It is not often that one story seemingly arouses the collective passions of most people. I must admit that I was quite skeptical of the wall to wall coverage of the trial on CNN, MSNBC and surprisingly, even FOX NEWS. To me, it reeked of the media turning a local issue into a larger one, infusing larger issues such as race and gun control into the narrative. The coverage reached its tipping point up to this weekend when the verdict was finally announced. Police and law enforcers across Florida and all over the nation was on high alert, because the media kept insisting that this was somehow a larger pan american issue, similar to Rodney King and reminiscent of a lot of other racial issues.
It’s interesting how the coverage of the killing changed. When this issue first happened close on February 26th, 2012, I remember the conversations revolved around gun control, somehow this issue got pushed to the back-burner and now, more than a year later, race is the predominant issue. Reading some of the reactions on Twitter and other social media, I perhaps underestimated the breadth of passions that this case arose. Which got me thinking, why did this happen and what lessons can we learn from it. I realized that perhaps Trayvon Martin’s death may have important lessons to teach us.
The Law is the Law: Those passionate on both sides of this debate seemingly are so for other reasons. The fact of the matter remains, the courts have deemed George Zimmerman not guilty. A jury of our peers, selected without any prejudices, evaluated all the witnesses, the evidence, the defense, the prosecutors statements and decided that it was a legal killing. That is the law, to deride the judgement is to stain the fundamental fabric of justice in america. You have to believe that we are an imperfect nation and an inherently unjust process to not accept the results. If things turn out either way, the law took its course. End of matter.
We are all Racist: Its laughable to me when I read certain groups claiming to be above Race. Race is a factor that is bred in us, right from the moment we are born, we enter into the “race” category on our birth certificate. We write it again and again on any job application, college application and any seemingly innocent form such as a gym membership. There is nothing wrong in this, its a product of our history and also of our future. We have some benefits for minorities, we want to make sure they are identified and therefore race is a factor. The fact of the matter is, Trayvon was black, the person who shot him was not, and therefore it became a racist matter. The fact that Zimmerman is latino (or half latino) is irrelevant. Its about circumstances, yes, Zimmerman had a history. He had seen a couple of black people robbing homes in that neighborhood, yes, this created a prejudice in his mind, the next time he say a black guy peering into homes in the middle of the night, he automatically assumed the worst. It has been noted that Zimmerman had called the dispatch in the past reporting similar issues, he had never stated someone’s race. On this night, he was asked…and he identified. He pursued what he thought was the suspect, an altercation ensued and a young life was lost. What we can learn from this, is to confront our own prejudices. Why do we always assume that the worst intentions are at play. I read countless tweets asking “what if Zimmerman was black and Trayvon was black”… I reject that line of questioning. Let me ask you this, “what is both Zimmerman and Trayvon were black/or white” and the outcome was the same, would race be a factor? Would we care if two black men shoot and kill each other. There are hundreds of young men dying in South Chicago, who go nameless and are only reported in the local media. Why do we not care about them, why are their names not known, that is because we do not care. We have prejudices that we must confront. The black community needs to confront the decline of unity and the rise of crime in their neighborhoods. Lets not blame seemingly monolith justice system, or a community, but think of ourselves as a collective people, these are fellow citizens that are dying on our streets. We need to change that.
Gun control is an issue: I don’t know when people decided to ignore this elephant in the room. This was a big issue and now is suddenly not. The only thing that could have prevented Trayvon from dying is not the color of his skin, is if Zimmerman didn’t have a gun. They would have fought, hurt each other, the cops would have come and arrested them both, the fact that a neighborhood watch, who wanted to kill a pit-bull on the loose could patrol in the middle of the night with a gun, shoot and kill anyone who he considers a threat IS the issue. And to the NRA wing-nuts, who want guns everywhere, well what if everyone had a gun there, we would have a good ol fashion shootout. We don’t live in the wild west. We live in a society of laws and an organized police. This incident was preventable and we need to ask the real question and separate passions and rhetoric from it.
Life is precious: Lets also take a step back and think about the reality of what happened. A young boy lost his life. Parents lost their child. An older man’s life is probably never going to be the same. Do you think Zimmerman can go back to living the life that he had before? Of course not. We need to put ourselves in the place of both Zimmerman and Trayvon. It could have been us. This was a misunderstanding, an altercation, a discussion that went south. It speaks to our collective nature about communities and taking them back. A man was trying to keep his neighborhood safe. A boy was just eating skittles and drink some juice. Let us not let the media and leaders divide us and realize that within us all, resides some good. Let us embrace that and use it to improve ourselves and our communities.