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Trayvon Martin’s Murder is a Human Issue, Not Just a Black One

America’s legacy is that it is a land of contradictions. Inscribed on the Statue of Liberty are the words:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free;
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless,
Tempest-tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

– yet every day American forces forage for those same tired and poor individuals with the intent of casting them out of this country. Founded on the ideals of liberty, equality and brotherhood (modeled after the French Revolution) America shook off the shackles of England’s tyranny and declared itself a free nation; a free nation that championed a brutal system of slavery for over 400 years. Now, interred in that same spirit of contradiction, comes the case of the murder of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old child who was walking back to the home of friends from a convenience store and subsequently shot for “looking suspicious.” This case should therefore serve to sadden us, but not truly come as a surprise.

To my great delight, Trayvon’s murder has garnered a global outcry, as well it should. Gone are the days when humanity largely existed in isolation. With the advances in communication and travel methods, our world has become smaller and smaller. Our borders do not protect us from the events happening in other corners of the globe. When there is an uprising in the Middle East, we all feel it. When there is a tsunami in Japan, we are all devastated. When a man pursues and fatally shoots an unarmed teen, it resonates with every person in possession of a soul – or at least it ought to.

As the details surrounding the events leading up to Trayvon’s murder become more public, so ought to become an increase in concern for anyone who does not settle nicely into what a trustworthy human being looks like, at least in the state of Florida.

Shielded by local law enforcement and “Stand your Ground”, the now infamous George Zimmerman has still not been arrested because there is no evidence to show that he did not kill Trayvon in self-defense, according to Sanford’s chief of police. Indeed, there WAS no evidence…until this morning, when a 16 year old girl revealed that she was on the phone with Trayvon who told her he was fleeing a strange man who was hounding him. Had the police checked his phone records, they would have discovered this. Instead, they treated him like the criminal and suspected drug addict that Zimmerman accused him of being; Zimmerman, who was a complete stranger and who has no powers of repute, other than effective stereotyping.

Why should this be of concern to you? Because this could potentially happen to you or someone you hold dear. Florida is a state that attracts visitors from around the globe. Miami, Busch Gardens, Disney World and its numerous vacationing and tourists’ spots make it worthy of its renowned reputation as a place to unwind. It is also a state that enacted the Stand Your Ground law, which essentially reverses the idea that a person who feels threatened should flee their attacker and gives them the right to inflict harm a perceived assailant, fatally if need be. Since this law was enacted in 2005, several would-be homicide cases have been dismissed and the shooters have gone free. The details of those cases are unknown to me, but I do know that in Trayvon’s case he was the hunted and Zimmerman the attacker, not the other way round. As time goes on this is only going to become more evident.

Over America’s tumultuous history, certain segments of society have been viewed as less than favorable or just downright “dangerous”. Then seen as enemy aliens, the American government seized the assets of Japanese Americans and sent them to internment camps during WWII. When the Irish first settled in this country, they were castigated by fellow Caucasians who saw them as little better than niggers. Today, ordinary Arabs (or anyone blessed with features resembling Arabs) are vilified for the attacks on September 11th , when none of these people had anything to do with those attacks at all. Native Americans, Mexicans, Blacks…we all have a cross to bear when it comes to how the majority in our society views us. The problem is when that view transforms into something lethal. We cannot condone a system that says it is alright for one person to shoot and kill another, simply because he/she does not like the look of that person – and that is precisely what the police in Florida are doing.

If we remove the lens of race from the details of this case, the conclusion would be no different. What George Zimmerman did on that day was wrong, and what the Sanford Police Department did was deplorable.

Trayvon was lost and scared that day, and Zimmerman’s bullet tore into the flesh of a kid whose last cries were a howl for help and a cry for his mother.

If Trayvon had been a 17 year old girl Saudi walking the neighborhood in a hajib, Zimmerman would still be wrong.

If Trayvon had been a 17 year old Hispanic boy with spiky hair and tattered jeans, Zimmerman would still be wrong.

If Zimmerman were Black and Trayvon white, Zimmerman would still be wrong!

All it will take for this tragedy to be repeated again will be pervasive prejudice residing in the mind of a deranged individual with a right to carry a firearm and an itchy finger. If we don’t demand justice and real change, I suspect that there will be many other Trayvon’s before the year is out.

This morning my 3 year old son, lumbered into my room, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and seeking a hug. I picked him up and nuzzled my nose into his neck. He smelled musty, like he’d been playing outside in the rocks and dirt that are a little boy’s constant companions. I whispered “I love yous” into his ear and we gave each other a series of high fives. As they often do, my thoughts turned immediately to Trayvon’s mother, who will never again be able to hug her son or audibly express her love for him. I can’t imagine what her life is like today. I pray often that I never have to.

On the right side of this page, you will see a link to sign a petition demanding that George Zimmerman be brought to justice. He must be charged with a hate crime, for what he did that day was purely motivated by his hatred/prejudices against a certain race…the same as my son’s. If you believe in righteousness, please sign it. Take a stand and make your voice heard. Any human who has been the subject of prejudice knows that it is imperative that we all speak out. You may be protecting another child who might suffer the same fate as Trayvon otherwise.

This article has 8 comments

  1. Kalito

    I recal on my first visit to the US for about a month curtesy of the US Securities and Exchange Commission it was seemingly “suspicious” for us to walk about in suits catching leather folios and to use our cards to purchase subway tickets! One observant fella approached my colleague and I and quizzing lay asked, “Excuse me, are you guys preachers?”.

    After our three week stay in DC we had a week in NY staying at the Wall Street Inn and walking to the NY Stock Exchange and other capital market players offices. Strange sight we were in the nonchalant walk that is African!

    We returned to Zambia on a United Airlines flight from NY to Dulles then a BA flight to London Heathrow then to Lusaka. We were the only two black people on that flight to London and we were the only two passengers stopped from boarding as some checks we were not told about were being carried out. We did not fit the script – I was reading the Davinci Code and my colleague aJohn Grisham novel after catching up on international goings-on on our expensive laptops. One security fella wondered why we had not flown to London from NY! After a 30min delay we boarded. When we arrived in Lusaka we discovered our bags had broken zips and security marked plastic covering (explained the delay) we were deemed suspicious!

    When suspicion is driven to this senseless killing it just shows how backward society in the developed world has gone. With tablets with 1million pixels more than my HDTV and quad core processors around us we still let stereotyping guide our thoughts? A life is not for us to take away!

  2. jayokanmi

    Sometimes it feels like this will never stop. I am sure there have been many cases like this, but many people have got a way with it.

  3. NM

    Thank you for that perspective Malaka! Some of the stuff they missed like checking the phone for any calls that he may have made(in the very least to identify him..he was taken to the morgue as a John Doe) affirms what I believed soon after I read the story: this police department rushed to judgement and took the word of a murderer who was motivated by bigotry.

    What’s sadder is that some commentary on this story from other websites shows a great # of people trying to rationalize Zimmerman’s actions despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. That tells me there are some souls out there who actually subscribe to his way of thinking and they wouldn’t hesitate to take one’s life “simply because he/she does not like the look of that person.” God help us all!

    • A-Dub

      I saw that too. Some people obviously hadn’t read the full story or were just blinded by their own prejudices. It’s rather sad.

      Now, if George is not sent to prison, the Florida cops should be ready for the inevitable back lash. I can imagine people saying “Well if Zimmerman can get off so can I”. It’s going to change from the “Stand your Ground” law to the “Zimmerman law”. *sigh*…. People just shooting others for no reason and claiming the Zimmerman self defense.

      • Malaka

        If the Feds know what’s good for them, they will arrest and charge this dude pronto, unless they want a race war and utter lawlessness. People are PISSED, and in a way I’ve never seen before.

        Apparently, there is a Black militia group on the hunt for Zimmerman. It can only go downhill from there.

  4. siaj won

    I signed it before I read your blog.This piece you wrote gives me goose bumps…well said!

    • Malaka

      It’s sobering when I think about so many women have these same fears and prayers, only to have one of them come to reality.

      I signed the petition ages ago as well, but I added it on my blog so that no one would have any excuse in saying they couldn’t find it, etc.

      I just hope that after all the international pressure, the State of FL doesn’t remain obstinate and let a killer go free to prove their sovereignty. It would be like watching Troy Davis die all over again.

      Thank you for signing!

  5. Andrew

    Thank you for posting the petition. It is really a tragedy, one that I hope will be remedied soon.

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