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When Being Black is All it Is

 

I don't think there is anyone who hasn't been affected in some way by Florida teenager Trayvon Martin's death in February at the hands of a neighborhood watch man who thought he saw a threat in the tall black teenager wearing a dark hooded jacket.  The story is almost too terrible for words. 

I am white and my children are white.  At the same time that I'm grieving with Trayvon's family, trying yet again to come to terms with the needless death of an innocent child, I recognize that I can't possibly grasp what it must feel like to know their precious son would likely still be alive if only he hadn't been black.

It wasn't the hoodie he was wearing that made him a target.  Kids all across the country wear hoodies every day.  It was the darkness of the skin underneath that hood that provided the catalyst for the kind of tragedy that is becoming as commonplace as it is unbearable.

We're in a place where the issue of racism opens up old wounds, forcing us to once again pull it out and examine it.  I would say racism is back, but we all know it never really went away.  We see it in the open hatred toward our first black president; in the collateral hatred toward his wife and daughters; in a generalized hatred toward people whose only difference is in the color of their skin.

I was a young mother during the last civil rights movement.  It was impossible to explain the inexplicable to my children--that in our own country, this country that boasts about fairness and equality in story and song--there are white people who hate black people so much they want to do them harm.

But the conversations I had with my kids couldn't even come close to the painful necessity every black parent had--and still has--in explaining the same thing to their black children.  How can it be explained?  It made no sense then and it makes no sense now.

I look at Sybrina Fulton's face as she weeps over this latest insult to her dead son--the gleeful egging on of a story about his suspension from high school over an empty marijuana bag in his backpack; I hear the anguished rage in Tracy Martin's voice as he defends the reputation of his murdered son, and I am back to a time more than a half-century ago, when defenseless black citizens were humiliated and hurt and killed for no other reason than the color of their skin.
 

September, 1955.  Murdered teenager Emmet Till's mother weeps at his open casket.  Emmet Till was 14 years old when he was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by white men for the crime of whistling at a white woman. His face was battered beyond recognition, but Mamie Till-Mobley wanted the world to see what pure hatred could do to another human being--and to society as a whole.  "Civil rights activists used the murder of Emmett Till as a rallying cry for civil rights protest, transforming a heinous crime into a springboard for justice. The Montgomery Bus Boycott followed closely on the heels of the case. Indeed, Rosa Parks is quoted as saying, 'I thought about Emmett Till, and I could not go back. My legs and feet were not hurting, that is a stereotype. I paid the same fare as others, and I felt violated.'"

 

We are heading toward a new era of ignorance and poverty and those two ingredients become, historically, irrationally, the fuel for a dangerous firestorm.  It's not a leap to suggest that the vital issue of civil rights needs to be addressed and overhauled before violence becomes the norm again.

The stink of prejudice is everywhere. Hispanics feel it, Muslims feel it, LGBTs feel it, anyone who is "different" feels it.  We can't let hatred win.  We owe some measure of attention to the memories of Trayvon and all other human beings who are punished, often to the point of losing their lives, for no other crime than being who they are.

 

(Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices)

Thanks for this, Ramona.  It does seem like there's danger gathering, doesn't it?  I should probably not take the rantings of anonymous internet commenters quite so seriously, but I am disturbed by the sheer glee I detect when people get to hurl words like "thug" around, to describe Trayvon Martin.  Or when I come across a comment from some would be Dirty Harry who agrees, just far too enthusiastically, that they would not hesitate to pull the trigger if they felt threatened.

And, of course, these feelings never stay confined to any one community.  Hate, fear an suspicion beget hate, fear and suspicion.  A lot of people are going to be incredibly (and to my mind, justifiably) angry if the federal investigation concludes that Zimmerman can't be prosecuted.  If he is prosecuted but wins acquittal, well... we have been here before.  How will the anger and disappointment and mistrust in the government at all levels be expressed?

If he is charged and convicted, how will his vehement defenders, who have whipped themselves up with the belief that Zimmerman shot a dangerous, bludgeoning criminal, react to a system that they will no doubt claim has been rigged against them?  We've been here, too.  It's not always pretty.

Excellent, Ramona.  Thank you so much.  

Putting here as the latest diary on the subject.

Common questions on the case (including a few I had, though I still wonder did they do any kind of forensics on Zimmerman, such as analyzing his wounds to validate or refute his story)

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-03-27/news/os-trayvon-martin-question-answer-20120327_1_medical-examiner-releases-bodies-police

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-03-23/news/os-trayvon-martin-questions-20120323_1_sanford-cops-sanford-police-investigator-suspicious-death

 

There is no redeeming quality about bigotry, whether it's target is racism, religion, gender or all the other categories targeted.

The only understanding I have about it is:

 That bigotry is an effort to negate, demean and disrespect any who looks different than what they see in their funhouse mirrors and/or doesn't share their exact opinions.  

That whoever engages in bigotry suffers from self-loathing, distorted thought processes and chooses to remain ignorant.

That bigotry is destructive, stupid and without conscience.

What I've also learned, is that I have now become a bigot, because I realize and acknowledge I am prejudiced against all the racists and their brethren.  In this instance, I reject above about what I understand, but just for this particular category.

 

Hatred hasn't won Ramona. Emmitt Till serves as  a marker proudly stating, "Never Again!". Till is remembered, his murderers are dust.

When you hear Geraldo ranting about hoodies and realize that Till, Oscar Grant and Sean Bell were not murdered because of hoodies, you realize that Conservatives are lost souls. When you hear Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann support the vigilante Florida law, you know that conservatives are liars.

When you hear Zimmerman's black friend say that "coon" and "goon" are terms of endearment in the black community (in Louisiana) , you realize that intellectually the supporters of Zimmerman have nothing.

The more they talk, the worst they look. When I heard Zimmerman's black fiend try to explain coon and goon, I had the same feeling as. I had when Iraq explained that Kuwait had asked to be invaded. Why lie, if the truth is on your side?

They are losing word by word, day by day and week by week.

That picture, in my opinion, will be around for a long, long time.

Like Maher was saying on Dr. Drew last night, there are more guns than human beings in this country.

And if you apply these statistics to those thousands of neighborhoods across this country who experience racial and ethnic 'discomfort' every single hour of every single day; something has to give.

And these repubs took over all of these legislatures and enacted these 'castle statutes' and 'carry laws' and expanded 'gun purchase laws' and 'ID laws' and linger with intent to loiter statutes; sometimes with the local dems going along with this right wing legislation or standing mute.

Then, when something like the death of Martin occurs, sponsors of these bills will say: oh we never meant anything like this to happen. This castle law was not supposed to apply to the facts of this tragedy.

Just think about all the Aryan gangs, Asian gangs, African-American gangs and other ethnic 'clubs' on the streets of our city; all armed; all angry; and all attempting to make an illegal buck just to survive to the next day. And then think about how we lose 10,000 human beings a year related to gangland killings; a figure that includes innocent bystanders.

Well, if I were representing the 'shooters' the first packet I would pull out of my brief case would be a copy of the local stand your ground statute(s) and related cases.

I do not believe that any of these legislators thought anything through when they simply took proposed legislation drafted by the NRA and put it on the floor for a vote!

The irony here is that Martin is the fellow who appears to have stood his ground with Skittles whilst the gated community vigilante took matters into his own hand.

How many homicides are there that involve 'standing your ground'? Most of them I would suppose.

There is no doubt in my mind that Zimmerman saw a Black kid in a White neighborhood and felt it his duty--HIS GOD GIVEN DUTY--to check out this anomaly

I cannot believe he would have stopped, got out of his car with a gun and pursue a white kid walking the streets of his community.

And I do not believe for one second that if Martin had shot Zimmerman with Zimmerman's gun during some scuffle that Martin would be walking the streets right now or any time following this shooting.

No frickin way!

 

Based on the burglaries and thefts the neighborhood had experienced over the previous year, what exactly would you expect Neighborhood Watch to do, what would you watch for, how would you respond, what results would you expect?

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/23/did-trayvon-shooter-abu...

(note: a comment from a neighborhood watch expert was that they form after a particular event, seldom have solid follow through, and fall apart soon from lack of interest & involvement)

This is what I would expect Peracles.

I would expect that every neighborhood vigilante or watcher or guardian would have a partner; you know like how they handle police squads.

And then there would be two folks who would testify as to what they saw, what they experienced and what they did!

It would not be that complicated to procure videos; videos to back up their testimonies.

If there were two 'guardians' then I would surmise that one of them might have opined during this skirmish--that killed a minor with a firearm:

HEY, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?

You see Peracles, there must be some oversight involved in this carnage!

Instead we have a vigilante, without provocation, without authority, without the minimum of the 'color of law' to proceed on his gut instincts which STUNK.

Okay?

Well I would expect you would look at the link I provided to have some background.

So you expect to get 2 people to volunteer to walk the streets every night, not 1. Think that's likely?

With a handheld video camera (with lighting) pointed at whoever they come across. Will that be considered intrusive or stirring up trouble?

How would they choose who to approach?

Re: "without authority", the link notes "At the end of the Dorival’s presentation, she invited residents to choose a neighborhood-watch leader.

“I went through all the roles and responsibilities for neighborhood watch and I said, ‘Now it’s time to choose your community leader,” Dorival said. “And pretty much the people chose George Zimmerman as the coordinator.”

Police were called to Twin Lakes 402 times in the 13 months before Martin’s death. According to the Herald’s review of police records, the community experienced eight burglaries, nine thefts, and a shooting over that period.

How would you handle this call different?

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/videogallery/68912622/News/Past-911-call-George-Zimmerman-reports-black-male-he-s-seen-before

And how many of those calls were from the same people? My neighbor across the street has had the police out at least a dozen times in the last month. The nut case behind me hates pets and childern and he calls child welfare, animal control and 911 all the time. Life in a Florida trailer park. That shooting was miss handled and that law has increased justifiable shootings by 283% in 7 years that was not there before the law was passed. A license to kill.

8 burglaries and 9 thefts in 13 months. Dismissing this as about pets and children is silly.

The increase in crime did prompt interest in Neighborhood Watch 5 months before.

(from my own end, I don't know if that's a big or small crime rate for that size a community, nor whether burglaries or thefts were major and costly, or just stealing what's not locked down, e.g. a can of WD-40 or some cassettes like we used to do)

I've said every time I don't think Stand and Defend is a good idea.

Try listening to the 911 call above and see if you find a problem with Zimmerman's report. (yes, dispatchers want to know the suspicious person's race and clothing in every case)

 

Note, we're getting a lot of spin from both sides. What we've seen mostly for George is a menacing 7-year-old mug shot when he was 21, not say a smiling photo in a suit or his video when brought in in February (where he doesn't seem to have blood or wounds to the head, even though supposedly witnesses confirmed his version and you would think police would notice a discrepancy)

http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2012/03/trayvon-martin-george-zimmerman-no-visible-injuries-police-video

You can see from the video that Zimmerman doesn't look especially tough or heavy. Martin though skinny was 6'2" vs. Zimmerman's 5'9" (being half Peruvian Indian - not exactly "white" nor Mexican), which can change the dynamic in a confrontation.

While I'm not into guns, I see running Neighborhood Watch as a more appropriate place to carry than Starbucks or with Teabaggers at a City Council meeting.

Re: Martin, we've been fed a cute picture of him at 11 vs. a picture of him at 17 when he seems to be sporting gold teeth and tatoos (no, I don't know if these are accurate). His supposed MySpace page has other people referencing his taking a swing at a bus driver - is that accurate or contrived?

As is common, it's going to get more complicated before it clears up what happened.

 

Why add more confusion to the confusion?

You even point that out in your own post...

Re: Martin, we've been fed a cute picture of him at 11 vs. a picture of him at 17 when he seems to be sporting gold teeth and tatoos (no, I don't know if these are accurate).

Wow ... You don't know these are accurate. But post it anyway?

Even so. Killed for gold teeth, a tattoo (notice spelling please) and a MySpace post about an anecdotal incident with out corroboration or without a link ?

I'm keeping my mind wide open, but your assumptions, speculations, and anecdotal meandering don't help me.

Good night and good day...

~OGD~

Oh great, pull out spelling scold to give yourself superiority. In French has root of "tatou", Polynesian origional is "tatau" or Tahitian "tatu", and in languages I speak frequently it's single 't', but yes, in English it's "tattoo".

I point out I don't know these are accurate just like we didn't know a photoshopped photo of Trayvon was photoshopped, didn't think of a picture of him as an 11-year-old 13-year-old was not the same as he looked at 17, didn't realize a picture of Zimmerman was a mug shot 7 years ago and that he's down to about 170lbs.

If tomorrow we find out some conservative whack job photoshopped gold teeth and a tattoo on a MySpace background, we won't be surprised, will we? Nor should we overdo our outrage or assumptions today - who attacked whom? We really aren't sure out here in internet land.

Okay, here are links to enjoy:

http://www.wagist.com/2012/dan-linehan/was-trayvon-martin-a-drug-dealer (MySpace, tweets, with photos)

http://www.wagist.com/2012/dan-linehan/misconceptions-in-the-trayvon-martin-case (misconceptions, including more recent photos)

http://www.clickorlando.com/news/Friend-George-Zimmerman-scared-for-his-life/-/1637132/9722180/-/e55273z/-/index.html (interview with a black friend, Joe Oliver, defending him, though how Zimmerman "almost lost his life" seems beyond me, considering the lack of injuries showing at the police station)

In any case, we're being asked to assume Zimmerman was a cold heartless (white) bastard with an itchy finger who went out looking to kill a black male. I think that's overstretch, but again, I don't know the truth.

 

However you spell it, I have a bunch of tats.  Please don't get scared and shoot me.

Fine, simply that Trayvon was no longer the cute kid of 13 we saw in first pictures.

Which doesn't say he was criminal or much different from other 17-year-olds or guilty of anything.

And even if he were casing houses and started a fight, doesn't mean death by shooting is the just reward.

See, we can hold multiple visions in our heads at one time, rather than a simple "A is cute victim/B is ugly villain" formulation.

Sorry Peracles, even if there were burglaries in the neighborhood, Mr. Zimmerman had no right to shoot and kill the young Mr. Martin. Since when does burglarizing anything bring the death penalty? Oh wait and of course the young Mr. Martin didn't steal anything.

Mr. Martin was a 17 year old kid, who did nothing wrong. And Mr. Zimmerman, who wasn't a member of a standard Neighborhood Watch, but a self appointed neighborhood watchman, who carried a gun, who seemed to have a penchant for reporting black men in his neighborhood shot a kid for no reason.  You can't just shoot someone cause they have a tattoo or gold teeth, (although I seriously doubt Zimmerman knew any of this). Neighborhood watch people aren't supposed to carry guns, and they don't sentence anyone to death over his paranoia that the black men are coming to steal stuff from the neighborhood. And then of course the fact that Mr. Martin didn't steal anything from anyone. 

For some reason you believe everything good about Zimmerman, up to the uncorroborated statements that Zimmerman was hurt, well I've seen the recording of Zimmerman from that evening as they escorted him into the police station and there was no blood on Zimmerman, no cut on his head, and cops do not treat injuries, no they always let the EMT's do that.  Yet you've bought it hook line and sinker that Zimmerman was hurt, based on what evidence, that Oliver guy, who hasn't seen Zimmerman since before incident? Why aren't you as skeptical about Mr. Oliver's statements? He admits he didn't see Zimmerman that evening or even recently.

It feels like you've bought the right wing picture painted of the young Mr. Martin, that he was a thug, with tattoos and he was suspended from schoo; for weed! OH NOES. But none of that has any relation to the crime, it is just an attempt to sully the name of the young Mr. Martin to justify his murder.  Mr. Zimmerman's over the top reaction to a young man being in his neighborhood, who he didn't believe belonged there resulted in the young mans death. The 9-11 call from Zimmerman proves exactly what I just wrote. Zimmerman didn't see the young Mr. Martin doing anything but walking. The right wing is doing to Martin, exactly what people used to do to rape victims, you know, why did she wear that dress or go to that bar why did she say hi to that man? Why did she drink that drink he bought her, etc and so on.

Mr. Martin did nothing wrong, he was just walking back to the house where he was staying that evening, no one deserves to die for that, no one, even if he had tattoo's, a grill and some weed.

tmac, I agree with all you stated, except that the video of Zimmerman with police was filmed after he was tended to by the EMT's.  What I want to see are the pics taken at scene, because there is always supposed to be visual documentation (videos, still pictures) recorded of any with injuries.

Note:  The video does show a police officer 'brushing' something off of Zimmerman's jacket and walking around him, where there is a small welt on back of his head.  But, nothing on his person was in sync with one who had been 'brutally beaten'.

Was he treated at the scene? I had not read that anywhere, but yes I would like to see that too.

Joe Oliver mentioned it in the interview. I don't know if verified anywhere else.

"even if there were burglaries in the neighborhood, Mr. Zimmerman had no right to shoot and kill the young Mr. Martin. Since when does burglarizing anything bring the death penalty?" Gee, I wish I'd said that. Oh wait, I did:

Which doesn't say he was criminal or much different from other 17-year-olds or guilty of anything.

And even if he were casing houses and started a fight, doesn't mean death by shooting is the just reward.

Regarding Zimmerman, he wasn't "self-appointed": "Zimmerman was chosen as a neighborhood watch coordinator by his neighbors, according to Wendy Dorival, who organizes Neighborhood Watch for the Sanford Police Department.[42] The February 2012 Homeowner association newsletter requested that crime victims "call our captain, George Zimmerman" after calling the police.[8]"

Regarding "you can't just shoot someone" because of a tattoo or whatever, there's no evidence that Zimmerman just shot Martin, vs. it being the result of an argument or Martin jumping Zimmerman. There's no indication of Zimmerman waving a gun in the past.

Yes, some Neighborhood Watch people carry guns. Zimmerman wasn't technically on duty, as he was coming home from the store and saw someone he thought looked suspicious, and I don't know if he normally carried a gun when on watch.

There are records of break-ins in the area where you can read descriptions of the setting. There seems to be no "paranoia" about black men - there were a number of black men involved in previous break-ins.

"For some reason you believe everything good about Zimmerman, up to the uncorroborated statements that Zimmerman was hurt," - no, you're putting words into my mouth/fingers as I wrote specifically that there was no sign of wounds in his police station video earlier.

"Why aren't you as skeptical about Mr. Oliver's statements?" - uh gee, I wrote that I don't get Oliver's statement that Zimmerman almost lost his life. As Oliver hadn't seen Zimmerman, it's impossible for him to attest to physical wounds.

"It feels like you've bought the right wing picture painted of the young Mr. Martin, that he was a thug, with tattoos and he was suspended from schoo; for weed!"- I specifically never mentioned weed, as it's irrelevant. I mentioned the stolen jewelry in his backpack, which may be germane to a discussion about break-ins, though doesn't say he was up to anything that night. I did not say he was a "thug", and I mentioned the tattoo and gold-capped teeth as a contrast to the lovable picture of him as a 13-year-old. The Tweet referring to Martin taking a swing at a bus driver *WOULD* directly support the possibility of Martin attacking Zimmerman, but doesn't confirm it.

"The right wing is doing to Martin, exactly what people used to do to rape victims, you know, why did she wear that dress or go to that bar" - nonsense - there's a dispute which guy attacked the other, whether Martin started off walking home peacefully or not. (just because a Neighborhood Watch guy asks you what you're doing doesn't give you a right to hit, just like just being unkwnown doesn't invite a beating or a shooting). If Martin were alive, the police would be asking his version, no?  The point was, he was unknown and suspicious in that neighborhood that had a number of burglaries and thefts. What do you think Neighborhood Watch is supposed to do? Do you approve of calling 911, or do you think an unknown 6'3" person walking the streets in the evening should just be ignored?

Do you know whether Trayvon Martin was just just walking home or whether he was looking around for trouble? Do you have a video of that walk home? Can you see inside his heart?

 

 

 

I know I was being a little flip.  I guess what I mean is, I'm glad there was no twitter and Facebook around when I was a 17 year old boy, full of conflicting passions like all boys are. 

I also think it's unfair that when a white guy like me gets a bunch of tattoos it barely signifies anything to anyone (maybe "he's a hipster," or maybe "he's alternative" or maybe "he's edgy" or maybe "he's a trend follower") but when a black kid gets tattoos far more modest than mine it suggests he's not cute and is potentially dangerous.

I know you're not saying that anyone deserves to be shot, Peracles.  I think he deserves the same considerations that I get.

 

Yes, I was thinking about my kid's Facebook page as well.

Martin's fish tattoo was fairly large, but I'll take your word for it as "more modest". I think the bigger issue is that I didn't see white kids involved in gangs, or the wannabe gangsta style, which is a source of trouble for black kids and some Hispanics.

Which I think should make a bigger point - all of us are influenced by our environment, and do the stupid things dictated by those environments, whether it's hood-style or law-and-order overreach, conservative vs. liberal idiocy, etc.

Peracles...Wow...No kidding?

As you pointed out in your own words...
 

"I don't know the truth." ...and... "We really aren't sure out here in internet land."

That's for damn sure. So you just keep going ahead playing the telephone game (fourth game on the list there) just like we're all in the 3rd. grade and keep assuming, speculating and spreading anecdotal information that has no relevent probative value, nor anything whatsoever to do with the actual events or facts of the incident.

See: Relevancy & Probative Value (pdf)

Enjoy your day there Sherlock.

~OGD~

Oh right - you're just sitting back restrained, not speculating at all.... the grownup in the room....

If Zimmerman was treated by the EMT unit then there should be a report in the EMT logs for this incident to support the statements by the responding officers. But I can only assume that those logs are now also under seal for the grand jury investigation.

....

So there should be some type of report from a hospital source...

Signed: OldenGoldenDecoy

Have a nice day, Miss Marple

 

 

Very nice post. It is time we take a close look again at the kind of country we want.

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