The recent events surrounding the Trayvon Martin case has again brought to light the topics of racism and stereotypes in America. In the case of Trayvon Martin, at first glance, it seems as if this teen was unfairly stereotyped as a hoodlum who was “up to no good” in the neighborhood. It may have been viewed this way because because he had his hoodie up and looked suspicious. At a closer glance, he was merely an unarmed teen leaving the corner store with a pack of skittles and iced tea in hand who was headed to father’s girlfriend’s home. The gunman who was a neighborhood watch captain at the time, followed him “strangely” as described by Trayvon. Words were then exchanged and all of a sudden he is shot to death?? Did I miss something? Why does it seem that such harmless, senseless events lead to these types of tragedies?
As a Asian America male growing up, I have been unfairly stereotyped, and have been on the receiving end of racist remarks at various points in my life. On the other hand, I also have made stereotypes as well when I didn’t know any better; I can’t lie. I do believe racism and stereotypes is alive and well, but it is more of a taboo of topics that is swept under the rug. It seems as if America pretends that all is well, because it is a sensitive topic that no one wants to discuss or confront. Even as recently on my trip to South Carolina, I was unfairly followed back to my room by a hotel security guard that felt like I did not belong in the hotel. I truly felt I was stereotyped because of the way I was dressed. In Georgia, in a town outside of Atlanta, while waiting for a table at a restaurant with friends, I felt like a group wanted to start trouble with us solely because of our race, and because we were perceived as different.
I say this to say, we as a society need to stop judging a person for how they appear on the outside because that is only part of the equation. There is so much more to a person than meets the eye. At first glance, a person might hear me speak or look at me when I am dressed down, as a male who is not educated or a trouble maker. But in reality, I am a person who is all about family, and truly respect people of various races, cultures, and ethnicities. I have friends that can vouch for that. I am one of millions of examples! We have to look past the external and be willing to understand a person for who they are so that incidents like that of Trayvon Martin do not continue to happen. Of course there are going to be occasions where our stereotypes come into fruition, but we have to understand that it is one person and not the entire group. Each person must be respected until proven otherwise, that is when we can move forward in the right direction.
More importantly as young professional’s, I feel we have to be that to be that agent of change. Our older generation may be too stuck in their ways to change, and for a younger generation who are impressionable and who follow our lead. One person can make a difference, and I challenge all YP’s to stand up and look past the cover because their may be a beautiful story inside that is waiting to be read.
YP JimH, Young Professionals Writer