Saturday, March 10, 2012

Shot In The Dark

His name was Trayvon Martin... was, because the 17-year-old black boy is dead of a gunshot wound.

It was not a drive-by shooting.

It was not a drug deal gone bad.

It was not a "gang-banger" scuffle.

He was shot and killed on his way back to his father's home, in a gated, predominantly-white community in Sanford, Florida, carrying a bag of candy and an iced tea. No weapon. No drugs. No nothing. Just candy and a drink.

He was shot by a member of the neighborhood watch, one 26-year-old white man, George Zimmerman, after Zimmerman had reported a "suspicious person" to the police and was told not to intervene.

Mr. Zimmerman claims "self-defense."

Mr. Zimmerman has been released from police custody. He has not been charged.

It does not take the tremendous powers of deductive reasoning of a Sherlock Holmes to uncover the fundamental truth behind this incident: it need never have happened.

As days come and go, more facts will come to light, perhaps more concrete data will be made available for public consumption, but on the face of it, it does not take much logic to put the simplest parts of this narrative together into a coherent picture. A white man, seeing a young black man, "determined" him to be "suspicious," and took matters into his own hands after being told not to by the authorities.

Mr. Zimmerman was carrying a licensed weapon. He was in a car. He was a white man in a predominantly-white neighborhood. In every respect, in every fashion, he had every advantage on his side.

Trayvon Martin had a drink and some candy.

Hardly a fair fight.

Mr. Zimmerman could have obeyed the police admonition to not get involved. He chose not to. He could have simply driven up to the boy and asked him where he was going, and left it at that. He chose not to. He could have refrained from handling his weapon. He chose not to. He could have stayed in his car until the police arrived. He chose not to.

What choice did Trayvon Martin have? Here was some white guy in a car, following him. All he was doing was walking back to his father's house; what was this guy's problem? Can't somebody walk back to their house?

If you are black, the answer to that question is: no.

On any city street, in just about any part of the nation, if you are a black person, there is an assumption by others, mainly white, that you are up to no good. Your mere presence "suggests" it... well, that, and the color of your skin. Is it any wonder that the majority of those in American prisons are young, black men? What chance does a black man have, when he has a strike against him that he does not deserve?

Apparently, there was a confrontation. The details are sketchy. Several people called police to report hearing the fight... and then the gunshot. Who started it and why is still unclear, but no doubt the white man with the gun -- in contravention of civil authority -- decided to confront the "suspicious" black boy. And the result of that was clear: Trayvon Martin died.

For now, Mr. Zimmerman goes free, but that freedom from restraint by the law does not leave him free from guilt, because this young black man's blood is on his hands. And this stain, this blot, will not be so easily washed away, because there must be a reckoning for this. Justice may be blind, but it is not deaf, and it will not suffer the anguished and outraged cries of a black community hounded and harassed still by those who choose to see them only as a blight on society, nor will it be allowed to ignore the millions of voices of decent Americans of all stripes, raised in anger, at this senseless and brutal killing.

We demand justice for Trayvon Martin and we demand it now!

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