Columbia, SC — My sister put a pair of her high-heeled shoes in front of me and told me to try them on. After having had surgeries to repair a broken ankle and to replace a knee, strutting around in heels is totally out of my comfort zone. Still, she kept saying, “You can walk in those because I can.”
When I asked why she insisted I wear her shoes, she explained that she was trying to illustrate how absurd it is to assume people know how we feel unless they’ve walked in our shoes.
Yet throughout the trial of George Zimmerman, lawyers and some commentators tried to convince us that what they believed is what we should believe. The most absurd thing we were asked to believe was that race was not a factor. The term “racial profiling” was not allowed to be mentioned, yet profiling was used.
Zimmerman’s characterization of “f---ing punks and a--holes who always got away with it” became synonymous with young African-American boys. To drive that point home, the defense introduced a white female witness who had lived in the community Trayvon Martin was visiting. She testified that she was the victim of a home invasion, and the perpetrators were African-American males. As though the nefarious actions of some members of a racial group indict the entire group.
When I went to church the day after the verdict, one point resonated with me: “God is in control.” Let me explain: My bedroom is on the second floor, and frequently at night a dim light from either outside or somewhere inside the house provides enough illumination for me to navigate the steps safely. However, sometimes it’s just too dark for light to filter in, and there is no light within the house to guide my way.
That sense of utter darkness is how I felt after the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. Then it occurred to me that in such situations, I have no choice but to turn on the light. I have to call on a source that is greater than I am for guidance.
As a nation, we cannot afford to flounder around in the darkness of ignorance, pretending that race does not color our perceptions and decisions. Only after we are honest with ourselves can we begin to correct our negative assumptions about people who are different from us. Perhaps things had to become totally dark to force us to turn on the light and push us out of our malaise.
Beverly Diane Frierson