It would seem obvious, wouldn't it, that Trayvon Martin is dead because he was a black boy in the wrong part of town?
I think most reasonable people know that all blacks are periodically subjected to being stopped for "driving while black" or even "walking while black." There's hardly a study done anywhere by anybody that doesn't show that type of thing to be a common and unfair occurrence in the black community.
Statistical abuse of minorities is well-documented. Me, personally, I say Trayvon Martin is dead for two reasons and neither specifically because of his race. He's dead because of a vigilante gun culture filled with George Zimmermans who want nothing more in life than to shoot a "bad guy" and the routine stereotyping of others by far too many Americans of all stripes.
George Zimmerman would have acted the same way if Trayvon had been a white boy with a Day-Glo Green Mohawk or a Hispanic with baggy pants and a hoodie. Trayvon Martin is dead because he ran into George Zimmerman, a walking time bomb and wannabe cop with a strong streak of traditional American vigilantism running deeply through his DNA.
We all tend to blame issues with kids on violent video games and the like. Maybe George Zimmerman watched one too many episodes of "Law and Order." We'll never know for sure, but in my opinion based on what was said at trial, listening to Zimmerman's 911 call, he was chomping at the bit for an opportunity to pull that piece.
Trayvon made the mistake of not allowing Zimmerman to draw and holler "FREEZE!!!" and it cost him his life.
Unfortunately for a lot of people, Zimmerman has become the worst example of even the most reasonable "Stand Your Ground Laws" and gives fuel to the fire of the anti-gun crowd. Zimmerman is the poster boy for gun control. Try to get past Trayvon's skin color, picture your own kid, or any kid, dressed like I described and walking through Zimmerman's neighborhood that night. Kids do not generally dress like their parents.
Some kids will adopt rebellious clothing and hairstyles just to infuriate adults in general and those in authority in particular, eventually being negatively stereotyped as drug users or criminals or just all-around trouble. The George Zimmermans of the world will be at the forefront of that stereotyping. The Trayvon Martins will be on the receiving end of their wrath.
Historically, Italians, the Irish and Poles, and certainly the Jews, have paid with their lives for those stereotypes. So have Beatniks and Hippies and Transvestites and others obviously not in the mainstream. It doesn't take much in America, and never has.
In New York City, there has been much controversy over a practice called "stop and frisk." That practice allows New York City police to stop and search anyone they deem to be "suspicious." Is anyone surprised that 85 percent of those subjected to that ordeal are black and Hispanic? Another quirk to that practice is that possession of a small amount of marijuana is a violation in New York, the same level of crime as a traffic ticket.
Displaying that same marijuana in public is a misdemeanor, a higher level of crime which will result in an arrest record, preventing many job opportunities and any loans or help for college for anyone convicted of that drug offense. In "stop and frisk," a policeman orders a young man selected to empty their pockets. When they do, if they have any pot, they have now publicly displayed it, and are arrested and charged with a misdemeanor!
This is apparently legal. In America? And people wonder where Zimmerman came from and why Trayvon Martin is dead? We have institutionalized legal discrimination and harassment of people based solely on skin color and ethnicity. (I do wish the ACLU would worry a bit more about this sort of thing and a whole lot less about Christmas displays on government property.)
While in Florida, I read a letter to the local newspaper from a gentleman who'd been hiking in a nature preserve. He was on a smaller, less traveled side trail with some camera equipment. He came upon one of the main trails, and as he exited the woods, he startled another man hiking who was wearing a pistol in a shoulder holster. The man with the pistol grabbed for his gun, then relaxed and continued on his way. As the letter writer pointed out, as long as the man with that pistol could make a claim, he felt legitimately threatened, and mistook the writer's camera equipment for a weapon, and had shot him, under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law, he could not be charged, especially when the only contradicting voice was silenced forever. You know, like Trayvon's. Thank God Zimmerman wasn't hiking those woods, as we all know what he'd have done.
Yes, Trayvon Martin's race had something to do with his death, but I still make the point that our swing to the right, with the accepted abuse of our Constitutional rights by those who claim to be its staunchest supporters, all those "hang 'em high" Law and Order types in love with all things NRA had more to do with it than Trayvon's race. Ignorance and stereotyping was the spice to that deadly stew, ignorance and stereotyping institutionalized by the police, by the court system at all levels and unfortunately by a large percentage of the population. A population that winks at Fourth Amendment violations by all in charge of enforcing those rights ought to scare all of us.
The next time one of your kids or grandkids leaves your house, take a really good look at them, look at their clothing, look at their hair and their makeup and think to yourself, "What would George Zimmerman make of them?" Or the police? Or a judge?
Paul Christopher is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org