Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Tribe of One Among the Tribes of Many

There is still lots of talk about the Trayvon Martin verdict.  I am amazed that it is still in the news and amazed at how much racial centered dialogue has spun out from the whole incident.  I've read and heard a lot and am still amazed at how black and white people think.  I've already posted here once and have shared a few interesting things I've read but I did come across one more that I think is worthy of a read.  The essay "What I Want You to Know About Being a Black Middle Class Suburban Mom" challenges readers in a way I appreciate.  People make judgments about others based on appearance or perception.  It's natural, it's human, and it's not necessarily racist.  The author writes, "People are constantly assigning me to one tribe or another. That isn’t necessarily negative. We all do it. Human beings classify, sort and group. We do it with things and with people. It’s one of the ways we figure out how to relate to people."   

But it is selling people short, missing out on potential friendships and growth, and not how I want my heart to be.  It is lumping people into a tribe and not considering the "tribe of one."  "So while I’m in your tribe, at times I’m not. If I say my sons could one day be another Trayvon, I’m dismissed as paranoid. If I speak on privilege or systematic racism, I’m listening to too much Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson (neither of whom I listen to actually). If I express outrage, hurt, mistrust or ask for solidarity, I’m being too emotional or being influenced by liberal media. Because I’m expressing feelings and views that are outside of “our” tribe.  But this is how my tribe of one feels."

And while she writes as a black woman who has reacted to the Martin story in one way, the opposite perspective also is valid.    People who are saying the Martin case is about the facts versus emotions, about bad decision making versus racism are not necessarily trying to be dismissive or racist or insensitive.  It's how that tribe of one feels.

That should be the take away of the Trayvon Martin case, not that we focus on how racist our country is or how unjust our system is or how scary the world is for young black men.  It should be about saying "We all bring a perspective to the table, one that is unique to me and my experiences.  But Is what I have in my head accurate?  Where did that thought come from?  Why am I thinking it?  It it loved based, fear based, wisdom based, or just completely off base?"

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