Wednesday, May 09, 2012

More Thoughts About Trayvon Martin

So George Zimmerman was finally arrested.  He spent a few days in jail while his lawyers jockeyed for terms of bail and release.  Now he's walking around free with a monitor on his ankle.  The story of Trayvon's killing is not done by a long shot and along with his family, friends, and many supporters want genuine justice for Trayvon.   There was nothing good about the laws in Florida that absolutely allowed Zimmerman to target and kill this kid.  It was for nothing save an outsized ego of a wannabe cop who felt entitled to do what he did.

There were people on the right, pundits and people "in the game" who did everything they could to smear Trayvon, to make a 6 ft, 140 lb teen into such an outsized threat that Zimmerman's only choice was to target, follow and ultimately shoot him.  And I don't buy it for a second.  I'm white.  But all I need is to remember the times when I was growing up and doing things like running errands for my mom or walking to the store or library or ice skating or the myriad other things I did, where men would follow me with vulgar propositions and the fear I felt especially when my efforts to evade their attention fell short.  Running away was not always effective and sometimes trying to dodge them made things worse.  I thought it just was a girl thing, but my late brother assured me that he had similar experiences.  So even with a little bit of white privilege I think I get it.  I get how Trayvon could have felt scared to death over Zimmerman targeting him.  I think I get that it was likely a whole worse because of the racial and ethnic elements.  Over the years, I've heard some of my black or biracial/multiethnic acquaintances warn their own kids about keeping away from most white folks entirely, minding their own business, lowering their eyes, speaking softly, not running, and not touching anything that isn't theirs and more.  They do so out of fear for things like their kids being killed like Trayvon was.  Certainly things- behaviors my sisters and other white friends never worried about teaching their kids. 

There are so many layers of the dark side hovering over this and bigotry is a huge assed player.   I believe the racist resentment toward our President has been used by many people agitate and whip up racist sentiments around the country and especially in the so-called "red states" with the intention of dividing the nation.  One of the lessons I learned as a child is that racism is taught and sticking with it is a choice.  I turned my back on those few adults in my childhood who preached racism.  I repudiated it then and I do now.  It is immoral.  It is wrong.  There is nothing that will legitimize bigotry for me whether it is aimed at our President or children like Trayvon Martin.


Anonymous said...

I think George Zimmerman's perception of what a criminal looks like was influenced by the spate of crime in his area. I'm not willing to accept he's a racist and that was what drove him. I think he's got low self-esteem, he's frightened, and frustrated. He made a number of bad choices. I think the Florida PD and the original prosecutor may be more deservant of being called racist (and inept). I am not letting Zimmerman off the hook. He's guilty of profiling (which is racist) but I don't think that act can alone can define him as racist. Many people think in stereotypes. Not saying it's right and we have to fight against that urge, but the stereotype in his head didn't kill Trayvon. His carrying a gun and being incredibly stupid did. I really don't think he intended to kill that young man. His words and actions demonstrate him to be more like you described him at the top of your blog - a cop wannabe. Trying to play the part, talk tough, and carry a gun without having a clue about justice. Now I don't know for sure, but I am surmising Zimmerman took this further than he imagined it would go.

I am afraid the vitriol around racsim will throw the trial off course and result in Zimmerman getting off. Better to press the fact that the evidence speaks for itself. Man with gun, man told not to follow, man recorded in pursuit. That act destroys a stand your ground defense. He never should have followed. He shouldn't have been carrying that weapon while in pursuit. He set off the tragic chain of events. He is guilty of 2nd degree murder. To simply brand Zimmerman a racist is to ignore all the other triggers that drove him to commit that crime.

Racism needs to end, but let's first stay the course and win justice for Trayvon - then go after the racists. Let's not try to tackle both at the same time. It will fail.

Morgan said...

You made some good points, but not all criminals look like criminals. To wit: Bernie Madoff, the late Chuck Colson, serial killer Ted Bundy among others. The problem I see, is that when crimes are hitting certain areas, the press puts up the most stereotypical images. There was an interesting thing with how, years ago, really darkened pictures of O.J. Simpson were published on covers of Newsweek and Time that were significantly "darker" than pictures of him from his football playing heyday which showed his more natural coloration and more recently with a photo of Beyonce made to show her as much lighter than her normal, darker skin tone. These kinds of manipulation influence the way people perceive others and can be used to devastating effect.

I believe at the point when Zimmerman *chose* to continue following Martin, in spite of being told not to, he had already made the decision to shoot Martin however unconsciously. I also do believe there was a racial component given the climate in his area as with the spate of crimes you mentioned, but also with the damning racism that has manifested openly since Pres. Obama was elected.

I agree racism needs to end, but I think we would be ill served if we neglect the lessons that Trayvon's killing are showing us. Whether we like it or not, Trayvon's killing, among others, IS part of the discussion that needs to happen.