Of course the Martin/Zimmerman case matters
By now, you, like everyone else, is probably sick of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case. But, well, it’s going to be an important one for my generation. I’m not going to go into the details of the case, or the verdict, or the media circus surrounding the event. But I can understand where everyone’s coming from.
You’re right, Zimmerman was within his legal rights to follow Martin. You’re right, Martin probably should not have fought back. You’re right, Zimmerman shouldn’t have followed Martin just because he thought something was up. Is there an element of racism to this story? Damn straight. What you make of it is up to you though.
My dad is the most super white white man I know. My younger brother, before he passed, had several blacks friends who were around Martin’s age, and looked like Martin. My dad’s Asian girlfriend never seemed comfortable around them, and I know at times my dad was uncomfortable around them as well. Was this fair? Or a reflection of a larger cultural bias that unfortunately still exists? These kids were good kids: did well in school, many of them in specialized magnet programs, never got into trouble, never tried to get my brother to do drugs or drink or what have you. If anything, these young men were nerds, and more than once would one of them be wearing a Naruto headband or a Kingdom Hearts shirt. But even in their neighborhoods, (a couple of them lived in better neighborhoods than I) they were glanced at and seen as troublemakers, up to no good. That isn’t fair. “Oh, if people only knew them like you do.” Fuck that. There’s tons of people I will never know, who will never know me, and we shouldn’t immediately glance at them and think “problem”. But in the light of this verdict, what am I to tell these young, otherwise upstanding men? Don’t walk around in neighborhoods where people don’t know you late at night wearing a hoodie? Don’t get into a fight with someone who followed you down the street on a rainy night? Don’t look like what White America is afraid of?
I wish I could say I haven’t had times where I saw someone on the streets and thought they were no good. I’ll admit, more than once, they were young black men, like Trayvon. And that’s terrible. Most of them are just walking down the street, trying to get home, trying to not cause any problems. I’ve had my share of people causing me trouble, and oddly enough, it has mostly been teenage to middle aged white males. And yet, even I have made completely prejudiced assumptions. Even though I went to school in the middle of the Mexican ghetto and never had anyone give me trouble except “totally better than you” white kids. Even though every young black male I’ve interacted with has been nothing but pleasant towards me. So I can see where Zimmerman was suspicious. Racist, maybe a little. But then again, isn’t everyone?
I can understand Martin’s parents upset at the verdict. When my brother passed away due to an accidental drowning, my parents and I were distraught. And we wanted someone to pay for it. We still do. We don’t believe it was an accident, and we want justice. It’s human nature to want someone to be punished for taking a life away from us. And when the man who admits he shot your son is deemed not guilty, it hurts. Regardless of race. Regardless of circumstances. What do you tell a grieving parent in a situation like that?
Had the races been reversed, I’m sure there still would have been a public outcry, claims of racism, protests, media spin, etc. “But black on black murder is a huge problem that no one talks about.” You’re right, it is, and we don’t. And we should. “Black on white crime isn’t publicized like this.” You’re right, maybe we should. All of these things, the crime, the media showings, the events after the verdicts, they are all indicative of a greater problem within American society. What our media shows us, what it doesn’t. What becomes a journalism sensation, what doesn’t. It’s a sad and harsh reality.
Sure, Zimmerman was within his rights to stand his ground, and protect himself. But Martin certainly was as well. “Well, he shouldn’t have gotten into a fight with Zimmerman and attacked him.” I’m sorry, I don’t care who you are, I don’t care how you were raised, if you thinking someone is following you, and then confronts you, and you fear for your life, you’re probably going to react in a similar manner. If I were being followed by someone on a rainy night, and then they pulled over and got out of their car, I’d assume they were looking for a fight. I’d probably do the same thing Martin did. Paranoia and fear make people do crazy things. Like shoot an unarmed teenager. Like smash a guy’s head in the ground.
I wish we lived in a reality where this played out differently. Where Zimmerman had just said “Hey, I’m with the neighborhood watch, and I haven’t seen you around before.” Where there were proper witnesses. Where race or circumstances mattered less. But we don’t. And while protests are fine and dandy, rioting isn’t going to help. Calling for another trial isn’t either. I hope this causes lawmakers and society at large to take another look at what Stand Your Ground and other laws actually do and who they actually protect. Zimmerman’s brother said that Zimmerman will never be safe again, that he’ll never know when someone is going to attack him because of what he looks like, what he’s done, what people think he will do. What irony.
(As an aside, I think gated communities are the most useless thing in the country. I don’t live in one, and in the span of 15 years, there has been a grand total of 3 incidences that occurred at my house, and only a handful in my housing development in North Las Vegas. My ex and his mom live in a gated community, and there’s problems left and right. It’s as if either the gated community lulls people into a false sense of security and says to would-be ne’er-do-wells that “HEY, WE’RE HIDING SOME GOOD SHIT HERE”, or, as my ex said, “keeps the problems in”.)