So says Geraldo Rivera speaking on Fox and Friends about the controversial Trayvon Martin case, in which a 17 year old was gunned down by a neighborhood watch captain; no one argues his points, at least as it pertains to the public perception, in terms of common occurrences. But the larger scope of what is going on here is what’s lost here; if you’re going to speak out this is not what you say, not the conversation to be had regarding the tragedy of this young man, it’s asking all the wrong questions. Instead the discussion should center around what the hell is going on in Florida, making headlines for all the wrong reasons; recently reported on were police speeding habits, driving up to 100 miles per hour just to get to work, causing accidents and walking away with slaps on the wrist, Florida is the state housing the Sommer Thomson case, police far too slow to put things together and now they don’t properly investigate a dead teenager while a TV personality is blaming clothing for the brutal death of a good kid whose only crime was walking at night in his own neighborhood. Generating such public outcry is that police detained and questioned the shooter, but because he claimed self-defense, it seems as if they consider the case closed contrasting the parents who want a proper investigation, want him charged, want a jury to decide his innocence or guilt. Also surrounding this is race because Trayvon Martin is black and the shooter is reportedly Hispanic, however looks white; aggravating the situation even more is the possibility a racial slur was used to describe the teen during the 911 call, though it remains sketchy.
Fact is you don’t have to be a racist to hold a prejudice against someone for how they look, what they wear, mannerisms they may have; more importantly you don’t have to be racist to be to be wrong, to be guilty of wrong doing, to have committed a crime no matter how mistaken or unintentional. Whether or not you can hear a racial slur on the 911 tape or not the shooter, one George Zimmerman, was wrong. He violated several tenets of the neighborhood watch association by not having his group registered, by trying to follow, confront a subject and first and foremost by carrying a gun! He explicitly ignored the 911 dispatcher who told him they did not need him to follow what he called a suspicious person; next a teen ends up dead yards from his front door. Zimmerman likewise has a history of nuisance calls to police concerning possible crime in his area, supposedly suspicious people. Not in dispute are statements that can clearly be heard on the 911 tape of him saying these [expletive] they always get away; again racist or not, certainly proving he had a bias against people who looked like they were criminals, looked like they were on drugs, something else he told 911 dispatch, thought they routinely got away. He’s exactly the kind of person you don’t want running, participating in a neighborhood watch. Bringing us to another point, if he is even half the local busy body he appears to be, he should have recognized Trayvon Martin as someone who lived in the community; therefore not finding him suspicious. Part of being any good at neighborhood watch, is knowing who belongs and who doesn’t, noticing who moves in and moves out, noticing who has kids and who lives alone, those who routinely have guests or don’t, single parents, parents sharing custody, as there is now some debate surrounding if Martin actually lived there or was simply visiting his father. Evolving reports say apparently Trayvon was on an extended stay with his dad while serving a 2 week school suspension; at the same time, many parents share custody of their children, splitting summers, vacations, most schools are just going on, or returning from, spring break, making it less likely he’d never seen Martin before, never seen various age kids come and go for a variety of reasons.
Further the police were wrong for holding Mr. Zimmerman yet not even bothering to check if he had a criminal record, which he did for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest no less, there are reports of a possible domestic violence petition brought by a woman in his college years. He should have been far from unknown to police for an entirely different reason, up to 50 calls to their non-emergency line in the last 3-4 months; during all his time being amateur neighborhood watch he caught one thief according to his homeowners’ association They were remiss in not administering an alcohol and drug test on him, basic breathalyzer on scene and drug screening once they had him in custody. The police were additionally extremely negligent in allowing a crime scene to be destroyed, collecting no forensic evidence that could have proved or disproved either side’s story, evidence that a month later cannot be collected, can never be gotten back. Sending a narcotics investigator to the scene one guesses could make some sense based on what Zimmerman told 911, but once the detective arrived and saw more of what they really had, there is no indication they sent an officer familiar with homicides to look at the scene or currently to review what was found. They completely fell down on the job by not questioning Martin’s girlfriend despite him being on the phone with her during at least part of the altercation with Zimmerman, despite them having transcripts of the phone conversation and the girl’s number, leaving the question what other witnesses could they have missed? Not to mention wouldn’t the better time to interview them have been just after it happened when their memories were fresh? Not lost is the fact that it took a groundswell of public outcry to get anyone to look at the case, to get the media to cover it. But people want to say this isn’t about race, partly because the shooter is Hispanic not white; well if it isn’t about the racism of the shooter, the likelihood that if Trayvon Martin had been white he would not have been followed, then perhaps it’s about the racism present in the Florida police department, the complacent perception on the part of officers who seem all too content to chalk this up to another bad black kid in another bad neighborhood slain like so many others.
Now reports are surfacing supporting that perception to almost a prophetic degree, trying paint Trayvon as something other than an innocent victim; everything from he started the altercation with Zimmerman after Zimmerman lost track of him then walked back to his SUV, at which point Martin came up from behind, punched him and began banging his head into the sidewalk repeatedly, to the boy’s suspension from school for a baggie with trace amounts of pot. However according to what the girlfriend said when questioned by the Martin family attorney, he was on the phone with her, phone in his pocket headset in his ear, meaning he probably looked “suspicious” like a head case talking to himself, not looking like a person trying to rob a home or under the influence of drugs, alcohol. She went on to say several things spokespersons for Martin say blow Zimmerman’s self-defense claim to pieces, including, that he knew he was being followed and was frightened, that he asked the man why he was following him and the man responded with what are you doing around here? At some point it appears he was shoved, because the phone fell, then went dead. Regarding the hoodie, depending on which report you read, based on the account of the girlfriend he put it up because it was raining or because he was being followed and wanted to draw less attention to himself. Leading people to logically piece events together something like this; zealous neighborhood watch guy sees someone he thinks is a problem, follows him in his car, the someone on foot may panic and begin to run, whatever the case, Zimmerman likely abruptly stops car, begins to aggressively ask frightened person what are you doing here, may or may not include a shove. By this time it is entirely possible the boy punches the person just to get away from him; although if he had banged Mr. Zimmerman’s head into the sidewalk, odds are he would still be in the hospital with a head injury, possibly facing coma or death, at minimum a concussion. It is an equal possibility, considering the area the incident took place, that if he shoved the boy and the boy didn’t move, fall to the ground as expected, Zimmerman then lost his balance, fell backwards and hit his head on the sidewalk that way. If it was raining, sprinkler systems are used by residents or someone simply decided to water their lawn, the grass could have been wet and as Zimmerman tried to shove or grab the boy; he could have slipped and fallen back against the sidewalk as well.
Whatever happened, note the George Zimmerman in this police video sans blood, scratches, bruising, swelling to either his nose or the back of his head; his clothes are free of dirt, blood, sweat, even absent wrinkles, shirt still tucked into his jeans. Yet Zimmerman claims the fight was so bad he had to shoot Trayvon Martin to fend for his life. Funny, anyone whose watched the popular TV show Cops, seen that raw video has seen more evidence present from a basic fight than you see on the man here.
Hear it straight from the funeral directors mouth about the no scrapes, bruises, swelling on Martin’s knuckles as he prepared him for burial; note the age of the man, consider his probable experience as a mortician when he explains why the story being told about what happened doesn’t make sense.
Family spokespeople are correct, why Trayvon Martin was suspended from school has no bearing on what ultimately happened to him, first and foremost because, for all we know, the baggie was dropped into his backpack, the baggie originally had food or other items in it and he set it down somewhere and that’s how the residue got in or on the bag. What is known by process of elimination is, he had no drugs on his person that night, otherwise that would have been the story as opposed to the reason for his school suspension, he had no weapons on him that night, or again it would have been an iron clad reason Zimmerman felt threatened and fired his gun, a toxicology report done on Martin is either pending or negative or, once more, that would be the story. He was in possession of candy which he bought and paid for, not stole from a local store. This was roughly 7:00 pm at night, not the wee hours of the morning when people should be in bed, prime times for people up to no good to be out and about. There is sadly something to the parent’s claim that even in death they, police, media, are trying to soil their son’s reputation, since the school suspension information was leaked not an authorized release by police or other law enforcement agency. There is a more than a modicum of reality to the assertions made by the Martin family that had their child been white, he would not have been followed; conversely, the Martin family attorney was truthful as well in pointing out had Trayvon been the one with the gun, the one to shoot Zimmerman, he would have been arrested that day and still be behind bars. Still Geraldo blames clothing for the incident that took a young person’s life, fueling stereotypical hype, playing into old, unsubstantiated thought patterns; saying in part if you dress like a hoodlum, if you look like a gangster, eventually someone is going to react accordingly. Instead of talking about the neighborhood watch guy Geraldo himself calls nutty, he’s blaming it on laundry. Instead of saying hey, even if Zimmerman’s watch group was not affiliated with the national group known as neighborhood watch; common sense states that without training, without authority, any neighborhood crime prevention organization member should never try to physically catch a suspect and should never carry a gun. Secondly is how to approach people and ask questions when you are part of such a group; things like identifying yourself as part of a neighborhood organization, asking if the person lives around there, if they are new to the area, if they are visiting someone, are they lost, looking for something, not aggressively asking what are you doing here to someone walking down the sidewalk minding their own business, not copping an unnecessary attitude, and not making any kid with street sense afraid of you.
Unfortunately a media personality aware of the situation and willing to speak out about it chose to address none of those things, nor Zimmerman’s failed attempts to be a cop, his zealot like attitude, the obvious perception he shot Martin because it was dark, guy was wearing a hoodie and also black, causing an irrational fear that led to him pulling his gun; that regardless of Florida’s stand your ground law, the altercation happened nowhere near Zimmerman’s home, the only reason it might have been near his car is because he was using it to follow Marin around their collective neighborhood, meaning there should have been nothing of his to defend, nor reason to feel threatened, other than the situation he is responsible for creating. Similarly not discussed is this kid’s distinct lack of criminal record, juvenile record, complete lack of drug history, zero history of violence. But let’s say for a moment everything coming out about Trayvon Martin is true, he was a kid headed down the wrong path, the pot was his, he started the fight with Zimmerman and punched him, banged his head on something, then tried to get the man’s gun. Ok he shouldn’t have had to die because he got suspended from school over, at most, minor drug possession; in reference to February 26th, he gets arrested, goes to jail for the assault. He shouldn’t have to die for beating someone up who escalated things by following him in the first place, for trying to take a gun away from a nut ball when it shouldn’t have been there to begin with. Trayvon Martin was 17, perhaps making some stupid choices, but George Zimmerman is 28, an adult and should have had the common sense to act like it, especially if he was going to take on the role of neighborhood watcher. And not only does he remain a free man, not facing one charge, he maintains his permit to carry a gun, something the family and supporters at least want suspended until completion of the investigation. Sadly too, now parents of African American and other minority children are forced into having yet another set of uncomfortable conversations with their kids about how they are viewed in society; one parent telling ABC news the rules she gave her boys when they started to look like men, around 14, for survival, so they come home alive; things like if you go into a store remove your hoodie, don’t put your hands in your pockets, when you buy something, put it in a bag, get a receipt. When I heard this I couldn’t help but flash back to moments in my own life waiting for cabs, buses, family members to pick me up from someplace, having my hoodie up to keep out the cold, walking back and forth to keep warm, see my transportation pull up, and to think I could have been mistaken for a criminal. I think about what I do at stores, that I’ll keep the receipt until I leave, but after that I may toss it out on small items like a book of stamps or, as the woman in the piece mentioned, a pack of gum; should I then be accosted by citizens or arrested by police for theft walking down the street because I can’t prove I bought the item(s)?
Blaming a hoodie won’t make our kids safer, nor removing it from their wardrobe, because people with Zimmerman like mindsets will just find something else unsavory about their appearance, the way they walk, the fact they don’t look like they fit in with the area. Blaming a hoodie won’t save the next kid like Trayvon Martin, won’t prevent the tragic death, devastating injury of a promising young life; again because, people who are scared of all the black people, the brown people, scared of the, they look Arab people, drawing conclusions about, intimidated by the, they dress like thugs people, the they look like drug dealers people, will still be trigger happy, will still say they are part of neighborhood, community watch as an excuse to follow people around. Blaming a hoodie does nothing to start the larger conversation about how to properly handle race, what real criminality looks like; it does nothing to determine the reason behind that particular Florida police department’s abject failure, to remove people with toxic mindsets from important law enforcement jobs, if that is indeed part of what happened on the police side of the issue. Blaming a hoodie doesn’t address the fact you have a right to walk down the street in any clothing you please, hood up, down, baggie pants, tattoos, earrings, dyed hair; you have the right to put your hands anywhere on your person you so choose wherever you walk, with few exceptions. Blaming a hoodie is an easy answer, quick fix to avoid the larger problem, to avoid looking at things we don’t want to see, to sweep under the rug the racism we believe no longer exists, to shy away from the judging a book by its cover perceptions we delude ourselves into thinking we’re beyond in the 21st century, exactly the kinds of events, issues conversations, people news media are supposed to bring to light. One more set of people who failed Trayvon Martin.