Did the Sanford, Florida police simply take George Zimmerman’s word for what happened to Trayvon Martin on February 26? No questions asked. No investigation. No lockup. Did they see a cut and dry case of stand your ground – Black man down? End of story? Thanks to a national outcry for justice, it is not going down like that.
Like people throughout the country, I am hurt and fire-spitting angry over the unfortunate shooting of Trayvon Martin. I have one son and six young grandsons. They are all Black. That gives me a strong vested interest in the circumstances surrounding Trayvon’s senseless killing and the call for justice.
What mother of a Black male child cannot relate to this most recent tragedy and does not fear for her own offspring? Even those of us who have had “the talk” with our young, male children know that just warning them is never enough. Making our boys aware of the dangers of simply being a Black male, combined with the ongoing racial stereotyping and negative judgments against Blacks in general is a struggle that requires endless vigilance.
Trayvon is just one of countless Black males who became a target in the crosshairs, not because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but for merely walking, driving, or just being Black.
Within the numerous discussions I have heard concerning this tragedy, there has been an occasional accusation that many of us who are demanding justice for Trayvon are appointing ourselves as judge and jury against Zimmerman, the admitted shooter. Excuse you! By all indication it looks like Zimmerman, relying on Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law, appointed himself judge, jury and executioner of Trayvon Martin. Arthur Hayhoe, executive director of the Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence says, “You want to know how you can kill somebody legally in Florida? Make sure you have no witnesses, hunt the person down and then say you feared for your life.”
Nearly every mother of a Black son can disclose a personal experience. All of our stories are not nearly as heartbreaking as Trayvon’s, but his death is a tragic reminder of what could happen as a result of racial profiling or outright racism.
I had the talk with my son at an early age. Although his father, a former police officer and I divorced when my son was a toddler, as he grew up I always cautioned my boy about two things: avoid doing anything that would cause him to become negatively involved in the criminal justice system and remaining cognizant that at any moment he could become an innocent victim. As New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow so adequately stated, “That is the burden of black boys in America and the people that love them.”
A couple of decades ago, when my son was around 15, he and some of his friends were gathered outside the apartment complex where we lived, just shooting the breeze as they often did on warm summer evenings. That was a different era and because some of the boys, including my son, had curfews they usually stayed close to home in order to be inside by the appointed time. On this night they happened to be standing beneath my bedroom window which was located on the street side of the building. It was around 9:30 in the evening and my young daughter and I were inside preparing for bed when the flashing red light of a police cruiser caught my attention. I walked to the window to see what was happening and was surprised to see my son and his friends, all of them well-behaved young men who lived on the block, lined up with their hands clinched behind their head as police officers went through their pockets. I rushed to get dressed, but before I could get outside to ask the officers what was going on they had returned to their cruiser and were gone.
I later learned that the car full of uniformed police officers upon simply seeing the boys had suddenly pulled over to the curb, emerged from the cruiser and then – without cause or provocation — frisked them. As they did so, one of our neighbors who had been watching the situation from her window called out “those kids live here.” Shortly after their unprovoked shakedown one of the cops uttered an expletive and then they all got in the cruiser and left without explanation or apology to the young men. Was it racial profiling? What do you think?
I have heard it said that Blacks are hypersensitive about race and that we see racism in every incident similar to the current Trayvon tragedy. I imagine that the loved ones of Emmitt Till, James Byrd, Amadou Diallo and James Craig Anderson would cringe when hearing that statement.
Many people are wondering what if the situation had been reversed? Had Trayvon been a white boy and Zimmerman a Black man would Zimmerman be somewhere in seclusion or would he have been immediately jailed? Only two people actually know the truth about what happened to Trayvon Martin and one of them is dead.
Even wild animals get a respite from human predators. I wonder if the open season on Black men will ever end or must they always be on guard.