On Trayvon Martin

Charles Blow of the New York Times wrote a moving piece on the potentially legal murder of Trayvon Martin by white neighbor George Zimmerman in Florida:

One of the witnesses was a 13-year-old black boy who recorded a video for The Orlando Sentinel recounting what he saw. The boy is wearing a striped polo shirt, holding a microphone, speaking low and deliberately and has the heavy look of worry and sadness in his eyes. He describes hearing screaming, seeing someone on the ground and hearing gunshots. The video ends with the boy saying, “I just think that sometimes people get stereotyped, and I fit into the stereotype as the person who got shot.”

And that is the burden of black boys, and this case can either ease or exacerbate it.

I was fortunate to grow up in a relatively safe small town in New Jersey where outright discrimination was rare and the police force was fair in my experiences. But events like this, with laws like Florida’s “stand your ground” law, are frightening and heartbreaking. Trayvon was killed for being black in the wrong place at the wrong time and something like this could have happened to me or any of my friends.  That it could be legal is infuriating. While being followed through Sam Goody or any number of stores as a 13 year old was humiliating enough, it was something I could live with. Trayvon Martin was not so fortunate.

That people like Geraldo Rivera are blaming Trayvon’s choice of clothing is infuriating. The event has rightfully been compared to the murder of Emmett Till. A young innocent black boy murdered. A police force who, if not outright antagonistic, tried to cover up the crime. We’ve seen this before. And we’ll probably see it again. We must do better. And we must make sure that those who would prefer to sweep realities like this under the rug are forced to do better or get out of the way for people who will. America is better than this.

George Zimmerman ought to be prosecuted like the cold-blooded, racist killer he is and Florida ought to right course and eliminate the law that gives people like George Zimmerman the wherewithal to justify and act upon their own paranoid delusions. No amount of hand-wringing or blame-shifting ought to free the National Rifle Association from the responsibility it has for advancing laws that put every single person in the state of Florida at risk to be legally killed by any gun-toting yahoo who feels “unsafe”.