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What we must learn from the Trayvon Martin tragedy

Posted by Karen M. Wyatt on March 30, 2012 at 2:10 AM

The death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an African-American youth, at the hands of self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman has recently captivated this nation in controversy. Critics are upset about the way the case was handled by local law enforcement officials, especially the fact that Zimmerman was never arrested or charged with wrongdoing after shooting the unarmed teen.

As to be expected in any high-profile case, new information is being brought to light every day about the circumstances of the shooting and the personal lives of both Zimmerman and Martin. The pervasiveness of racial bias in our society is being spotlighted as the center-point of the debate while celebrities and common citizens don hoodies to protest the notion that a certain style of dress labels one as suspicious and justifies hostile treatment.

It is difficult to judge at this time whether or not George Zimmerman’s actions were racially motivated but it seems clear that he acted from fear and perceived threat; even though in reality the only threat that existed was in his own mind. In the court of public opinion, however, both sides of this controversy are pointing fingers and accusing their foes of racial bias.

A crucial lesson to be learned from this tragic event is that bigotry – intolerance of any race, creed, belief or opinion that differs from one’s own – is ingrained in our society and runs deeply through each of us. Bigotry can spring from ignorance, hatred or fear of anything or anyone that is different from us. Interestingly, the word contains the syllable “bi” which means two and wherever bigotry exists there is always a splitting into two parts: “me” and “not-me” or “us” and “them.”

I once heard someone say: “There is no one I hate more than a bigot.” But, you see, that statement itself arises from a type of bigotry. Whenever we choose to hate another we are practicing bigotry by seeing that other person as separate or different.

The fact is that while “We are all Trayvon Martin,” we also are all George Zimmerman.

Each one of us has the capability of harming another person out of our own ignorance, fear or hatred. Each one of us could do exactly what George Zimmerman did under the right circumstances and with the right provocation, because each one of us possesses a Shadow that is controlled by our fear and hatred and kept separate from our own awareness.

To the extent that we are unable to see our connection with others, the fact that we are all One, we hold apart from ourselves anyone and everything that we cannot agree with. And it is this belief that we are separate that allows us to denounce and denigrate and even destroy one another. But the truth is that while we are setting out to destroy the other we actually are bringing about our own destruction.

In order to overcome the divisive and destructive effects of bigotry, we must search our own hearts and our Shadows to discover where we are unable to perceive our Oneness with all others. We must look for the parts of our selves that we have disowned and find a way to reincorporate them.

We cannot solve the problems of bigotry in society until we have made ourselves whole. And from that wholeness, once we recognize that we are connected to everything and everyone, we will at last be able to meet ignorance with wisdom, to meet fear with faith, and to meet hatred with compassion.

We cannot bring Trayvon Martin back to life but we can honor the life he lost by refusing to harbor bigotry within ourselves and by helping our society to heal, one conflict at a time.

Categories: Current Events, Spirituality, Suffering

Copyright ©2010 Karen Wyatt, MD

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