As I sit in front of my computer, reading the Facebook comments left on 17 year-old Trayvon Martin’s page, I start to cry. Cry for the life of a young boy lost, cry for the family and friends who now have to leave messages of fond memories on his profile, cry for the injustice that continues to plague our world. My tears are full of sadness, confusion and anger. I’m pissed off. Pissed off that another human being was killed; the privilege of having a long fulfilling life stripped away from him at such a young age. Trayvon Martin was gunned down by a lunatic whose name I don’t even want to type because he is worthless to me, but for the sake of being as informative as possible, I shall.
On February 26th, 28 year-old neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman was patrolling the gated community of Twin Lakes in Sanford Florida. When he spotted an unarmed Trayvon Martin walking to his father’s house from the convenience store, he called Sanford police and reported that a suspicious person was in the community. He told the dispatcher that he was following him and that he “looked like he was up to no good.” The rest is history. Some time between the first phone call to authorities and their arrival, Trayvon lie dead 70 feet away from his father’s town-home with Zimmerman claiming self defense. Sanford police charged him with nothing; arguing that there was no evidence to suggest otherwise.
If you’re not shocked at the fact that this guy is walking around free then you have no pulse. Let it had been a black person and the victim white, he would have been lynched right there in Sanford. What’s more disturbing to me is one resident’s claim that this incident isn’t racially motivated. Ladonna Williams who is African American told the Associated Press that to her it’s not “even a race issue, other than for the people involved…It’s just about….to be able to take somebody’s life in 2012 and not even go to jail for it, that is just sad. No matter for any color. Not just black or white. Any color.” This quote is what really compelled me to write about this case.
We live in a world where many of us hope that one day race won’t matter. One day there will be no discrimination and there can be one big happy rainbow of colors. Unfortunately today is not that day and no matter how much we try to say that it isn’t about race, incidents such as the Trayvon Martin case keep proving otherwise. Yes Ladonna Williams had a point: no one should be able to kill someone regardless of color and not go to jail for it. But it’s bigger than that and in many ways, applying this statement to the case of Trayvon Martin oversimplifies it. Let’s take a look at some of the things that I believe contributed to this life being taken too soon.
Racially Charged Prejudices: A Breeding Ground for Preconceived Notions
According to reports, there was a series of break-ins happening in the small community. That was Zimmerman’s reasoning for patrolling the neighborhood late that Sunday night. According to audio of Zimmerman’s call to police, he stated that “This guy looks like he is up to no good. He is on drugs or something,” He follows up by saying “These a——-. They always get away.” In the language alone, there’s the conclusion that Martin is already guilty. So no matter what he said or did Zimmerman was not only prepped to take action, but inevitably would take action. He assumed that because Trayvon was walking around “looking at all of the houses” that he was on drugs and that he was up to no good. There is no doubt in my mind that Zimmerman’s ideas of young African American men on top of his need to be a hero…fueled his actions to continue to follow, confront and ultimately kill an innocent young boy.
White Man Saves the Day
Throughout modern history, there’s been this constant subliminal message that whites save the day. They save us from illness. They save us from disaster. Hell they even save us from ourselves. It’s evident throughout media and through the actions of everyday life. There are examples of this in films, books and real life ranging from The Birth of a Nation to more recently “KONY 2012.” Relating this back to Zimmerman, by tracking down and killing Martin, in his mind he essentially “saved the day” by protecting the citizens of the Twin Lakes community from the “big black thieving crackhead.”
The Role of Law Enforcement
Last time I checked, police were there to serve and protect. To bring a sense of objectivity to cases and provide both a sound, thorough investigation of all possibilities as well as fairness and justice for all. This was COMPLETELY absent in the case of Trayvon Martin. In fact, Sanford police did the opposite! They covered up for Zimmerman. Besides blatantly turning the other cheek, arguing that there is no evidence to suggest that the confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin was anything but self defense, Sanford police continued to absolve him of any responsibility, letting him walk away a free man. For weeks the Martin family has been pushing for the Sanford police to release the 911 calls that evening. One made by Zimmerman and not 1 or 2 but 7 others made by neighbors…where you can hear the pleas of Martin for his life. The evidence is there, but where is the follow up? Where is the arrest? Absent. The tapes were released today, finally after almost a month. Sanford Police response? That the 911 calls would prove the incident was not a case of racial profiling. That’s what Sanford police chief Bill Lee told the Miami Herald. Yes Bill, that’s what the focus should be…proving that the incident wasn’t racially motivated, the fact that a young man is dead isn’t important.
I’m one of those people that just wants the concept of race to disappear to a certain degree. I would like to one day, wake up to a world where we just see people as human beings. I’m also a realist…and the reality is that race will continue to be the elephant in the room because guess what? It’s the elephant in the room. Unless we work to establish dialogues among people of different ethnic backgrounds with each other and provide a true place that is safe, welcoming and inviting no matter how “dumb” the thoughts or questions may be for stereotypes to be dispelled, we cannot expect anything to change. Race is in everything whether we want to acknowledge it or not. This is a prime example of how ignorance can result in catastrophe. Thoughts breed words. Words breed action. I don’t have all of the answers, but I would definitely like to see us work towards a solution together so there will be less Trayvon Martin cases in the world.