A 17-year old black male lay motionless on a Florida sidewalk, and the world barely blinked at first. Just another young negro, victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Probably had it coming, too.
Musta been a victim of gang violence. Musta been packing heat. Musta been a drug deal gone band. This type’a shit happens all the time in Black America: Every ghetto’s sad story.
But High School senior Trayvon Martin wasn’t struck down by a gang member in the ghetto. Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, a white man with a Peruvian mother, a self-appointed ‘neighborhood watch’ captain. That shouldn’t matter, but it does.
Trayvon Martin, all 140 pounds of him, was armed only with an Arizona Ice Tea and a bag of skittles, draped in a hooded sweatshirt. Hell, that sounds a lot like me as a High School senior. That shouldn’t matter, but it does.
Trayvon Martin wasn’t involved in a drug deal. Trayvon Martin didn’t do drugs. That shouldn’t matter, but it does.
Trayvon Martin didn’t have this coming, and if he’d been a gangbanger, a drug addict or carrying a weapon on him …. well, he still wouldn’t. Because that shouldn’t matter.
I don’t really know how to put this delicately, but NO ONE DESERVES TO DIE.
No one deserves to get followed several blocks, approached by a stranger, asked ‘What are you doing here?’ and forced to swallow lead while being laid to waste in cold blood.
Some state that he shouldn’t have been inside the ‘gated community.’ I’ve been in Florida’s gated communities. This ain’t The Real Housewives of Orange County. My mom lives in one. They’re just neighborhoods, little planned communities with a perimeter fence. You shouldn’t have to account for your whereabouts at all times. Everyone has a right to walk down a street. No one has the right to die on it.
Some (ahem, Geraldo Rivera) state he shouldn’t have been dressed in a hoodie. Because folks who rob convenience stores, who get arrested in drug busts, who gangbang, are always in hoodies. You know who else can often be spotted in hoodies? 17 year-olds at band practice, skateboarders, lacrosse players and people who are just plain fucking cold. Using that logic, rape victims shouldn’t dress sexy. They’re just looking for trouble.
Some state George Zimmerman was doing his neighborhood watch duty. He did not. He did neighborhood hunt duty. Here’s why:
1. He followed Trayvon Martin. Trayvon was walking. Down a street. There are no eye-witness accounts that he’d done anything but walk out of a store and back toward home. Zimmerman had no reason to suspect Martin of anything. Except that Martin was, you know, black.
2. He called 911. Again, stating how suspicious Trayvon looked. A kid. Walking out of a store. I’ve walked out of thousands of stores. It’s what you do after walking into a store.
3. The police told him to STOP FOLLOWING Trayvon, because there was not enough first-hand knowledge to warrant any kind of law enforcement, much less warrant any kind of vigilante law enforcement. Zimmerman ignored this advice and kept on following, even using the words “Fucking Coons” during the recorded call.
4. Zimmerman, against the orders of the police, approached Trayvon Martin. Some folks have suggested Trayvon Martin could’ve done something to avoid this. The burden of avoiding a violent conflict lies in the aggressor, not the defender.
5. Trayvon Martin did what most people would do. He ran. Some folks said, “If he didn’t do anything wrong, then why did he run?” He ran because he was afraid. Because that’s what you do when you’re being chased. When you’re being hunted.
6. And when he couldn’t run fast enough, he defended himself. Without a weapon. He brought his hands to a gun fight. Of course he lost.
Zimmerman’s self-defense theory doesn’t hold up. He attacked. His decision to follow. His decision to call police. His decision to keep following after the police told him not to. His decision to step out of the car. His decision to chase. His decision to shoot. This was an unprovoked attack on an innocent person. Doesn’t matter if he was 17, 47 or 77. That he’s a kid makes this more of a tragedy but no more of a travesty.
What was Zimmerman defending himself against? A Skittles shower?
Trayvon Martin didn’t deserve to die. But he did die. Because he is black. Because black people, particularly black males, are irrationally feared. Still. White people cross the street. Ladies clutch their purses a little tighter. Still. In 2012. Why?
Why must black parents have to teach their black kids about the “Code?” About how to lay still and essentially say ‘yezza-masta’ whenever asked about why they are where they are and why they do what they do? Shouldn’t it be everyone else talking to their kids and teaching them a lesson that “There is no reason to be afraid?” That we are all the same? That everyone has the same rights to grab skittles and ice tea from the store?
Why must black males go above and beyond what’s reasonable to illustrate that they’re not a threat? Not a criminal? Not a menace? Why should that burden fall on them?
“Be aware of your surroundings.” “Don’t appear to be threatening.” Nobody should have to be told this just to have the rights to coexist on this pebble we call Earth. A gathering of 12 young black males outside a Chick-Fil-A doesn’t necessitate a SWAT team and a six-pack of squadron cars. But we’ve seen it happen. And it frankly makes me sick.
In the wake of Trayvon’s killing, hundreds of articles and millions of words have been spilled about how black people need to talk to their kids about protecting themselves. These words are superfluous, for the real words that must be written must instruct people of all other races to stop perceiving blacks as suspicious, dangerous, violent and threatening. While you’re at it, maybe you could teach your kids that all blacks aren’t great dancers, dunkers and poor students and workers. I can’t believe I have to say this, but Black people are people. They share cultural commonalities and cultural differences the same way whites do. The same way asians do.
We’re all just people. We’ve got our own culture, our own habits, our own vices, our own talents. And most of us – hell, damn near all of us – share similar goals, like wanting to mind our own business, get to where we’re going, and drink our ice tea in peace.
Wake up, people. Nobody hunts in self-defense.