The hysteria has disappeared. The crowds are gone. No more media, No more cameras. Yet Sanford Florida is a place that is changed forever, especially now on the one year anniversary of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
It was indeed one year ago that Martin, a seventeen year old black kid who was visiting his father in the sleepy central Florida town, was shot down by self appointed Neighborhood Watch captain George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman in the wake of the events offered up in my opinion a bogus defense that Martin was wondering around the apartment complex that his father lived in in a suspicious manner, he proceeded to get out of his vehicle at the behest of a 911 operator he was talking with and approached Martin. A scuffle ensued, a gun was drawn and sadly a young life was ended.
The one-year anniversary of Martin’s death at the hands of Zimmerman made me re-examine once again America’s complex relationship with young black men.
The uneasiness goes all the way back to the earliest days of the slave trade where the masculinity and sexuality of black men have always been an issue.
Plantation owners reveled in their unchecked ability to have their way with female slaves but would stop at no end and use every source of intimidation to keep male slaves away from their own wives and daughters. During the Reconstruction Period after the Civil War, black men who found themselves the victims of lynchings were often castrated before hand.
There is the case of Emmitt Till whose 1955 murder in Mississippi, which was a call to arms for the modern day Civil Rights Movement and brought apt comparisons to Trayvon Martin, came about because the fourteen year-old Chicagoan unfamiliar with the ways of the deep south made a pass at a white woman.
When the Nation’s uneasiness isn’t fixed on black men and their sexuality it turns to it’s seemingly never ending fear of them.
The National Rifle Associations recent defense of Assault Rifles and Military Weapons that have no business being owned by everyday civilians has conjured up references that are thinly disguised racist, and stereotypical images of big hulking Negroes who are coming to break into your home and do bodily harm to your family
The downside of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pull no punches battle with the illegal use of firearms has been the “Stop and Frisk” program used by the New York City Police Department. Young men of color just on the basis of suspicion or fitting a certain description are subjected to searches from Policeman. These searches for the most part are designed to get these individuals into the criminal justice system database meaning a small amount of marijuana will make you a lifetime target of the cops.
The other side of the political aisle is quick to point out the disproportional number of crimes committed by African-American males, which there is no denying. In Chicago the two suspects arrested in the murder of Hadiya Pendleton, a junior high school student who was shot to death while hanging out in a public park with friends are two black kids not much older than Trayvon Martin.
Those same critics however conveniently fail to point out the factors that go into that and refuse to address the issue of all us being put into the same crime committing box. Fox News’ biggest cash cow and outspoken defender of 1950s America Bill O’Reilly has made clear his support of a program like “Stop and Frisk” basically seeing it as the price some young black males have to pay for the waywardness of others.
“The left hates Stop and Frisk because it’s racial profiling, but it is also criminal profiling”.
I wonder if “Bill-O the Clown” (as he was dubbed years ago by the great Keith Olbermann) would be okay with every white kid in the city, (his son assuming he has one in the age range) being frisked on a daily basis, or with them being put in the criminal justice system for carrying a nickel bag worth of marijuana. If Wade Michael Page and James Holmes were black and got their hands on guns after a black Jared Loughner killed six people and nearly killed a United States Congresswoman, what would have been Bill-O’s response to that.
In the wake of the Newtown Tragedy Tim Wise of Daily Kos wrote a great piece on race, class and gun violence. In part of the column he wrote something that struck me.
“After all, when poor folks or people of color engage in criminal activity — including, in general, a disproportionate share of lethal street violence — everyone has a theory; and not just a theory but an analysis that in one way or the other implicates something cultural. For the right, it’s the culture of poverty, or perhaps some specific aspect of “black culture” — about which they know nothing but about which they also feel utterly qualified to speak — while for the left it’s the culture of systemic inequality, of economic marginality, or the cumulative weight of institutional injustice.
But when white people, and especially those from stable and even well-off economic backgrounds lash out in a manner often more bizarre, indiscriminate, and apocalyptic than even the most determined street thug, it is then that the value of broader cultural critique vanishes faster than ethical judgment on Wall Street.” Very few words have ever rang truer.
The palpable frustration that still exists one year later is that Trayvon Martin didn’t have to die. He doesn’t die if a wannabe cop doesn’t have a gun on a rainy night in Central Florida, but more importantly he doesn’t die if that same wannabe cop didn’t have a biased fear against what he felt was just another young black kid out to make trouble.