Monday, April 23, 2012

The Power of Perception

Not too long ago a professional associate saw M out with C. Since I had only interacted with this person in a professional capacity and chatted with him once at a work function, he was unaware we were polygamists. His running into M with another woman obviously bothered him because he sought me out to “delicately inform me” that my husband was out with another woman.

 Again because it was a professional relationship only I did my best to ease his concern without laying out our entire story. This incident got me to thinking; all of us make decisions based upon perceptions of others, even if that perception is formed in a split second for whatever reason.

 For example, if a person walks into a law office and the attorney is dressed in cut off shorts, a tank top and flip flops, more often than not the client’s instant perception is that the attorney is not the best in his field. Whereas, if he is in a suit and tie the first impression is usually more favorable, and the attorney is not battling an uphill fight to prove his competence. I could go on but I think you get the idea.

Now we turn to the Martin/Zimmerman case. I have been following this in the news not so much because I believe it is an issue of race, but to follow the legalities of it all. I am not going to debate Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence, but I will say I do not believe that race ever factored into the events of that tragic night. And there are only two people who know the actual events of that few minutes and sadly one of them cannot tell his side. I do believe two people’s instant perception of one another is what led to the killing.

I must also say, anytime a youth is killed it is tragic. It is a loss for his or her family and society. We will never know what impact he would have made on our world, because his life was cut short because of the events of that night and a chance meeting.

 Let me explain why I do not believe it is a case of race but do believe it is a case of reacting in a bad way to the perception of what was witnessed.

Let’s start with Zimmerman. He had been a neighborhood watch volunteer for a few years in the area. Thus, he was aware of the children, the adults and the teens in the area. He saw a young adult he was not accustomed to seeing in the area, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, he was aware of a rash of break-ins occurring in the area so his immediate perception was that the person he saw was not a normal one of the area and therefore his suspicion was a result of that perception. His concern was enough he called 911 to report what he saw. (I will not go into if I believe he continued to follow the person or what occurred next because again I was not there so I cannot say). I do not think the fact that Martin was African American mattered it was a young person Zimmerman had not previously seen in the area.

 Now let’s take Martin, he was innocently walking to his father’s girlfriend’s house after going to the store. He had on a hoodie to protect against the rain and he was on the phone with a female friend. He told the friend he was being followed. The girl told him to run he chose not to run. This unfortunately is a lot of young people’s reasoning of in some way being invincible and therefore he did not run ( I AM NOT BLAMING THE VICTIM HERE). Now here is a young man who is doing nothing wrong suddenly being followed by an adult, he looks and there is nothing that he can see that shows Zimmerman is a part of the neighborhood watch, such as a vest or brightly colored shirt. There is nothing that says he is law enforcement or security, so Treyvon only sees a person following him and he forms an instant perception that danger is a real possibility.

 Now I do not know of Zimmer had stopped following Martin, and Martin approached him or if Zimmerman caught up to him. What I do now is that two people reacted to what they perceived as a threat in a split second. Sadly one young man is dead, so I believe both possibly made poor choices on how to react to what they perceived. Thus, I do not believe race played a part in what occurred, so I do not believe the race of either person would have changed the outcome.

 My heart goes out to the Martin family, as a parent I cannot fathom the heartbreak of losing a child, so I do understand their anger. Others who have jumped on the bandwagon I however, believe have blown this tragic event into something way bigger than it is to further their own agenda.  While I believe race relations are important, using the tragic death of a young man to further your position in that fight is not something I agree with.

 There are numerous young people killed every day, some of those are African American. A lot of their deaths are senseless, yet we will never hear their stories, we do not hear the one’s screaming racism is what led to Martin’s death offering any solutions on how to stop the deaths of our young. They are quick to point fingers but not quick to offer solutions.

For example, Stanly Tookie Williams did some terrible things in his life, and he paid the price for the hard life when the death penalty was carried out. However, after years of reflection he determined what led him down the path he followed and how it was not the right path. From his prison cell he preached to children and young adults the importance of not joining a gang, and why he believed education was more important. He offered solutions to the youth, to the communities and he did so in an effort to save our young. Yet when many people first hear about one of the founders of one of the largest and most dangerous street gangs in the U.S. the perception of him is negative. Again that perception thing plays an important factor in this.

I could go on but you get the idea. Perception is a powerful tool we as humans rely on each day to form immediate feelings and beliefs. It is not for most of us about race, but what we visually see and how it fits into what we already know (Psychology 101).