( – promoted by lowkell)
A friend of mine posted four words on her FB page shortly after the Zimmerman verdict Saturday night, “Sad I’m not stunned.”
I have two children, a 39 year-old daughter and a 16 year-young son whom I have talked to about the Zimmerman case several times. We’ve talked about why the police let Zimmerman go without a thorough investigation in the first place; about why there had to be pressure initiated by the community for police to do their jobs; about why this young man, Trayvon Benjamin Martin, was treated differently than my son would have been; why justice for my son would have been different.
My son amazes me with his maturity one moment, and bewilders me with his immaturity the next. Odd for a child this age? Of course not, it is absolutely normal for him, passing from man-child to manhood is a slow, methodical, frustrating process. Young men at this age make coherent, sometimes brilliant decisions one moment, and mind-boggling less than prudent decisions the next.
My man-child is in many ways just like Trayvon Benjamin Martin…nearly the same age, similar in height at 6’2″ and weight at 180 pounds. Both tall, gangly, good looking, awkward, trying to learn how to deal with the physical changes in their bodies, raging hormones, not sure they still want to hug their moms, learning about girls and relationships. They want more freedom, more responsibility, but quietly question whether they can handle it in one breath, while figuratively beating their chests the next to illustrate “I’m a man, not a boy.”
But there are stark differences between my man-child and Trayvon Benjamin Martin. The most glaring: my son has white skin, blond hair, blue eyes.
I taught my son that if he should ever be out in the community and need help, the police would be his friends, to find them, to seek them out. Trayvon Benjamin Martin would have been taught to be careful, cautious. If he were stopped while driving, to turn on the dome light, roll down all the windows, make no sudden moves; hands open and flat, easily visible.
It is not unusual for my man-child to walk to the corner store to get a drink and a snack. So after the verdict, a natural question to my son was, “What would you do if noticed someone following you as you were walking home from the store?” At first there was that beating the chest manly bravado…”I’d ask him why he was following me. I’d take up for myself. I’d hit him.” I believe, a normal reaction from my man-child who is trying to find his way through the maze of both physical and mental maturity. Perhaps this was the same reaction Trayvon Benjamin Martin had when George Zimmerman followed him, first from his vehicle and then on foot. After more discussion, my man-child concluded, “I’d be scared. I might run, but if I ran, I wouldn’t feel like a man.” Again, probably the same thoughts Trayvon Benjamin Martin dealt with that night.
When Neighborhood Watch captain, George Zimmerman made the call to the police to report a suspicious person in his neighborhood, his job was complete. He should never have left his vehicle. He should never have pursued. He should never have put man-child Trayvon Benjamin Martin in the position to have to choose to fight or flee.
In my opinion, Zimmerman’s assumptions and the decisions he made based on those assumptions caused the death of 17-year-old man-child, Trayvon Benjamin Martin. Florida’s laws and jury instructions allowed Zimmerman to walk free from the killing of a black 17-year-old youth. If Trayvon Benjamin Martin had looked like my son, had white skin, blond hair, blue eyes, George Zimmerman would probably have continued on to Target, never called the police, never left his vehicle, never pursued.
The death of Trayvon Benjamin Martin is tragic and wrong. The Florida justice system failed him. It is infuriating and disgusting. The travesty is that every black family in America has to teach their male children to be careful and cautious, perhaps even fearful. Lessons I, nor my white 16-year-old son could ever fathom.
I am sad that it is different for a black man-child than a white man-child to walk down a neighborhood street at a 7 o’clock in the evening where they have every right to be. I am sad all families in America cannot teach their children the police are their friends and are here to protect them. I am sad black children need to fear armed civilians serving as Neighborhood Watch captains. Just as my FB friend, I, too, am sad that I am not stunned. But I am more than sad, I am angry as hell that in 2013 the country I love would allow such a tragedy to occur and the travesty to still exist.