Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist: Zimmerman, Racism, and Our Own Natural Fear of “The Other.”
There’s some nasty, funny truth in the Avenue Q song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”, and I think we all need to listen to it today. So go ahead. Listen. Everyone’s a little bit racist. Even you. You silly racist, you!
Yes, the Zimmerman case smacks of racial profiling. What happened is an absolute tragedy, and an innocent teenager with skittles in his pocket was killed, most likely because Zimmerman saw “the other” in a place he didn’t expect and made a foolish, stupid, ridiculous decision.
But guess what? If I saw a man–he could be any race, doesn’t matter–wearing a dark hoodie and bandana, smoking a cigarette in a dark alley, I’d hightail in the other direction, no questions asked. He’s dressed differently than I am. He’s an “other,” and as a woman, I’m taught to stay away from suspicious men because, as comedian Ever Mainard says, “The problem is that every woman in her entire life has that one moment when you think, ‘Oh! Here’s my rape!'”
But what if that man was wearing a nice, upscale business suit? Again, race doesn’t matter. I’m profiling based on social status. Foolishly, I admit, I’d be less nervous. “Oh,” I’d think, “he’s middle class, like me. He lives in Cary, like me. He must be safe.”
Truth is, I don’t know either of those men, and both of them are probably just on their way home from work to their wife and kids. I was just taught, like most women, to be wary of what society deems as “sketchy men.”
I’m not defending shooting teenage kids based on the color of their skin.
Because here’s the deep seeded, nasty, awful, beautiful, very human truth about every single person on this planet: We’re all prejudiced.
White people. Black people. Hispanic people. Purple people. Just people. People are raised to be afraid of “the other.” And we don’t just judge each other on racial qualities, but ALL qualities: Social status, nationality, religious beliefs, sexual preferences. It’s far more complicated that simple racism. It’s “otherism.”
But here’s my slice of good news: That doesn’t mean we all hate each other. All in all, people strive to overcome their basic fear of “the other” and make the world better.
Sometimes we fail. Sometimes fear wins. But I honestly believe that overall, people are trying to do good for all humanity — not just their own families, countries, and races.
When a tragedy strikes, like the Oklahoma tornadoes, do you think most people cared if they were handing a bottle of water or a a blanket to a white person, black person, gay person, Republican, or Muslim? Hell no. All they saw was a person in need. A person.
When we take a second and really think, we realize that any person we meet has the potential for good and the potential for cruelty, and you can never tell anything based on external factors.
Life’s a gamble. Get to know “the other,” and then suddenly you realize we’re all one. And part of that oneness is a fear and prejudice we all share.
So watch and listen to this song and laugh. We all really need to smile today and let go of our anger. That anger is what perpetuates the hatred. And that leads… to the dark side.