I tackle this subject with great reticence, because it is important and loaded and delicate and I want to do it justice. I want to do Trayvon justice, which was stolen from him twice now. And I want to do justice to the millions of young, black men in this country who are not safe walking their streets or driving their cars or even having the same harmless fun any other teens and young adults enjoy because their skin color criminalizes them.
I have to acknowledge, first, that I am a white woman and, as such, live with a certain amount of privilege. Yes, as a woman and as a kid who grew up in the lower middle class, there are privileges I don’t enjoy. I don’t know, for example, what it’s like to have your parents pay for college or pay for a wedding I may one day have. I have to worry about being followed and attacked when walking alone on a dark street, but I am more than certain I wouldn’t ever be perceived as suspicious or criminal simply by virtue of my mere presence.
So that perspective will color my writing. I can’t help that, but there it is.
Unless you don’t have a Facebook or Twitter or Television or ears or eyes, you know that George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in the death of Trayvon Martin. Excuse me, in the murder of Trayvon Martin.
I am not here to discuss the nitty gritty details of this case or the Stand Your Ground Law (though I don’t see how that could even apply), because someone else will do that for you here today. I’m here to talk about two things:
- An armed vigilante pursued an unarmed teenager despite being told not to by authorities.
- That’s apparently okay, because the kid was black and it’s criminal to be black in America.
Zimmerman’s acquittal made several statements about a race culture, which we are condoning here in the US. Vigilanteism is okay if you’re not black and being black is a crime punishable by death. I don’t care if Trayvon fought Zimmerman or beat him up, because the truth is that Trayvon never would have died if Zimmerman hadn’t instigated a fight and wasn’t armed. If they fought as the defense claimed, I’m 100% certain that the kid was defending himself and, if he was overpowering an adult, I would have been rooting for him to beat up a bully.
Imagine this scenario. You’re watching a movie. In it, a young white teenager walks home alone at night carrying skittes and a soda. He’s pursued by a big, black adult man in a vehicle who yells at him and accuses him of criminal behavior. The kid protests his innocence, tries to explain he’s just walking home, but, being a teenager, it comes across with some attitude. The adult calls the kid a punk and gets out of the vehicle with a gun, starts pushing the kid in the chest. Soon there’s a scuffle. The kid finally overpowers the adult only to be shot, dead.
Who did you root for? The adult? The kid?
I just can’t. I’m done with the non-sequitors. I don’t care that Zimmerman was Hispanic. I don’t care if Trayvon was smoking pot or if he was cutting through backyards as he walked home or if he was wearing a hoodie or if he had the hard attitude teenagers all affect these days. I don’t care if there are photos of him flipping off the camera all over the Internet. I don’t care. You know why? Because none of those things justify his death. None of those things justify the kid’s death.
And Trayvon is just one kid. Just one that we all happened to hear about. What about the other boys who die? Or are imprisoned for minor offenses? Or blamed for crimes they’re innocent of? There are many Trayvons. Too many to count, I’m sure.
In contrast, last year, a Florida woman, Marissa Alexander, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing warning shots in her home against her abusive husband. “She told police it was to escape a brutal beating by her husband, against whom she had already taken out a protective order.” The charge was attempted murder. This is Marissa:
Apparently the Stand Your Ground Law didn’t apply to her. Three guesses as to why.
The lesson here is that it’s perfectly legal to shoot and kill a black kid in Florida, but it’s illegal for a black woman to even fire a gun, even in self defense and even if you don’t hit anyone.
This is our culture. I am appalled that anyone is okay with this. I am appalled that, as a white woman, it would be perfectly acceptable for me to shrug my shoulders in the knowledge that it would never happen to me. I am appalled that we are experiencing a racism renaissance in this country and I see people every day participating it gladly and easily.
We should all be horrified and appalled. As human beings, we should all be grieving and scared. We should all be marching in the streets demanding change and justice, if not for Trayvon, then for all of us, for what this makes us, for what it says about the world we live in.