Killing Trayvon: The Power of Fear and Racism

Trayvon Martin and his Killer George Zimmerman

By all accounts George Zimmerman is nothing more than a vigilante and thug, a self-deputized “Neighborhood Watch Captain” who may well get away with the cold blooded murder of a teenager.  A teenage who was unarmed and returning to where he and his dad were visiting was killed by a man who despite being told by police not to intervene got out of his car and provoked an altercation that left an unarmed teenager dead.

The killing of Trayvon Martin sends chills down my spine for a number of reasons. First is the pre-meditated way in which it occurred. Zimmerman was conducting his own armed patrol of his neighborhood. When he spotted Trayvon walking he called 911 because he thought Trayvon who was black and wearing a hoodie looked suspicious. The 911 operator let him know that police were on the way and not to pursue the teen. Instead Zimmerman left the safety of his vehicle, got out of it, accosted the teen and put a bullet in his chest. The Sanford Florida police did no investigation outside of taking the killer’s word that it was self defense.

George Zimmerman was a habitual caller to 911, nearly 50 calls in a little over a year. In the latest call leading to Trayvon’s death he can be clearly heard using the term “f***ing Coon” a derisive term for blacks.  I would dare say that the killing was racially motivated. Saying that however will have some say that I am “pulling the race card” as if somehow pointing out the obvious is a crime. Racism exists and there are racists amount all ethnic groups, but in the United States historically blacks have been the victims of it.

The shooting has provoked uproar and even Tea Party Republican Representative Allen West and Republican Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have condemned it and demanded a full investigation. Protests and marches are being organized with good reason. George Zimmerman was not even booked. Even a police officer would be investigated for a shooting and placed on administrative duty until the situation was fully investigated but Zimmerman is still walking free with his gun.  Had Trayvon Martin killed Zimmerman there is no doubt that he would be in jail regardless of the circumstances.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who signed the “Stand Your Ground” legislation into law in 2005 said today that “This law does not apply to this particular circumstance…. Stand your ground means stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.

Some conservative commentators have blamed the victim for his death. Geraldo Rivera said that Trayvon’s hoodie was to blame for his death as much as Zimmerman. Say what? I don’t think that it is illegal to wear a hoodie the last time that I checked. Sean Hannity posited that it might be a “tragic accident” but why even offer that explanation when the killer ignored the police and acted on his own to provoke a confrontation?  In regards to hoodies in cool weather I almost always wear a black Baltimore Orioles or San Francisco Giants hoodie. Does that mean that I am more likely to be a criminal?  I think not but then I am not an African American teenager. However I wear hoodies all the time but the dirty little secret is that Trayvon Martin was black and as we all know the equation: Young Black Male+Hoodie=Criminal Thug that deserves to die; at least in the minds of some people.

President Obama did what any parent should do in regard to this and for him it is personal. On a day where a spectator at a shooting range where Rick Santorum was practicing yelled out “pretend it is Obama” the President said remarked that if he had a son he would look like Trayvon. Of course Newt Gingrich called Obama’s comments “disgraceful.” Newt Gingrich is an ass who will do anything he can to make the story about him when he is being trounced by Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum who both by the way condemned the shooting and called for an investigation.

Racism is at play in this and African Americans should be incensed about how the Sanford Police department handled this killing. The killer is free. The victim dead. The parents of the victim were not notified and Trayvon’s body was not released for three days.  Some have said that Zimmerman was “Spanish speaking and had black friends.” Well that does not not mean that the killing was not racially motivated, the fact that Zimmerman was calling him a “Coon” on the 911 tape is indisputable evidence.

I don’t live in some “white liberal dream land” when it comes to crime. When I was 19 my wife and I along with her parents were held up at gunpoint by two black men in our home town of Stockton California. I had a gun at my head and Judy had her glasses ripped off by the other assailant and ground into the parking lot. I don’t think that violent criminals should go unpunished or that people should not maintain a sharp eye and or not be able to defend themselves when actually threatened.

But that does not mean that I think that young black men are all potential armed robbers. I live in a racially mixed neighborhood with many black neighbors. A couple of years ago there was a series of break ins and robberies in the neighborhood that brought about the formation of a neighborhood watch.  Some of the criminals were black and eventually the burglary ring was broken. However that being said I cannot simply assume that a person is a criminal based on their race or how they dress.

When I am in town I am part of our neighborhood watch. However for law enforcement purposes I am a civilian. If I see something that I think is suspicious I call the police. I don’t take the law into my own hands. Being part of a neighborhood watch doesn’t give me or anyone the authority to take the law into our hands.

It really is that simple. George Zimmerman exceeded any measure of authority that he had under the law. He decided that he knew better than the police and ignored their guidance not to pursue the victim. The fact that he was given a pass by the Sanford Police under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law is unconscionable.  Stand Your Ground was not designed to provide someone a license to kill. Zimmerman was not threatened. He took the initiative, ignored the police 911 operator and provoked a confrontation in which he killed an unarmed teenager while mumbling racial slurs on the 911 tape.  Zimmerman the vigilante pursued and killed a teenager who posed no threat to him and who was trying to avoid a confrontation.

Jeb Bush is right. The “Stand Your Ground” law provides no cover for Zimmerman who I view as a cold blooded killer. At the same time if charged Zimmerman deserves his day in court no-matter what I think which is far more grace than he gave to Trayvon Williams.

That my friends is premeditated murder motivated by racial prejudice and enabled by a law that gives a pass to anyone who claims that they “feel threatened.” It is a crude form of racially motivated vigilantism and it was not a tragic accident nor it was not the fault of the victim for wearing a hoodie.

Justice needs to be done in this and hopefully the attention that has been brought to this case will shake us from our complacency about the power of racially motivated fear that empowers men like George Zimmerman to kill kids and claim that they are the victim. There is something unjust about such a situation and I have to agree with the great civil rights activists that if there is not justice there can be no peace. Trayvon Martin is dead at the hands of a vigilante. His killer is free.

When will we ever learn?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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