Trayvon Martin, Racism in the United States, and You

The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” — Albert Einstein

When I was in corporate, I did  a lot of traveling for my company.  Attending a conference in Chicago, I checked into my favorite downtown hotel, and because I was in a hurry to meet someone for dinner, I didn’t do what I normally do and what everyone should always do in a hotel: I didn’t flip the security latch on the door.   As I sat on the bed, changing my shoes, I heard a card key going into the slot and saw the door opening.  A man, tall white male who apparently worked for this hotel but did not know the English language came barging through the door.  I picked up the house phone as I yelled “get out” repeatedly because he kept coming  and  talking.  He finally turned and left, but I was already on the phone to the front desk.   Why am I sharing this story you ask?  Here’s how this played out.  While they apologized profusely, gave me a free stay etc, etc., what really stayed in the back of my mind all these years?  It was the the second call I received from the manager.   I was told that I had scared the tall white man who couldn’t speak English, walking unannounced into my hotel room.   Me, being chastised by the hotel manager because my yelling “get out” at a stranger coming into my hotel room shook him up.

I used to watch MTV’s Real World, one of the earlier non-reality reality shows.  Invariably, the black person on every show became the antagonist, the bad guy who the white girl “didn’t feel safe” around or “was afraid of” or “felt threatened by.”   I can’t tell you how many times I have entered a hotel and as I am checking in, the man next to me, also checking in, will give me  a meaningful look and pull his briefcase closer.  Which I found humorous, given that my laptop was stolen in the lobby of a high-end hotel by someone who looked like them.

Racism is ”the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination.”  Racism is, in the most simplistic definition, a perceived power welded to demean, abuse, terminate economically, socially, politically, emotionally, and/or physically, based solely upon color of skin or known origins; all justified by the notion of racial superiority. There are those who want to believe, want me to believe, that racism in the USA is all in the heads of the minorities, specifically African Americans.  We are dismissively advised to “not be so sensitive” and should “just get over it.”  The same people complain that they are “tired of being politically corrected” when told that creating bumper stickers , posting racist rants on You Tube, or the nonstop use of racial stereotypes by politicians to garner favor among their constituents is definitely not okay with us.    What is crystal clear to me is that none  of the many mea culpas  proffered in the last three years — or certain to come within the next four years  — are sincere; they simply follow the same tired pattern: they say, write, create an obviously egregious, blatantly racist remark, realize it’s not acceptable, apologize for/attempt to justify (depending on the degree of outrage), then take up the “I’m the victim here, ergo, it’s really you who has the problem” meme.

And here we are.  A child, Trayvon Martin, is murdered.  Not because he was robbing anyone, or killing anyone, or harming anyone.  This honor student was chased, attacked and shot by a policeman wannabe who made sure he created the perception of potential victimization by calling 911, then, ignoring their directions, he stalked and killed a child.

A boy with Skittles and an ice tea was stalked by a white man who decided in advance he should die.  The law that Zimmerman is hiding behind, called “Stand Your Ground” was pushed through by the Second Amendment NRA and is law in the states listed below. Five DAs stated that this law is dangerous. If Zimmerman is not prosecuted, how many extremists will see this as  license to declare open season on your son, your daughter, your husband, your wife?  Where is the safety net? Because this law will become a new age version of lynching. Minorities won’t get to use this law; it wasn’t written for us.  This is the key reason why we should not only demand justice for this child, we need to pay more attention and get involved in deciding what laws we allow to pass in the states we live in.    Folks best start paying less attention to  NeNe, Snooki and the rest of the non-reality shows, and more attention to what they’re doing about and to you in your communities before it’s too late. They’ve always counted on your not showing up for midterm elections you know. They’re hoping, even planning,  you won’t show up this year, even though your life literally depends on it.  Whatever happens, your action or inaction contribute to the outcome.

“Stand Your Ground” states:

Alabama, Alaska – Passed, but not yet signed., Arizona, Colorado, South Carolina,  North Dakota, South Dakota, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma,  Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri,  Pennsylvania,  Virginia.

15 Replies to “Trayvon Martin, Racism in the United States, and You”

  1. “Stand your ground” meant, as it stood in October, 2005, that if you were on your demised premises, you didn’t have to attempt to flee a felonious attack before defending yourself, a development I welcomed because I, who am diminutive, not young, and suffering from badly healed breaks and sprains in my left foot, was threatened several times by a large and vicious neighbor with beatings and once with death. Then they “amended” this law to extend this privilege to the open street. I was not happy about that. Even so, it is in no way permitted for an armed civilian to pursue quarry, as this man did. His record of calling in endless “complaints” indicates he may have. Been a clinical paranoid, but that doesn’t meet Florida’s modified McNaughton, which must in any case be posited as a defense after being charged.

    Seminole County’s law enforcement structure has been described to me as corrupt from A to Izzard, and that is doubtless part of it. The rest is, as you say, bigotry, to which Florida (especially Upper Florida and the Panhandle) is no stranger. For my part, I think the feds should look, the sooner the better, though there is no statute of limitations on murder.

  2. The rest of the story is that the StandYourGround laws include a presumption of innocence for the SHOOTER. The state has to proove beyond a resonable doubt that the shooter had no reason to feel threatened. This would require numerous witnesses who all say the same thing. Needless to say, if the killing occurs without any witnesses, the law would require the shooter to be found innocent based on his word that he felt threatened.
    In all fairness, I believe that this same standard should be applied to women who stand their ground and shoot a batterer or other male by whom they feel threatened. Why shouldn’t women be allowed to shoot at any male they fear might be aggressive, especially if they are on the street late at night or hiking or jogging in secluded areas?
    I hope the NRA, which pushed through these bills, will finish the job and encourage women to arm themselves and shoot at the first hint of danger. Especially in Arizona, where people already have the right to wear guns in public. Why isn’t the NRA providing every co-ed in Arizona with guns and target practice??
    And why stop there, wy not arm all school girls against the possibility that they willbe kidnapped. Then we can have shootouts on the playground to make good headlines for the evening news.

    But realistically, it feels like a no-win situation. I could see a man raping and then shooting his victim and saying the sex was consensual and the woman then threatened him in some way. Case Dismissed. It looks like we’re headed back to shootouts in the streets. It sounds like under this law that even gang members can say they felt threatened and thus can’t be prosecuted. All you have to do is provoke somebody into coming at you and you have the right to kill him.

    Doesn’t sound real Christian to me.

  3. Dale, even given the broadest construction of this law in the defendant’s favor, he admitted to the dispatcher that he was pursuing the victim, and he did not desist when told to do so. This is outside the purview of the law, and he was the aggressor. He can and should be charged.

  4. I nearly wrote a book replying to you, but decided instead to keep it somewhat short.

    The “stand your ground” law was a relief for us, because of some of the things we’ve experienced. When it was expanded to while out “on the street” (for instance, driving your car) it was even more of a relief. To summarize, three times a loaded gun in my hands has saved my life – one of those times it is believed that I saved the life of a young woman as well. I don’t seek violence and try to avoid it, but I don’t want to go to prison because I shot someone trying to harm me, my wife, or hurting someone else (like beating up a little kid or an elder/ancient or a young woman half your height and a third your weight, and not stopping when called on it).

    I’m totally disgusted with the whole mess over towards Orlando way, and it’s nothing new. What IS new is that such a fuss has been raised that the pigs are forced to investigate and they may finally get what they deserve – justice.

    I’ve known of many cases here were people (minority) were killed, or their homes torched, or they’ve been maimed – and the pigs did nothing. (Even cases where the pigs railroaded African Americans – years back.) Shoot, the father of the wife of one of our medicine people was gut-shot by a man who bragged about “shooting an injun” to anyone who would listen… and at last account, he is still free (never even arrested) – even with multiple witnesses saying (1) the elder was peacefully going about his business, (2) the assailant attacked without provocation, and (3) it was all because the elder WAS Indian that he was shot.

    Thank God the elder survived, although the damage from the shooting will limit him for the rest of his life.

    What needs to happen is for people to see what sort of monsters the right have become… and more so to see how bigoted America really is. The conservatives have successfully gotten the idea of “Bigot = someone who uses the N word all the time” (or Injun or Redskin or “wagon-burner”), and at the same time erased the idea that Bigot also fits someone who won’t hire a minority, or won’t rent to them (or sell a house to them), or do business with them, or who thinks that just because they look different that they’re somehow dangerous or dishonest.

    Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. That law protects US from the pigs too. If someone breaks into your house and tries to rape or kill a member of your family, and you kill them to stop them, you can use this law. Yeah, I know how it is dealing with pigs, but they DO sometimes back down when faced with the law being quoted and in writing.

  5. I think the author hit it right on the head. The stand your ground law is inherently racist, designed to give Caucasians solace against their perception of being threatened by non-Caucasians.

    The same is true of “stop and frisk” policies in New York and other cities. A co-worker, in response to a story about Ray Kelly being defensive about that issue before the New York city council, proceeded to ask me “if people in your community are going around committing crime, why not submit?” I informed him that most people “in my community” weren’t committing crimes and, therefore should not be assumed guilty, which is the effect of presumptive stop and frisk policies. I tried to explain to him that the only intent of such programs is intimidation as crime fighting technique; intimidation of an entire people, in order to compensate for a lack of desire or inability (budget cuts) to do real police work. I then reminded him we’re not supposed to discuss polictics or religion on the job, just to avoid being further offended. SMH.

    It’s not only about the laws passed, it’s about how government works or chooses to work on a daily basis. And it remains about who makes those decisions.

  6. Reading the definition in this article about racism, I realize I am a racist.

    As a women, I am afraid of religious, republican white southern men who are doing their best to legislate women into the dark ages.

    You are right. We need to vote in every election. And pay attention to all the laws.

    Don’t you think that ANY shooting, especially one that results in a death should immediately go before a Grand Jury in the states with these laws?
    It would at hopefully keep police dept honest if somebody was checking on them.
    It should be no hardship to those that killed others. If they are protected by this law, then the person they killed should have some protection too.

  7. One thing the definition left out is the power structure. The definition of racism in the social sciences includes a power structure where one is dominant and the other not. Racism includes the automatic assumption of superiority and domination and involves the power dynamics in such a relationship.

  8. It’s the southpark defense. “It’s coming right for us.”

    Gives you the right to claim to be threatened by any living thing, big or small.

  9. It is a horrible dangerous law. And should not be in a civilized society. I am disgusted. I hope to God, they do not pass such a dangerous law in my state.

  10. Mr. Zimmerman is NOT white. First off. Second, this law was passed to make all the Republicans in Florida happy and get GOP/NRA backed people elected. It wasn’t good enough that you could blow someone’s guts out in your living room, you had to be able to kill people on public streets too. This crap about it being just so white people can shoot minorities is a bunch of bull. My mother in law was in Hopkins for her husbands Cancer surgery. She ordered a grape snowcone down in the hospital cafeteria. The young lady, who was black, gave her a rootbeer. When my mother inlaw told her it was wrong, the young lady refused to give her the correct snowcone. It was at that point a verbal altercation ensued. They cashier then Threw a pot of coffee in my mother inlaws face. Never did get her snowcone. The young lady said that my mother inlaw had called her a N****. That made it all ok. First of all my mother in laws father served in WW2 in an engineering company. Some of the best men he ever knew, some of the closest friends he ever had, were black men. He had a solem respect and love of all people that he passed on to his family. My mother in law did no such thing in calling that young lady anything. When the young lady’s mother came to pick her up she asked what had happened. Her daughter told her what my mother in law had supposedly said, and her mother told her, ” You should have cut her throat”. Now was that racism? I don’t think so. That was shitty parenting. My point is people do crazy stuff sometimes just because theyre dicks. I think Zimmerman was just some Barney Badass who got all puffed up because some idiot thought he should be able to carry a gun in public. It’s heartbreaking what happened and I want justice. Let’s try not and make this an us versus them kinda thing because this kids family have a whole lot of us bad white people on their side.

  11. Dan, as someone who has lived in Florida most of the time since 1956, i guarantee you that, whatever motivated Zimmerman (and, as a descendant of Zimmermans myself, I can testify some of them are loonytunes), the power structure that protected him was motivated by the same old shit the power structure was motivated by when I first got here. I live about a stone’s throw across the river from Sanford, and them there waters are full of some smelly bass turds.

    Whatever came out of that snow cone incident, everyone’s alive. The Martin kid wasn’t so lucky.

  12. There’s no question that Zimmerman was a wannabe cop who had absolutely no business getting out of his car to pursue Trayvon after he was told not to. He is 100% responsible for everything that transpired, and his being 1/2 Hispanic does not alter the fact that he is a racist fool with an obsession toward young, black males. I don’t know if it’s true that Trayvon at some point got the best of him, but it was Trayvon who had the right of self-defense against this trouble-making creep who has a record that includes domestic violence and battery of a police officer. Of course, the actions of the Sanford police compounded the crime because they did not properly investigate but took Zimmerman’s word of self-defense with no questions. They also allowed Trayvon’s body to languish in the Medical Examiner’s office for 3 days without notifying next of kin, although Trayvon’s cell phone was on his body. Their malfeasance is what made it necessary for the federal government to get involved. It’s really a revelation to read blogs where some right wing nuts are twisting facts to make Trayvon out to be the bad guy. However, there are other conservatives who smell the stench of a coverup and are equally outraged at Zimmerman’s and the Sanford PD’s actions.

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