I have been busy with the media discussing the recent killing of seventeen year old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. A volunteer with a local neighborhood watch committee observed Martin walking alone wearing a “hoodie” sweatshirt draped over his head. The volunteer, George Zimmerman, called the local police to report a suspicious male who “looks like he's up to no good or on drugs or something.” The dispatcher inquired as to whether he was black, white or Hispanic. Zimmerman replied, “He looks black.” Against the advice of the dispatcher, Zimmerman approached Martin, a scuffle allegedly ensued and Martin was shot and killed.
The American public is outraged, demanding justice for Trayvon. An innocent child profiled by a racist is the subject of protests and marches across the country. Though yet to be determined whether this was an act of self defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law or a racially induced homicide, popular opinion leans towards Trayvon. An investigation and trial will determine who was responsible for his untimely death.
I don’t need a trial. I already know unequivocally who the guilty party is: the American people. All of us: the media, the bigots, the gang members, the haters – we’ve all played a role. The media for certain: they report news that sells and the more sensational the better. They will often report unfavorably about one group of people more so than others which can instill prejudice in the mind of their readers. And we are gullible enough to buy into it.
Yet it is not solely their responsibility. Those who behave badly cast a shadow on their kind. Young men of all skin colors get drunk and disorderly at local bars and give well behaved young men a bad rap. Law enforcement officials caught taking bribes cast a shadow on those who are dedicated to serving the public. Clergy behaving inappropriately with young men cause suspicion even for those of high moral character.
When Pepsi sends their sales reps out into the field, they are expected to demonstrate the integrity of the company. Poor hygiene, bad manners, rude behavior casts an unfavorable light on the company as a whole. To big business, this translates into lost revenue as potential customer’s experience a decline in trust in the honor of the company.
Likewise, when I am out in public, I represent not only myself but on some level my family, my religious association, my cultural heritage and my country as well. If my behavior is offense it can easily reflect on any or all of those affiliations. As a tourist visiting a foreign country, don’t I have some responsibility to accurately exemplify the American people as a whole? One bad experience with me can have a negative impact for future Americans.
If we want our group to be accurately portrayed, we must all share in the image we project to the public. We must always be on our best behavior because sometimes, the whole is judged by one part. Take seriously your responsibility to truthfully represent your kind. Be a reflection of the honorable attributes of those with whom you are a part of. It will help alleviate prejudices and potential tragedies such as Trayvon Martin.
Janet Pfeiffer, international motivational speaker and award-winning author has appeared on CNN, Lifetime, ABC News, The 700 Club, NBC News, Fox News, The Harvest Show, Celebration, TruTV and much more. She is a contributor to Ebru Today TV and hosts her own radio show, Anger 911, on www.Anger911.net.
Her latest book is the highly acclaimed The Secret Side of Anger and is endorsed by NY Times bestselling author, Dr. Bernie Siegel.
A consultant to corporations including AT&T, U.S. Army, U.S. Postal Service and Hoffman-LaRoche, Janet is NJ State certified in domestic violence, an instructor at a battered women’s shelter and founder of The Antidote to Anger Group. She specializes in anger management, conflict resolution and bullying. Janet is a member of EAPA, MVP and Vision in Motion Speaker’s Bureaus and Network Plus.