This conversation focuses on the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager coming home at night, who was shot dead by a white man, George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, who was armed, was patrolling as a neighborhood watch volunteer because of a recent increase in local crime. An altercation between the two men ensued, and the young black man was shot dead. Zimmerman was charged with murder, but was eventually acquitted for the crime because of the implications of very particular “stand your ground,” gun laws in Florida.
For many, this acquittal was outrageous, invoking a long, devastating, and pernicious history of racial persecution and inequity for African Americans. It prompted demonstrations, press conferences calling for justice for Trayvon, and boycotts of Florida by musicians and artists like Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Jay Z and Beyonce. The conservative pundits described George Zimmerman as a good man and citizen, someone willing to do his civic duty who is now being persecuted and deprived of a just outcome to a fair trial.
Finally, President Obama felt compelled to speak as a black man about his identification with the young Trayvon, asking white America to remember how different the historical experience of injustice is for African Americans, calling on us to continue to strive to move forward together, and affirming that younger generations are better off than the rest of us when it comes to race relations.
Having conversations is one of the ways we move forward, but conversations about race are always difficult because of the tension innate in the duality of power differences and the history of extreme injustice and pain associated to these dynamics. Ken Wilber reminds us to take an evolutionary view, remembering that slavery was a part of the agricultural period of human cultural development. He points out that it was the machines that finally freed our moral conscience to outlaw slavery. The U.S. was split between this developmental promise, North and South, and we are still living out the legacy of that cumbersome emergence in history.
In the upper quadrants, our good personal intentions to participate in a culture free from race bias may still be mixed with embedded and unconscious prejudice. Our personal wounding around these issues often blends in with the cultural struggle of the lower left, and we aren’t sure who we really are.
Questions about correct action abound, and even with changes in law and affirmative action, institutions in the lower right lag in their evolution, failing to express the most evolved part of who with the acknowledgement of where we have been. The activist part of our nature should and must continue to protest and to shout for quicker change. But the ethno-centric part of our consciousness easily erupts and defends as soon as we begin to talk about race, even when day-to-day, we live and experience reality through a world-centric lens in which race and ethnic bias appears absurd.
All of this makes this conversation an unwieldy proposition. And yet, the Integral map helps us to navigate this territory. Join us for a wander into the wilderness of a current tragedy related to race. You will find some familiar landmarks that may help you stay oriented and willing to stay in the conversation and be part of the struggle.
The Shooting of Trayvon Martin: A Difficult Conversation
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