The killing of Trayvon Martin (essentially for the “crime” of walking while black) and its aftermath provides one of those riveting moments in American history when the curtain of our still-all-too-rampant racism normally hides behind is pulled back … exposing the ugly underbelly of prejudice and hatred that still exists in too many corners of our society.
Through decade after decade of scurrilous application of Jim Crow laws—combined with other forms of racially motivated biases that keep minorities marginalized—our country has created the near-perfect target for the majority culture’s collective hatred, fear, and opprobrium: the Young Black Male. Hoodie optional.
And thanks to new laws on the books in various parts of the country, the demographic many seemingly love to loathe and despise now have legalized targets pinned on their backs; the Young Black Male is now officially considered fair game in some parts of America. Game on—lock and load.
Under the “Stand Your Ground” laws that have been enacted in many states anyone can do what George Zimmerman did in Sanford, Fla.: shoot someone (preferably a Young Black Male) to death and then claim self-defense. Of course, it won’t work too well if the shooter is black and the victim is white. Oh, and after the “kill” the shooter should bop him or herself upside the head with that trusty Glock … just hard enough to raise the self-defense knot right above the left eye.
In spite of the fact that the shooter in this case will, in all likelihood, stand trial on state or federal charges, Southern “justice” being what it historically has been, there’s no assurance of a fair and unbiased jury being selected—or of a conviction … even if the evidence is overwhelming. This is why so many blacks were lynched in America a century ago: whites knew they could carry out their murderous acts with impunity. And, to quote an NAACP slogan: in America, “much has changed, much has not.”
The emerging facts surrounding Trayvon’s death are so glaring as to be mind-boggling. Most important among them is the fact that when Zimmerman told a police dispatcher that he was following a Young Black Male (who, according to Zimmerman, “appeared to be on drugs”), the dispatcher responded, “We don’t need for you to do that.” At that point Zimmerman should have gotten back into his vehicle and simply followed Trayvon until police arrived, but he continued his pursuit; a deranged white man on the hunt of the elusive Young Black Male. Zimmerman even said, “These assholes always get away.” But not this time.
Supposedly, a number of break-ins had occurred in the gated community that served as Zimmerman’s hunting and killing grounds, and while no suspects had been arrested or even spotted … it was assumed by him and others that the dreaded Young Black Male—the fall guy for all our nation’s collective neighborhood fears—was responsible for them.
It’s abundantly clear by a preponderance of (albeit) circumstantial evidence that Zimmerman wasn’t simply “standing his ground” … he actually was out looking for what he considered “fair game” (read: the Young Black Male) and clearly was the aggressor in the confrontation with Trayvon, whom he ran to the ground and slaughtered.
And if Zimmerman is not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, expect other killings to occur in states with similar laws and even some where laws are not so unambiguous. There is an untold number of other Zimmermans out there, waiting to protect the white race by offing a Young Black Male.
The “investigation” (if you can call it that) carried out by the Sanford Police Department was so slipshod one has to wonder what relationship—if any—Zimmerman had with local police prior to the killing. Because Trayvon’s body was tested for drugs and Zimmerman was not (all police officers involved in a shooting, deadly or not, are routinely tested), does this suggest a special relationship between the shooter and the police? Was Zimmerman on their payroll? Was he a cop wannabe they tolerated? Why did police never investigate someone who had called them dozens of times (always with unfounded, wacky suspicions about Young Black Males) just to see if he had a screw loose? The questions just keep coming and coming.
The silver lining of this darkest of clouds is that while the majority of protesters at the rallies protesting Trayvon’s killing are people of color, there have been enough whites in attendance to prove that all people of good will find this killing abominable and not to be tolerated. Trayvon’s death could bring about a new era of multiracial civil-rights activism in America.
Now if we can just convert some of the extant outrage over the killing of a Young Black Male by a white vigilante … to similar outrage when Young Black Males senselessly kill each other, we would be paying fitting tribute to the life—and tragic death—of Trayvon Martin.