Trayvon Martin and the Failure to See Past Race

Anthony Thames
Spare Change News

On February 26, 2012, 17-yearold Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed Neighborhood Watch captain in Sanford, Florida. News reports have somewhat described the encounter between these two individuals primarily through live audio with Mr. Zimmerman calling 911 after seeing a “suspicious person” (Martin) roaming the neighborhood.

It has been revealed that Martin had actually been visiting his younger half-brother who lived in the neighborhood with Martin’s father. He had been returning from a store in the neighborhood after purchasing an Arizona Iced Tea and a pack of Skittles.

Anyone who is remotely aware of the Martin case (or lack thereof) will agree with the basic premise that
Martin was pursued by Zimmerman. That Zimmerman, while speaking to the 911 dispatcher, was ordered to
not follow Martin.

Another key point is that, when the 911 dispatcher asked Zimmerman if he would meet with police officers at the mail boxes in front of his home, Zimmerman initially agreed, then he stated, “Have them call my cell and I’ll tell them where to meet with me.” Zimmerman had every intention of following and confronting Martin and would not be deterred from doing so.

Zimmerman obviously assumed that Martin was in the neighborhood up to no good. I feel that these assumptions were probably based in part on the negative way in which young black men and boys are portrayed in our society. I will be the first to admit, there are serious problems in regards to young black men and boys in this country. Far too many are involved in illegal activities as well as drug and alcohol abuse. A disproportionate number of African-Americans are dying on a daily basis due to gun violence in our inner cities.

A sense of hopelessness seems to be especially prevalent in black communities. I have my own opinion as
to where this attitude of indifference toward the greater society comes from. However, I try to do my part in
encouraging black men to see the greatness in themselves and to ultimately proceed on a more promising
course. I try to convey to them that we are all God’s children and that, ultimately, He has a plan for us all
and that it will be up to us to realize His plan and try to live up to it to the best of our abilities.

I don’t believe that people are inherently “bad.” We all are probably guilty of just making “bad decisions.”
African-Americans must refuse to accept that we are a small community, because we are part of a greater community. Ultimately, we are our brother’s keeper.

Martin was a young black child who does not appear to have been involved in any illegal activities. Many
perceive him as an exception to the rule. This is unfortunate because, truthfully, there are a great deal more
of our youth who are positive and truly want to make a difference. I personally don’t feel these young boys and girls get the recognition they deserve.

In regard to the “Stand Your Ground” law, it appears a certain element in our society would like to return us to the days of the Wild, Wild West where we shoot first and ask questions later. These laws are being structured in a way where even law enforcement is prevented from making arrests. And it is very unfortunate that the majority of the fatalities as a result of these new laws are overwhelmingly African-Americans.

What are we to think? How are we to respond? At the time of this writing, it appears there has been a concerted effort being made by the mainstream media to demonize Martin. This is a common ploy where certain individuals wish to sway the public opinion in their favor. Why would someone waste time and money to vigorously search for “dirt” on a deceased victim other than to devalue that person’s life? Or to somehow say, in a very perverted way, that he or she deserved to die?

Far too often, we Americans tend to see problems in our society that deal with a given race of people as “their problem,” in Black and White, so to speak. In our inner cities, children are carrying illegal firearms and are killing each other at an alarming rate.

Having studied the government’s findings in regard to black murder rates in the U.S., I was stunned by the numbers. For me, these numbers are of epidemic proportions, yet they are viewed by the greater society as a “black problem” when in fact it is an American problem. If the victims of the attack on 9/11were all black, would this be considered a “black problem”? Of course not; it would still have remained an American
problem. Would we be vigorous in our attempt to vilify the victims?

We must not be so quick to blame the victim for being victimized. We must forever be cautious of people who are willing to minimize the life of another human being.

Finally, I only have a sense of what might have occurred on that dark, rainy night in Sanford, Florida. Of the two people who really know what happened, one is dead and the other is apparently hiding for his life. Once again, the country appears to be divided primarily based on race and how we perceive others (based on race).

This is not entirely true for all Americans, and God bless those who can see past racial stereotypes. However,
there is obviously an issue here that demands our attention. In 2008, then presidential candidate Barack Obama said that we, as a country, need to have an open discussion on race. Once again that time is at hand. We cannot continue to wait this one out. Our basic sense of humanity depends on it.

ANTHONY THAMES is a Spare Change News writer and vendor.

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