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Bill, Jim, and Scott were at a convention together and were sharing a large suite on the top of a 75 story sky scraper. After a long day of meetings they were shocked to hear that the elevators in their hotel were broken and they would have to climb 75 flights of stairs to get to their room. Bill said to Jim and Scott, let's break the monotony of this unpleasant task by concentrating on something interesting. I'll tell jokes for 25 flights, and Jim can sing songs for 25 flights, and Scott can tell sad stories the rest of the way. At the 26th floor Bill stopped telling jokes and Jim began to sing. At the 51st floor Jim stopped singing and Scott began to tell sad stories. "I will tell my saddest story first," he said. "I left the room key in the car!"
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On February 26, 2012, shots rang out that would divide viewpoints across the nation. Trayvon Martin, a seventeen-year-old high school student, had been shot to death by a member of a community neighborhood watch. The shooter, George Zimmermanof Sanford Florida, claimed to be defending himself from assault under the controversial Florida
State “stand-your-ground” law that protects would be victims of violent crime. In respect to this defense, understanding this law is claiming to have a deeper understanding of due diligence. Whether or not anyone wants to admit it, attitude and clothing do play a part. Neighborhood watch members should be in uniform.
“The Social Significance of Clothing”
*** “When a person encounters a stranger, the person seeks clues from the stranger”s appearance which can reveal things about the stranger. One powerful clue to a person”s background is clothing. Clothing serves as a mental shortcut to identifying a persons sex, status, group membership, legitimacy, authority, and occupation. Clothing and physical appearance are very important in the initial development of social relationships. Studies have revealed that physical appearance, including clothing, is the factor most often used in developing a first impression of someone. Clothing has been found to have an even greater effect on making first impressions than does personality.”
In early social interactions, clothing has a significant psychological influence on people”s perceptions. Personnel administrators who were asked to rate the competency of similar female job applicants consistently rated the women in conservative, slightly-masculine attire as the most competent. In another study, both high school students and teachers were asked to rate, pictures of female athletes, some of whom were in uniform and the others in casual street clothes, All of the athletes were perceived as being more professional, possessing higher ability, and having more team spirit when viewed in uniform. Both students and teachers, have also rated photos of students in private school-type uniforms as having higher scholastic ability.”
For many years, people in authority have used lab coats, uniforms, polished badges, and have followed their surnames with title or status. Status such as M.D., D.D.O., R.N. L.V.N., etc. The most frequent initial reaction to these are one of either respect, and/or, entitlement. It is engrained in our culture. It is part of how we were taught as children.
*** “The uniform worn by a police officer also elicits stereotypes about that human being”s status, authority, attitudes, and motivations, The police uniform serves to identify a person as one vested with the powers of the state to arrest and use force. The uniform also serves to establish order and conformity within the ranks of those who wear it by suppressing individuality. The psychological and physical impact of the police uniform should not be underestimated. Depending on the background of the citizen, the police uniform can elicit emotions ranging from pride and respect, to fear and anger.“
The uniform is part of the “fabric”, pardon the pun, of our daily lives. George Zimmerman is not a Police officer. Nor was Young Trayvon. Neither were wearing a uniform, as most of us don’t in everyday life. So, let us ask a few rhetorical questions.
- What were they wearing?
- Could their clothing have played a part?
- Did Zimmerman stereotype Martin?
- Did Martin stereotype Zimmerman?
- Was Martin initially scared?
Zimmerman was wearing a common tee shirt and jeans as was Martin, Martin was also wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Hooded sweatshirts are commonly seen in today’s average television program being worn by the “undesirable”, or “criminal”. This is a Hollywood stereotype pushed into our minds. A hoodie is not a criminal’s “uniform”.
Speculation points toward Zimmerman stereotyping Martin due to his clothing among other things. In his original 911 call, Zimmerman felt it important to mention that Martin was wearing “a dark hoodie like a gray hoodie” and also said “this guy looks as if he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something”. He was stereotyping the young man’s clothing, as well as skin color and body language.
Wherein Zimmerman also wasn’t wearing any uniform to depict authority, he expected subservience from Martin. He was told not to chase when Martin ran. This was apparent when Zimmerman called 911 dispatch. Zimmerman followed against authoritative suggestion. It should have been a command: DO NOT CHASE HIM! Was Martin scared? All that he knew was that someone had called the police on him and was now chasing him.
Contrary to popular belief. Not only criminals are apprehensive in dealing with the police. Do you slow down when you see one with a radar gun pointed? When a police cruiser is behind you on the freeway do you drive the speed limit? Have you ever turned onto a side street to evade a possible ticket/driving test? Exactly. Same reaction to the same authority. Unfortunately, this reaction ended in a much more regrettable incident than a ticket for failure to yield right of way.
To Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman was a non-authority figure getting him in more trouble with more police, which is why he was in Sanford, Florida in the first place. He had been in trouble at school, with the police. He ran. He did what a child
does. As for Zimmerman, he wasn’t wearing a uniform of authority, making him come off as an everyday citizen. His chasing Martin only intimidated Martin who, in turn, would naturally run or refuse to continue running; the well known “fight or flight” reaction. This is our body’s automatic, inborn response that prepares us to either fight or run from impending danger. This response, for the most part, is uncontrollable.
The result of the chase was fatal. The fight or flight response is both psychological and physiological. Zimmerman should not have been armed, however, if threatened are you going to run or fight? Both parties, unfortunately, have tapped the human body’s caveman response to an age old question. If I fight, can I win?
We all dress according to fashion, which is all too often dictated by the popular music, television, and motion picture icons of our times. We like leather, goth make-up, and hoodies. We like long hair, tattoos, and piercings. We like friendship, popularity and to fit in with our peers. The bad-boy or bad-girl images are culturally popular, and probably not going to go away anytime soon. It is a part of our person, our crowd, and our cool. After all you can’t blame a woman’s rape on the clothing that she wears. In light of that, law enforcement needs to be left to the professionals.
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