In our societies, persons identify themselves with individual and group identities. Every person is considered to be related to a certain race, religion, and other social aspects of life (Appiah, 2005). Identity refers to the unique characteristics that an individual or a group possesses.
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The characteristics of a certain group influence whether an individual will remain or leave the group. Each group has unique social, political, and economic characteristics that are depicted in the behavior of each member. Cultural studies indicate that every person has unique identifiers such as nationality, race, ethnicity, history, religious beliefs, and language.
In developed countries such as the United States of America, UK, and France, group identity is based on the social values and practices (Appiah, 2005). In this article, the events that led to the acquittal of George Zimmerman are analyzed with the aim of illustrating how tension between individual identity and group identity arises and how it can be resolved.
The killing of Trayvon Martin by Zimmerman has never been documented with certainty. However, it is apparent that the two persons were from two different races (Yancy, 2013). Martin was an African-American, while Zimmerman is white American.
The racial identity of Martin must have been the main cause that led to his killing. Therefore, it can be argued that Martin’s group identity and not his individual identity played a huge role in his demise.
In the US, racial conflicts between the whites and blacks have existed for a long time. However, in some few scenarios murder cases between members of same races have been reported (Yancy, 2013).
On 26 February 2012, the fateful day that Martin was murdered, Zimmerman was watching over the neighborhood in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman was then a community security guard and had a gun. Coincidentally, Martin had moved to stay temporarily in the Sanford neighborhood.
It is reported that when Zimmerman spotted Martin walking around the neighborhood, he immediately informed the police. The police advised him not to confront the minor, but he ignored their orders and proceeded to confront the minor. What Zimmerman feared most was burglary related crimes.
According to the context of the murder, it is clear that he believed that the blacks engage in burglary crimes. Because Martin was an African American, Zimmerman must have thought that the minor was up to something bad in the neighborhood. As such, Zimmerman intentions were prejudiced by the minor’s group identity.
When Zimmerman confronted Martin, the two broke into a fight where he injured his nose. During the fight, Zimmerman shot Martin killing him on the spot. He later argued that he shot Martin while defending himself.
It is apparent that Zimmerman did not take time to consider the individual identity of Martin, but instead judged him based on his group identity. Similarly, it is clear that Zimmerman did not interrogate the identity of Martin and the reason why he was walking around the neighborhood.
If he had waited for the police to arrive and investigate Martin’s actions, he could not have killed him. Through this, he would have discovered that Martin was living temporarily in the neighborhood. Equally, he could have discovered that Martin was not a criminal despite being an African American.
In addition, he would have realized that Martin was a minor. Therefore, the above conflicts are blamed on the tension between individual identity and group identity. Based on the above illustrations, it is apparent that Martin was a victim of group identity.
For a very long time, African Americans have been associated with criminal acts such as burglary by the majority whites. Through this, some African individuals have been persecuted and even jailed for being black despite the fact that there were lawful individuals (Yancy, 2013).
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In the case study, Martin was an innocent person and not a criminal as supposed by his attacker (Yancy, 2013). Based on Beller‘s arguments that we should be responsible for the actions of our groups, Martin bore the responsibility of being born into a black race. In his case, the group identity is stronger than the individual identity and it is the sole reason for his murder
After the killings, Zimmerman was not arrested for the offense because he argued that he was defending himself and there were no evidence to prove otherwise. However, it is clear that he was not apprehended immediately because of his racial background.
If Zimmerman came from African American background and Martin came from Caucasian origin, Zimmerman would have been apprehended by the police after the offense for further questioning. The above illustrations confirms Beller‘s arguments that group identity and individual identity have led to conflicts in our societies.
The murder of Martin and acquaintance of Zimmerman demonstrated a degree of negligence on racial killing acts in the US (Pietruszynski, 2008). The group identity in most cases conflicts with the individual identity. In fact, Americans perceive the group identity to be more significant.
As such, they base most of their judgment on group identity. The murder case of Martin attracted public attention and led to series of protests condemning the act. Most importantly, the public and other government agencies were furious because the murderer had not been arrested (Pietruszynski, 2008).
Because Zimmerman was acquitted, I believe that the conflict in the American society concerning the group identity and individual identity has never been solved (Yancy, 2013).
Therefore, as Beller argues Americans will still be accountable for dealing with injustices that result from their group identity regardless of whether they are responsible for the situations (Pietruszynski, 2008).
Although conflicts exist between individual identity and group identity, it is unfair for individuals to be responsible for the actions they encounter in their lives.
Despite the existence of the shared social characteristics, group judgment should not be used to discriminate against individuals. It is also true that the group action do not predict the behavior of an individual.
Based on the above illustration, it is apparent that tensions between individual identity and group identity usually arise in our society. The circumstances determine why a person would choose to engage or not to engage more as a group member.
The characteristics of a certain group influence whether an individual will remain or leave the group. The characteristics are dependent on the values and social facts of a particular group such as social, political, and economic factors that the group upholds.
Depending on the context, individual identity at certain times conflict with the group identity. When there is no clear boundary between the individual and group identity, then tension arises, hence the Beller’s conclusion on why we are responsible for being born holds.
Appiah, A. (2005). The ethics of identity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Pietruszynski, J. (2008). Race, gender, and human identity in a diverse society: an anthology (9th ed.). Acton, Mass.: Tapestry Press.
Yancy, G. (2013). Pursuing Trayvon Martin: historical contexts and contemporary manifestations of racial dynamics. Lanham: Lexington Boos.