Not Every Black Teenage Boy Who Flips Off a Camera Is a Murderer

Say What!? 12

Travyvon MartinSometimes people talk just because they have mouths and tongues and vocal chords. I’m convinced that George Zimmerman’s brother is one of them. And when folks like him have time to marinate in their own muddled thoughts and open a Twitter account, we all become privy to their clumsy attempts at reason. Hence Robert Zimmerman, Jr.’s effort to compare De’Marquis Elkins, who is accused of killing a 13-month-old baby in Georgia, to Trayvon Martin, who went to buy some Skittles and an iced tea before he was murdered.

Using photos of each teen brandishing their middle fingers and captioning the collage with “A picture speaks a thousand words,” Zimmerman seems to be trying to make a point. It’s not until he gets into his Twitter tirade that he reveals what it really is, though:

"Lib media shld ask if what these2 black teens did 2 a woman&baby is the reason ppl think blacks mightB risky"

So there we have it: one person accused of being dangerous defines the perception of an entire race of people -- the Obamas, Oprah, Bob Marley, me, Famous Amos -- the whole lot of us. We’re all perceived as potential threats because of what this one kid may or may not have done. That’s pretty reckless reasoning considering most white folks (even white Latinos) wouldn’t want to be measured on the Ted Kaczynski Scale of Socially Unacceptable Behavior.

Lumping these two kids, whose basic commonalities are that they’re black teenage boys with middle fingers, together into one generalization of thugishness says a lot for how Zimmerman not only sees young black men, but it’s representative of how a lot of people who consider themselves good, thoughtful, and humane see them, too. It was neon-bright obvious the last time I wrote about Trayvon in comments that justified the murder of a then-17-year-old. And on a site that speaks directly to mothers, that’s even sadder.

No 17-year-old kid deserves that, especially considering most of us go through a phase that reeks of teenage funkiness and self-righteous rebellion. Middle fingers doesn’t make someone a thug. And it certainly doesn’t make them a rightful candidate for murder.

If all it takes to be a thug is to be black, male, and not camera-shy about flipping the bird, three quarters of the dudes I went to college with, the bulk of my cousins, my Uncle Earl in that one picture with the big afro, most of the guys in this neighborhood, and just about every rapper everywhere would be locked up. I’m sure the Zimmerman boys think they should be.

So do plenty of other people, even in the confines of their secret, unspoken thoughts, even as they perceive the term “racist” to be another person’s problem and never, ever even entertain the possibility that it might be their own. Awesomely thoughtful writer Ta-Nehisi Coates recently penned a beautiful piece for The New York Times about that very thing.

Otherwise, racial profiling would be nonexistent and black boys throwing up their middle fingers would be nothing more than a tacky expression of immaturity and not a symbol of something far more sinister.

Is it impossible to be completely unbiased about other races?

Image via Hello Turkey Toe/Flickr 

human rights, guns, crime


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Andi Dodd

Exactly... and an equal amount of immature white/latino/boys/girls think a camera being pointed in their direction is their queue to flip the bird or even a gang sign (when they're not even gang related).  It's sign of immaturity, not a risky person. 

Vegeta Vegeta

Aw heeew-naw ain't nobody insultin my boy famous Amos!

nonmember avatar Dee

Thank you, that was well put and I agree 100%. My son is guilty of just about everything Trayvon Martin was, being tacky, rebellious, and not a great decision maker. So, nothing - and I've found it terrible how easily people find a minority kid being a jackass, not violent or even law breaking, a good reason to decide to shoot him. Last time I checked teenage boys were kind of jack asses, of all colors, religions, socioeconomic status, etc.. Most societies don't shoot them for it, even when they toilet paper your house or blast ridiculous music.

nonmember avatar krelia

Dee, you knowingly allow your son to affiliate with gang related activity, signs, and dialogue while in general wanting to be a "thug" while on the internet (Which both these kids did)? Seems like some bizarre parenting.

Bruic... Bruickson

Everyone is judged by how they look, talk, dress, where they live, ect. And it sucks. My closest male friend is a 300 lb black man and I've heard him be called a "thug". He is a big teddy bear. I'm half Puerto rican and white but I look white. I've been screamed at by a bunch of black girls for dating "their" men while I was with my friend (even though my white husband was with us). People who live in the south are depicted as racist rednecks all the time. Women who like to wear sexy clothes are "sluts". We will all judge and be judged. It's human nature. In a perfect world people would judge others by their character not how they look and I'm doing my best to teach that to my daughter.

IKnow... IKnow0101

When will people stop judging and making assumptions?

Katy Khan

I had a hard time reading his twitter rant. I cannot STAND people who say 'u, shld, b, 2 times, wutever' and all that other horrid horrid non English English. It shoiuld embarass people to write like that. It makes them look absolutely dumb.

nonmember avatar Dee

@krelia, no and neither did they. What exactly is a gang sign? See I remember a hubbub when I was a kid about the Ozzy "devil" sign. What is online gang activity? What makes a middle class teen a "thug"? Low pants, a pic with a middle finger, bad slang? I'm sure my son is guilty of all though he'd be terrified if he actually met a gang member. LOL they are dumb kids, not including the baby killer, obviously that's different. But Trayvon was an average teen boy from what I can tell and being constantly around tons of teen boys through coaching and other activities I'm very familiar

LuvMy... LuvMyDandD

Dee, don't even reply bother replying to ignorance I'm sure you are a great mother. Some people just can't seem to take off their judgy pants, which they fill with assupmtions.

nonmember avatar Mo Brown

You conveniently forget to leave out the part where Trayvon Martin had jewelry in his backpack at school that looked like it belonged to other people. And his innocent looking choir boy picture was several years old. He was six inches taller than Zimmerman and had a physical advantage. And the Facebook comments revealed a gangster wannabe along with the gold grill he wore. These facts were buried in the news stories. Forensic evidence shows that George Zimmerman was attacked that night in the complex. His head bashed against the sidewalk. Perhaps if he died the real Trayvon Martin might have been revealed or most likely would have gotten away with murder. Did Zimmerman stage his crime with self-inflicted injuries? Evidence does not support this theory.

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