Tales From the Hilltop
An intelligent, yet Devil's Advocate view of the world

Episode Forty-Four: Iced Tea + Skittles + Hoodie = America Back to Square One

On the evening of February 26th, a 17-year-old teenager named Trayvon Martin left his father’s fiancé’s home in Stamford, Florida to get an iced tea drink and some Skittles during the NBA All-Star game.

He never made it back home that night alive. Now because of this, the country has once again regressed back to massive fear, ignorance, race baiting, as well as the inevitable opportunity of profit.

Back to the dearly departed Mr. Martin: a neighborhood watch leader by the name of George Zimmerman assumed Trayvon Martin for a suspicious suspect, mostly due to the fact that Trayvon was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Mr. Zimmerman followed the boy, even after calling 911 to report the suspicion. A scuffle ensued, shots were fired, neighbors could hear someone crying for help, and then another shot was fired. Trayvon was dead. These are the facts.

Everything else has been a toss-up, and the focal point of America’s latest racial controversy. From what may have been said on the 911 call to who came after who, the story has been one huge tragic disaster. There have been several YouTube videos displaying not only Mr. Zimmerman’s call, in which the self-appointed gun-toting watch leader was heard uttering a racial slur to the term of, “coons get away with everything”. Also, there are videos of the neighbor’s call to the police, a 13-year-old witness’s account of the incident, and a new witness coming forward. The truth is, no one really knows now what happened but two people; one is unable to speak about it, while the other is in fear for their own life.

What has developed throughout this incident has definitely put America into a time machine of a segregated South. Due to the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida, Mr. Zimmerman has not been charged with any crime by the Samford police. Of course, the black community is outraged, as expected. Protests have sprouted all over the country from a “Million Hoodie March” to rallies in Ohio, to the Miami Heat basketball team donning hooded sweatshirts in support of Mr. Martin. Now, these types of non-violent protests are exactly what should be done to let the government know that an injustice like this shouldn’t be tolerated by the population. Of course, there’s always a flip side to this. The New Black Panther party has put out a “bounty” on Mr. Zimmerman for his ‘capture’ to the tune of $10,000.

Now, I have a question for this. Exactly what are people supposed to do if they catch Mr. Zimmerman? Being as those has he not been formally charged with anything, where would someone seeking this bounty turn him into? How is THIS even justice anyway, especially knowing that this type of action could result in more violence, possibly with innocent people ending up hurt or killed trying to capture this man (or Zimmerman himself)? How does promoting vigilantism help the cause for justice here?

If this action on the side of ‘doing what’s right’ isn’t bad enough, the discrediting of young Trayvon has already begun. Geraldo has already stated (albeit very foolish-like) that Trayvon was practically asking to be profiled by wearing a hooded sweatshirt at night. What sense does that make at all? In fact, in all the anti-Trayvon stories that have recently surfaced (his grades), how is any of this relevant to that one night that ended his life? I’m not going to portray the kid as an angel, but if he was followed home by a man seemingly on a power trip enough to disobey an order from an 911 operator, how is discrediting the victim post death help his case at all?

Now, in being the Devil’s #1 Advocate I am, while I am happy to see the African-American community let their voices be heard on this, I am also troubled at one simple concept regarding this: why does it take a tragedy of this magnitude for us to finally get involved in the killing of our youth? Every day, we hear about how a young black person (or older black person, for that matter) has been gunned down, with normally the killer being of the same dark color. You see it on 30-second short stories on the news, in eight inch columns in our local papers. Killings happen in the streets, in community centers, even in our schools. And yet, the black community as a whole has gotten almost desensitized to hearing story after story of another black person being taken away from us. However, because Mr. Zimmerman has white features (when in all actuality, he is of majority Latino decent); now it the time that we point fingers at the white population, and blame the system for failing the black community. How about when Bill Cosby warned us that black people were killing themselves off for nearly an entire generation and that until we learned how to stop this, we are all an endangered species in America? He was rewarded with jeers of “haterism” and accusations of being condescending for his approach. Does that not seem like providence now?

Also, I’ve seen people capitalize off this tragedy, which has further disgusted me. Party flyers have popped up for “Trayvon” parties at local clubs, giving free admission to people who come in with bags of Skittles. I would be lying if I didn’t say things like these are why America as a whole can’t take this generation of Black America seriously.

So, what do we do? How does this get resolved in a way that America can feel like justice has been served? The protests are a bold statement, yes. The wearing of hoodies in support of Trayvon have been especially touching. However, how does Black America make their voices heard that we are tired of seeing our youth murdered, whether racially-motivated or not? Well, first and foremost, there needs be more accountability held to our homes and communities. After all, they are the most basic staple of society. Making improvements in those will go very long ways in improving the quality of life in black communities. Secondly, there needs to be more of an accountability held to the police departments that are designed to “serve and protect”, to make sure that every citizen, regardless of race, deserves the same level of service and protection.

Maybe this incident woke America up a bit. Maybe this will be just another “hot topic” then fade into the background, like so many others. I hope everyone learns at least one thing from this: EACH life is precious, and injustices everywhere must be met with action, not just those of the ‘black vs. white’ variety. Until that happens, the only thing that’s achieved is that the country in racial killings are just that people get mentally reverted back to the days of Emmitt Till, pretty much guaranteeing that age-old sentiment of “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

3/26/12

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