I suppose I can’t resent my compatriots when they go on about how disappointing Obama’s vacillations are when it comes to the economy and health care and our foreign wars and blah de blah when all it takes to win them back is saying exactly what needs to be said when it needs to be said.
Quote Obama, “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
Trayvon Martin, a unarmed Black teenager, was walking to his father’s girlfriend’s house from a nearby convenience store when he was shot dead on the street by George Zimmerman, a white volunteer for the neighborhood watch. Zimmerman claimed self defense, and police did not charge him because of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which establishes that, in any public area, the person claiming self defense in his use of lethal force need not try to escape the confrontation first.
According to the 911 transcript, Zimmerman said that the kid “looked like he was up to no good, or on drugs” and described his activity as “walking about, looking at houses.” Just about the only description of Trayvon’s appearance offered was that he had his hoodie up, as it was raining. The 911 operator told him to stay in his car, which he ignored to accost him, chase him down when Trayvon ran, and shoot him.
Trayvon was on his cell phone with his girlfriend when Zimmerman accosted him, and according to those transcripts, Trayvon stated he was being followed, and his girlfriend advised him to run. Later, he asked Zimmerman, “Why are you following me?” to which Zimmerman said, “What are you doing around here?” At that point the cell phone was dropped, which implies the Zimmerman had initiated a physical altercation.
Florida passed the Stand Your Ground law in 2005 and had noted that the number of “justified killings” have increased by 36 every year since. Effectively, beyond the license to vigilantism it grants, it also grants the right to escalate any altercation to deadly force, with the ‘victor,’ so to speak, able to claim self defense without counterclaim. State Attorney Willie Meggs pointed out that gang members, for instance, call 911 after shootings with other gang members to claim self defense.
To call the event ‘racially charged’ is patently obvious, and the parallels I’m immediately reminded of are the situation that eventually led to the 1992 Crown Heights riot, where-in posses of Jewish vigilantes under the organization ‘Shmira’ would accost and often beat the Black denizens of the neighborhood as proactive ‘defense’ of their neighborhood. It helped fostered a culture of distrust that allowed a single event to light the tinderbox, and speaks to why vigilantism is and should be viewed with suspicion.