I wish I could summon all the right words - the perfect mix of eloquence and substance – for a moment just like this. Look, I’m not going to become a judge or even a juror to try and say that I know for a fact that George Zimmerman should have been convicted of second-degree murder charge for shooting Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. I’m not in a position to do that.
However, I am in a position to say this emphatically: justice was not served to Trayvon Martin, and George Zimmerman’s prejudices are the primary reason why his life was ended that night.
No matter how you analyze it, Trayvon was shot and killed that night by Zimmerman, who pursued him with a gun before nighttime a confrontation was instigated. If the jury was asked to confirm whether or not racial motivations on Zimmerman’s part led to the confrontation between he and Trayvon that night, the trial would have lasted all of four minutes.
If you’ve never been followed in a shopping mall by a store clerk or had people cross to the other side of the street simply because you’re a young, Black male, you may not relate to this. But even if you can’t fully grasp what that feels like, how small you can be made to feel by someone you’ve never even met or spoken to, I hope you try to understand why the disgusted reaction to this Zimmerman “not guilty” verdict is merited.
People aren’t just upset because they feel Zimmerman “got off”. No, people are upset because of what this verdict could mean for other young, Black males. It’s a scary thing to think about.
If you’ve been anywhere near a TV in your lifetime, you should already know that there’s a long-held belief – with plenty facts to back it up – that adult Black and dark-skinned males are far more susceptible to police brutality, stiffer punishment for similar crimes (than their white counterparts), and all types of other prejudiced actions.
This belief is something many have tried to bring to light on a regular basis and facts that are represented time and time again due to the cases of individuals like Rodney King and Amadou Diallo. People try to act like these cases are unique, but the facts verify their frequency not only in major cities, but also in small towns across America.
King was 26-year-old parolee (who attempted to outrun police in his car) when he was repeatedly struck by five LAPD officers and Diallo was 23 years old (wrongfully targeted for fitting a description of a serial rapist) when four plain-clothed NYPD officers shot him 41 times, so the age factor is another reason why Martin’s death makes me and plenty other Blacks afraid of what this means.
So Zimmerman’s “not guilty” verdict reinforces an already-existent belief amongst Black males about the judicial system, but goes a step further by showing that even young, Black males should be fearful of how the American justice system will treat them (their lives and the people who end them) if they are not only targeted, but also the victims of unlawful deaths.
Notice that in either King’s or Diallo’s cases, police officers were the enforcers? Well, then it should come as no surprise that Zimmerman was seeking a career in law enforcement. If you’re a Black male, you have reason to be fearful of police and the system, but if you have prejudices against those same males, the system may give you a job as a policeman.
But Trayvon Martin was a kid and Zimmerman wasn’t a police officer so what does this mean? Does it mean young Black males should stop wearing hoodies? Does it mean young Black males should have an earlier curfew than their white classmates so as to not make neighborhood-crime-watch fearful? Does it mean you don’t even need a badge to follow someone with a gun simply for looking suspicious? What does it all mean?
I’m not completely sure, and probably won’t be for some time, but I’m extremely fearful that it’s nothing good for kids who look like me, only younger. Should I pray to God that I’ll have daughters instead?
And while this is focused on young, Black males, who knows, it could also be a young, dark-skinned Haitian or Ethiopian or Nigerian or Indian or Dominican or American Indian males being targeted. If someone is of the mind that George Zimmerman was in that February night, they may not even care what ethnicity so long as it’s someone they think is up to no good because of their dark skin. It’s not about a hoodie; that much I know. I’m pretty sure Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Tumblr founder David Karp loves hoodies just as much as young, Black males do.
This is about prejudice against someone’s skin color. The grounds to file Civil Rights charges against Zimmerman are strong based on the facts of the trial even if he is “not guilty”.
On the other hand, the grounds needed to follow, shoot and kill a young, Black male have now been raised up for all of America to see. But will we all look?
Here’s one final thought: how can any young, Black male possibly stand their ground (even in Florida) when these are the conditions by which they live?
Like I said before, I’m afraid.