Living in Miami is a unique experience. While it is a very culturally diverse city, sadly even today there are unwritten neighborhood boundaries driven by race. It is the death of Trayvon Martin, and subsequently the acquittal of George Zimmerman, which has blurred some of these boundaries. Some Latino’s from both Central American countries such as Nicaragua, and Honduras and from South American countries such as Venezuela, and Ecuador have united with the African American community in support of federal civil rights charges being brought against George Zimmerman. The Cuban community in Miami however, is divided. In speaking with some people in the Cuban community, I found that there are those who feel strongly that George Zimmerman acted rightfully and lawfully. Some, who own guns stated that if in that situation they would shoot first, ask questions later. Then there are others in the Cuban community and the Haitian community who feel anger regarding the verdict and support further legal action being taken against George Zimmerman.
Then there is the African American community. In speaking with members of this community the common feeling was “outrage.” There is a strong sense of anger and injustice in this community. Whether you speak to parents, teens or young adults, overall they feel betrayed and victimized, yet understand the importance of keeping a cool head. In the Miami Gardens neighborhood, where Trayvon Martin lived, and in surrounding neighborhoods, churches from different denominations are calling for unity and calm. They are opening their doors on a whole new level since the verdict. Area churches want the community to come and vent in their space. They want the members of the community, especially the youth, to feel they have a place to go to where their voice can be heard and they leave their frustrations and anger there and not take it to the streets.
It is in these churches that a new conversation is being held. Since this tragic death, and now with the verdict, racial profiling has been put on the table as a vital topic for parents to have with their children, and particularly African American men consider as well. Tia Brown a 30 year old African American woman living in North Miami and her 28 year old brother both feel a new sense of fear because of this verdict. She shared how in the back of their minds they’ve always known that they may be viewed differently by some due to the color of their skin. Now however they fear that people’s prejudices may put them at higher risk for discrimination and even potentially dangerous situations. Tia stated how she knows of conversations being had where one’s behavior and presentation is being reassessed because of this case.
The skyline of Miami continues to change and evolve. Hopefully race relations in South Florida will continue to change, evolve and improve as well. Sadly, racism is alive and well and it seems that Trayvon Martin’s legacy and George Zimmerman’s destiny is to shine a light on our differences, so that this generation and the ones to follow can co-exist peacefully and find strength and inspiration in one another.
By Being Latino Contributor, Maria G. Rodriguez, RN, BSN, CHHC, www.connectmymindbodyandspirit.com