I didn't want to stay on the topic of Trayvon Martin because there's so much else going on in the world, and so many others have spoken and written so eloquently on the issue, but I feel like I must add a bit more to my last blog post. The comments section of an article rarely fails to burn me up because supposedly reasonable people just say stuff that can be outright stupid, if not insane. In a Washington Post article this week, the writer speaks about the Trayvon Martin shooting as of a piece in the continuing saga of the civil rights movement. The article's main point is that many young black males have been shot in similar non-sensical fashion, and people often become galvanized politically around such incidences. After the article, this comment came up.:
It is sad to see that race is still being exploited in this country. And it is just as sad to see people who should know better, jumping to conclusions about someone's intentions based on a perception of racial differences. As far as I know, so far there is no evidence that Zimmerman was "profiling" Martin based on Martin's race. We know he thought Martin looked suspicious; if that is profiling, then I suspect most of us do it, based on the context and a variety of factors, including sometimes race. Zimmerman might very well have been wrong about Martin, but If and until reputable evidence emerges that Zimmerman shot Martin because of his race, and for no other reason, then at that time -- and no sooner -- should this case move beyond being solely a question of whether Zimmerman properly acted in self-defense.
I don't know who this person is, but I imagine that he speaks for a vast swath of people who want to seem "reasonable" but are frankly, naive or clueless at best, ignorant and willingly blind of reality, at worst. Either one stinks. There is no other reason for Trayvon Martin to be shot and no one arrested, other than he is black. What other explanation could there be? This case is very close to the Rodney King beating in the 1990's by police. The whole world saw the video and the vicious beating that King suffered. And yet the officers were acquitted. Trayvon Martin was stalked and shot, witnesses heard what happened, no investigation was made, and the shooter is free. Even if precise details still remain murky, much like the King case, here too it seems fairly obvious what happened. People of all races are now saying to me: Why should Trayvon have felt the need to respond about his actions to a person who had no uniform on and in no position of authority? If Trayvon was being threatening, why did the screams for help immediately cease when the shot rang out? Trayvon was a 140 lbs teenager carrying only candy and a soda bottle and the shooter a grown man of over 200 lbs and carrying a gun; what could have Trayvon have possibly done that made the shooter reasonably fear for his life? Why did the police just take the word of the shooter without investigation?
One of my co-workers said to me that this case hits close to home for him because growing up as a black boy in a predominately white community in Washington State, he was constantly asked what he was doing in his own neighborhood. After saying he was going home and asking the officer why he was asking, he was told, every single time, there had been a rash of robberies in the neighborhood. My co-worker lived there. He knew what was going on in the neighborhood. The explanation got old. There was no other reason for him to be stopped other than the discomfort the officer had with his race.
Trayvon Martin was shot because he was a young black male. No other reason. Zimmerman could have black friends, he could have even been black himself. He never had to call Trayvon a racial epithet. A large swath of america has decided that young black men, in the standard teenage dress of a hooded sweatshirt and jeans walking around a non-black neighborhood, are a threat. The non-investigation afterward verifies it. I personally know no one, of any ethnic or cultural background, who feels this shooting was just or handled correctly. It's obvious as if it had been seen on youtube. I cannot say things will change or what is going to happen in the future, but this is another make or break moment in american social and cultural history. It is time for us all to release these dangerous cultural stereotypes and start looking not only with our eyes, but with our hearts, and truly with our heads.