of ways. As a parent. As an educator for over a decade and former assistant principal.  As a woman of color well-aware of racial tensions/conflicts in 2012 America.  This is not an easy case and I’m savvy enough to know that the media plays a role in what impressions and information I have about the case. I initially didn’t want to write about the case simply because there was too many ways I could reflect on it.  Recent findings have complicated my feelings yet motivated me to weigh in on those mixed messages and feelings.  
I admit when I heard about a security guard shooting an unarmed young black man, I immediately thought racist in a Southern state takes advantage of a poorly written law to shoot without good reason.  Then when my brother sent me an early morning text last week, “Zimmerman is half Peruvian,” my heart sank.
I told my parents and they immediately began a debate on the complexities of Peruvian race relations. I found the linked Suzanne Gamboa article but it only added to the conflicting thoughts I have. 

Salon.com article about Zimmerman’s ethnic identity

This morning, I have seen the more recent pictures of both Zimmerman and Martin.   I feel bamboozled, fooled, naive.  Like millions of people every day, I have accepted what is presented in the news as fact.  But as my own class discussed, fact is not always truth.  Now I have a less menacing yet fuller picture of the real George Zimmerman, not the boogeyman the court of public opinion would have me dismiss.

As for Trayvon Martin, I no longer only see the memory of a baby-faced child but a more honest picture of a real teenager. Unlike Geraldo Rivera(why does he have to be Latino? somebody take him back), I am not quick to judge Trayvon. Wifebeaters, grills, and tattoos have no bearing on this case.  A young man is dead, another man has lost his reputation and safety, possibly his life, and two communities stand to lose common ground over this case.

On a more personal level, I can’t help but wonder how many people will ponder this case in depth.  I am saddened and moved by this case to be more analytical and reflective. I can’t let the media or even my own first impressions be my guide.

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