George Zimmerman probably didn’t wake up on February 26 thinking he was going to instigate a now-infamous news-making confrontation and he almost certainly wasn’t expecting to be labeled a cold-blooded killer. But he did and he is.
In the wake of his reportedly calculated attack against a “suspicious-looking” boy who, as it turns out, was armed only with a pack of Skittles, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is dead for no reason whatsoever besides the glaringly obvious fact that he had the misfortune of being alone, vulnerable, and black at the exact time that Zimmerman was able to flex his moxie as neighborhood watchman. Still, the Florida law that fundamentally gives the right to murder seems to be shielding him from prosecution and making him an unlikely folk hero for gun-toting vigilantes everywhere.
It hits particularly close to home for black folks who, in addition to the basic life lessons that all kids have to learn, have had to teach our kids—particularly our sons, nephews, brothers, cousins, and male neighbors, mentees, and students—how to avoid tenuous situations with cops and other figures of authority lest they end up riddled with bullets like Sean Bell or beat in a merciless frenzy like Rodney King. We have to remember to tell them not to walk through certain communities that say to hell with a civil rights bill and make examples of young African-American men like Yusuf Hawkins, who was beaten to death back in the late 80s by a blood-thirsty gang of locals angry at his presence in their Bensonhurst, Brooklyn neighborhood.
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Now it seems that we can add to the list a teenage boy walking home from the store who was apparently stalked by Zimmerman, empowered by the itty bitty bit of pathetic authority he possessed as a neighborhood watchman, that some may label an armchair bigot. In order to justify his seemingly premeditated attack on Trayvon, I think he started setting up his alibi early by calling 911 and crafting the story about a wandering black guy who seemed not only out of place in the area, but looked like “he’s on drugs or something.” No one wants a druggie roaming through his neighborhood. You’ve seen pictures of Trayvon. I’ve seen pictures of Trayvon. And there doesn’t seem to me to be even a whiff of evidence that that boy looked like anything other than a normal, average, regular, everyday teenager. He was wearing a hoodie and jeans. He was on the phone with his girlfriend. And he was walking back from the store unarmed but in the crosshairs of an alleged killer.
Had Zimmerman actually been attacked, he surely would’ve mentioned that to the 911 operator after he called for police backup. Instead of saying that he was standing at a distance peering at a suspicious-looking young black guy, he would’ve said that an altercation had occurred, that he feared for his safety, that he was calling for backup because he had already experienced the wrath of this unidentified threatening person. That didn’t happen. In fact, the 911 operator asked him if he was following this mysterious menace to society and told Zimmerman that he didn’t need to do that, that he should wait for police to arrive. It appears that he didn’t listen. So, even if there was an altercation between Zimmerman and Trayvon, the course of events that took place seem to point to him as the instigator, not the other way around.
Zimmerman’s most telling comment on his 911 call: “These a**holes. They always get away.” It seems that he’s the a**hole getting away, largely because Florida’s “stand your ground” law gives legal protection to citizens who feel physically threatened and endangered by the individual on the opposite end of their protective measures—in this case, his gun barrel. But the application of the law here does nothing but give a renegade gunslinger a smoke screen to hide behind what is appears to me to be an obvious instance of racial profiling escalated into a full-blown hate crime. It doesn’t matter that Zimmerman isn’t white. Racial prejudice isn’t relegated to just black and white. Asians discriminate against black folks, black folks harass Arab people and so on and so forth. There are all kinds of crazy combinations of race-based ignorance.
The fact that public outcry had to be the catalyst to light the fire under the justice system is pathetic. In the name of justice, Michael Vick was sent to prison for almost two years on felony charges, all but crucified by the media and animal rights enthusiasts, and practically destroyed inside out ... for killing dogs. George Zimmerman reportedly murdered an unarmed boy—unless you consider his pack of Skittles a potential weapon—and he’s roaming free. If the system fails to prosecute and convict citizens who take advantage of the legal backing to shoot and kill individuals who pose a threat to their safety, then heck, maybe we really are living in the end of days when anarchy and chaos will rule the streets. That means anyone can get it. You, me, our children. Especially if your complexion happens to fall on the darker shade of brown.
When the dust settles from this story and the press moves on, Trayvon’s family will still be mourning their loss on his would-be graduation day, holidays, his birthday, and all of those little moments that he’ll miss and they’ll miss him. But if Trayvon can’t enjoy them with his loved ones, George Zimmerman for damn sure doesn’t need to either.
Is the “stand your ground” law applicable in this situation?
Image via AP Photo