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Parenting in our post-Trayvon world

Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about Stand Your Ground, the state’s gun laws or the George Zimmerman jury. Plenty has already been said and will be said about those things. 

Frankly, I don’t think we can talk enough about them, but, to me, those are symptoms of a much larger, recurring problem we need to address: Fear of the unknown.

Face it. We are strangers to each other.

Even in a city and state as diverse as Miami and Florida, we live separate lives. 

We go home each night to our separate neighborhoods. Our kids attend separate schools. We report every weekend to our separate churches, synagogues and places of worship.

I'm a white woman. To me, it's as plain as the freckles on my skin that this case is about race. But even if you don't think race played a part in George Zimmerman's actions or in the jury's verdict -- as one juror insisted to CNN's Anderson Cooper Monday night -- it's pretty clear that public reaction and outrage over this case is in black and white. 

How can some of us be so convinced that this is all about race while others (friends, neighbors, even people we love) find that so hard to believe?

Segregation may have ended on the books, but make no mistake. We are apart from one another.

Two years ago, Brown University professor John Logan and Florida State professor Brian Stults analyzed recent Census data in their report, "The Persistence of Segregation in the Metropolis," and found that integration in our neighborhoods stagnated in many of our cities in the past decade. Some cities, such as Kansas City, saw progress, but many cities, including New York, experienced slight declines.

Miami? Segregation actually got worse here.

That shouldn't surprise any of us. I know people who grew up in Coral Gables and have lived most of their lives in Miami and they still don't know where Little Haiti is located.

Shame on us. We have this amazing pool of culture in our backyard and we sit inside our isolated homes, afraid to even dip our toe in it. 

It’s easy to believe an unarmed 17-year-old boy like Trayvon was a thug, an outlaw who somehow provoked his own death, if your primary knowledge of young black males comes from the evening news.

It’s easy to presume a light-skinned, self-appointed neighborhood watch guy like George Zimmerman is a racist if your main contact with white people has been negative.

This disconnect is buried in all our deadly assumptions and angry arguments. 

As we grapple with the meaning of the Trayvon Martin case, there is something we can all do to try to shorten the distance between us. 

Pop the bubble. 

Do yourself and your kids a favor and push past your comfort zone. It should be our civic (and parental) duty to discover and learn about each other, even if it begins with something as benign as exploring a restaurant, festival or neighborhood outside our own culture. 

Walk unfamiliar streets. Invite people into your home for dinner. Hug a child other than your own. Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. It fosters acceptance. 

That’s why it’s so important to see different colors and lifestyles represented in the movies we see, the books we read, the politicians we elect. 

Only through discovering each other can we understand our differences and replace our fear of the unknown with a deeper knowledge -- that underneath our many skin tones, we are all Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. 

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