18 Feb 2013

The Guilt of Innocence

The danger of profiling…

Trayvon Martin. Although it’s been some time since his untimely death occurred; yet, to this day, the sound of that name ignites a series of emotions. For many Americans, particularly those of African-American descent, this name, his name, leaves another impression on our hearts each time it is uttered. His unfortunate death, at the hand of George Zimmerman, arouses memories of discrimination, racism, disappointment and ultimately struggle in the minds of people across the nation.

In the aforementioned case, several believe and passionately assert that Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, adolescent African-American male, was racially profiled by George Zimmerman, a seemingly overzealous neighborhood watch patrolman, and that this “interpretation” eventually led to Martin’s death.

Is this true or false?

There have been hundreds of articles, posts, blogs, editorials and the like attempting to answer this question while analyzing the charges, the trial, its verdict and associated implications. We dare not join the ranking! However, as is our nature, we try to utilize prevalent ideals and societal occurrences as teaching moments to counter the normal train of thought and impose another, which might assist in the maturation, development, evolution and eventually change of an outdated or misaligned mindset. The case is mentioned solely for the purpose of highlighting an often subliminally championed, yet overlooked aspect of ministry and business: profiling.

In “Opposites Attract” we identified the subconscious seclusion that takes place in many of today’s churches and how this can affect the ministry’s growth and evangelistic vision & thrust. This post aligns with that awareness, as it serves to illuminate practices that presumably all are guilty of, at some point or another, but conversely don’t find the action as alarming or appalling until witnessing its dire consequences when evoked by someone other than themselves.

It is easy to play the “race card” or the “gender card” or the “age card” in issues, likened unto the above, that plague society and garner national attention. It’s convenient to point the blame at another out of frustration and disgust with a situation but, as individuals, we must be careful not to limit the scope of our opinion to issues placed on media platforms. The news is not now nor has it ever been the final resource for information. To develop our thoughts and gage our perspectives, we must be inclined to take an introspective look at the society around us to evaluate our personal mentalities, experiences and interactions.

How many times have you seen someone enter your organization and immediately developed an impression of who they are, what they believe, how they will respond to you and if they are “suitable” for what it is you have to offer? Now consider, the number of times you later learned that your initial intuition was inappropriately applied. Reflect upon the number of instances you “profiled” a member or client and inadvertently altered your level of service, trust, or compassion. What was it about them that attributed guilt to their innocence? Was it their attire (clothing, shoes or accessories)? Perhaps their speech (broken English, accents, etc.) is to blame? Who authorized you to decide anything without first attempting to develop a relationship with them that might reveal what you’ve otherwise (and potentially inaccurately) presumed?

The bottom line is that the opportunities to be judged on the content of your character and the wisdom of your experiences often falls victim to the color of your skin, the label of your wardrobe or the method of your articulation. Self-presentation often sets widely recognized standards, which will rarely result in a precise assessment of the complete individual.

We can’t regularly draw erroneous conclusions about others and then later express extreme outrage for incidents such as the Martin scenario. Empowerment of this double standard will continue to perpetuate the problem. We must commit to pensively delve within to ensure we aren’t functioning under false, yet justified pretenses on a daily basis.

Every person deserves an opportunity to “be” without having to sculpt the characteristics of their identity to cater to that which is perceived as acceptable in the eyes of another. Consistently check your motives, intentions and corresponding actions to guarantee you aren’t the profiler. Ministry and business deserve at least that…


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