This is what they call a Big Story.
And if I solely relied on social media for my news, the cool way to consume, I’d have no idea this was going on.
I’d have no idea that a terrified teenager was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch guard because he was black and wearing a hooded sweatshirt in an upscale neighborhood that had recently been hit by robberies.
For all the talk about videos and stories going viral, the fact remains that our exposure to the viral is confined to who we friend and follow. As connected as the world has become, we can still sequester ourselves into cliques isolated from any views that may challenge our status quo understanding of the world, whether we mean to or not.
There has been a parade of commentators on NPR with intelligent looks at modern racism. They talk about how they’ve seen so much talk about this on Facebook and Twitter. Their reality is clearly not my reality.
Why is it that my group of my “friends” on the internet has chosen to look past this story? And more importantly, why have I chosen to seek out internet friends who are so similar to me and my experiences with the world? I never thought to question that before. As a group, we belong to the white middle class and have followed the same life paths, faced the same fears, and when a big picture view is taken, we’ve all achieved the same things.
How come I, someone who considers herself to be open minded and interested in people who are different, haven’t expanded my online interactions beyond my set social group?
There are a lot of details coming out about the shooting. There are assumptions being made on the internet that are based more on stereotypes and a narrative we choose to see, than reality. The biggest debate is over whether the shooter was racist. Some say no, some say yes, but the bigger question is, are you?
What would your gut reaction be, seeing a black teenager wearing a hoodie walking at night? If I’m honest with myself, I’d probably be worried. Then I’d tell myself not to be worried and to not be racist and talk myself out of my worry.
I have to think that even the most nonracist among us are at least a little bit racist. I don’t think that makes us bad people, but it does make us insincere if we can’t recognize and admit it.
This scenario wasn’t authority related. This wasn’t another police shooting. This was two ordinary people meeting for the first time and knowing nothing about each other. Assumptions don’t just make you and me asses, it turns out.
The death of Trayvon Martin is heart wrenching and tragic. He’s far from the only teenager to die for no good reason, but the circumstances surrounding his shooting are shrieking for us to look at and question ourselves. The fact is, we probably won’t like what we see. That’s the point.