Tag Archives: Trayvon Martin

When a Shooting Creates Policy

February 26 marked the 5th anniversary of the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.  It left its mark on American society; a chronic irritation still uncured.  Some think that perceptions about African-American men deepened on that rainy evening as citizens began to see them as deadly assailants, even unarmed,  and worthy of the use of deadly force.

Afterwards, that same cavalier and justified attitude about such use infiltrated communities and police departments across the country.  From that point on, it seemed that young men and women of color had targets on them saying, shoot to kill, regardless!  I ask you; do you think the killing of young Martin made such shootings easier for some officers and private citizens?  And then, did subsequent police shootings empower further civilian armed attacks against young black men?  I think they possibly did.  Continue reading

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Filed under Guns and Firearms, Life and Society, Opinion

There’s No White Boogeyman but Evil Does Exist

Today I read two articles concerning the Jordan Davis murder trial, SYG and self-defense laws.  I’ve included the links below.

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/20/opinion/young-white-dunn-boogeyman/

There is no white boogeyman – Yolanda Young

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/19/opinion/omara-stand-your-ground-and-race/

It’s not about ‘stand your ground’, it’s about race – Mark O’Mara

I see a lot of what Mark O’Mara is saying, particularly his assumption that the whole problem with the self-defense laws is the ‘no duty to retreat” clause as well as the definition of “reasonable fear”.  But there’s more.

“The underlying concern with the statute is that those who are aware of it may be emboldened by its protection and place themselves in, or remain in, a circumstance that increases the likelihood of using force.”  – Mark O’Mara 

Mr. O’Mara’s correct that reasonable fear can become entirely unreasonable when the fear is stemming from a confrontation with a black male.  And if his quote above doesn’t, in fact, describe what possibly was going through Zimmerman’s mind that evening last year-that self-defense or SYG laws gave him the right to confront the unarmed teen, consequences be damned-then I don’t know what does.  I only wonder where all of these good, objective thoughts were during the Zimmerman trial.  You have to love defense attorneys and their after-the-fact observations.

On the other hand, I’m not that inclined to agree with the article by Yolanda Young.  Her idea, that the African American community is slowly becoming paranoid of white men and their intentions for our children, is far-fetched in my opinion.  The black community has never been paranoid per se, only cognizant of the possible dangers that exist when confrontations between the races occur.  My parents taught me and I, in turn, taught my children.  We would be fool-hardy not to do so as it’s not paranoia, it’s survival, plain and simple.

Ms. Young likens the warnings we give to our offspring today as the same warnings given to blacks at the height of Jim Crow, when African Americans were being lynched almost on a daily basis and had to have a playbook on how to navigate in the white world.  However, she characterizes today’s cautions to our children as hyperbole and calls them unnecessary.   I beg to differ.

When I think of evil, I’m of the mind of Justice Scalia in his statement about pornography in that, “I know it when I see it”.   I feel this way because truthfully, evil does exist and I have seen it.  Whether it’s the smug, assured and confident evil depicted by the Michael Dunn’s of the world, individuals who do their dirt willingly and readily, under the assumption that every man will appreciate their “right” to do so or whether it’s the tentative, fearful evil shown by the George Zimmerman’s who, having done their dastardly deeds, are now fearful that they may have bitten off more than they can chew yet still throw their selves on the mercy of hopeful, public sentiment.

Both are equally despicable and both would be equally guilty in a court of law, in my mind. We as a country have to be prepared for the individuals that Mr. O’Mara warns us about; those who are looking for a reason to pull a gun on a lone, unarmed black man.  Furthermore, as long as the courts are reluctant to go the extra mile with their jurisprudence to ensure that all facets of the defendants’ actions, as well as his or her state of mind, are vetted, then it’s only prudent that black parents continue to instruct their children into the dangers that could befall them.

When all is said and done and if given the opportunity, I would ask Ms. Young two questions.  First, do you have any children?  And if she answered in the affirmative, I’d then ask her, “What do you tell them?

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Filed under Justice, Race

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Thug

African-American males are part of an equation and they don’t even know it.

I call it the self-fulfilling prophecy of thug. I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately, especially in light of the Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin murder trials but also because of the Marcus Smart incident. What happened with Marcus Smart sheds some light on how it all begins.

Rap music is thug music; all black men like rap music; therefore, all black men are thugs.

It starts with a preconception, a presumption.  And what follows are the contrived opinions and judgments that are based solely on those preconceived notions.  There is no objective, empirical or scientific knowledge gathered, no studies to base those assumptions on but rather just the simple prejudices of a feeble mind are the sole driving force behind the actions of such people.  And there’s always a catalyst in the situation; a person or persons fueling events like some sort of chemical reagent working to produce a sought after reaction.

Trayvon Martin had George Zimmerman stoking the pot that led to his death and Jordan Davis had Michael Dunn.  Marcus Smart had Jeff Orr as his catalyst and was lucky enough to live through his altercation but that’s only because he had a stadium full of witnesses on hand.  Had he encountered Orr on an empty street, it might have been a different story.

The problem is that there’s little training that can prepare you for the individual, that one person who’ll say, or do, just enough to push you over the edge. You see, just as much as you’ve been practicing the discipline of maintaining your cool and being courteous or professional in all things, they’ve, on the other hand, been studying on the many ways to make you lose it.  It’s a vicious circle that exists primarily for African American males both young and old but it’s also a playbook that can be opened and used at any time and anywhere against just about anyone for that matter.

A sad but true statement: some folks are automatically “concerned” when they interact with black males; their thinking being that we’re just waiting for an excuse to hurt someone because, obviously (they can see I’m a black man), we can’t control our emotions.  They routinely mistake passion (white) for aggression (black) and economy in speech and actions (white) for either unfriendliness or lack of professionalism (black).

It’s time to flip the script, so to speak.  And it’s a lesson that I hope young African-American males learn.  Don’t beat them up but beat them at their own game.  Kill those who would do you harm with kindness and smother them with competence.  And in the end when all is said and done and they’re looking at you all googly-eyed and sputtering not knowing what to say or do because you’ve given them nothing to dog you with, take them out with a better than average vocabulary, good common sense and a decent education.

It’s not hard to create our own playbook and in lieu of such recent happenings, it’s not only good common sense to do so but also a matter of survival.

 

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Black leadership mixed on boycott but call stirs debate, denial

When the first stone was thrown by Stevie Wonder, more artists joined in the decision to boycott performing in Florida, at least theoretically, sort of, maybe.  In addition to the lack of confirmation from any of their camps, not surprisingly, there’ve been opposing voices raised against the action, from a variety of different spectrums; politics, private enterprise, music and the arts.  And, with what can only be called an ironic twist, some opposition is coming from within the ranks of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Whether or not it’s truly opposition, history will judge.  Let’s say for now that some members have their reservations.  I suppose it’s understandable since they have additional concerns to be evaluated.  Things like the potential loss of jobs and the impact on constituents as a boots-on-the-ground result of such an action, probably sits heavily on their minds.

On the other hand, one hopes that the CBC will collectively see the necessity of this action.  If consensus holds that the law needs to be retooled-and make no mistake that is the opinion of most-then let’s do so.  Problem is that even though everyone agrees that the statute is not worthy or ready for implementation, Governor Rick Scott has steadfastly said there will be no changes made to it, no special legislative session called.  In the face of such political pigheadedness, an economic boycott might be the only action to sway the governor, and ultimately, the state.

In so far as the rapidly dwindling list of celebrities on board is concerned, there’s very little anyone can do about that.  We can only hope that they’ll see the necessity of what’s being attempted.  And for those artists whose performances are still a go in Florida, there is still time for them to make an adjustment if they choose to do so.

That the fans will suffer is understood and can’t be helped.  We can only hope that they would be on board with their decisions to forego performing.  It comes down to what sacrifice they feel they should have to make and are willing to make, along with the impact such sacrifice would have on their bottom line.  Only they have to decide exactly where their bottom line is.  And that’s where the soul-searching comes knocking.

As far as the naysayers go, they are entitled to their opinion.

But those who say that the trial wasn’t about Stand Your Ground, that the defense was based on self-defense, I say that I think you are wrong.  Stand Your Ground, or the shadow of such, has always loomed over the trial and the entire affair.  It was there in the initial failure to arrest or even consider that anything could be amiss, even with one unarmed person dead.  The pall of Stand Your Ground was there in the truck with George Zimmerman on the night that he stalked Trayvon.  It soothed him into thinking that whatever happened, he was justified.  It cajoled him to exit the safety of his vehicle’s cab and dash through the streets like a wannabe super hero, disregarding law enforcement’s instructions to the contrary. And when he finally caught up to his quarry, rather than retreat and allow the police to arrive and handle the situation, it was Stand Your Ground that told him it was alright to harass, confront and ultimately kill with the use of deadly force.  The statute told him that he would be vindicated.  So don’t tell me that the statute had nothing to do with the trial.

For those who say that proponents of the law are not indicative of the whole of Florida, I‘ve never said that I thought everyone in the state feels akin to the defense.  But I don’t think that makes a difference as to whether or not a boycott is either needed or warranted.  Furthermore, I would hope that all Floridians would want some clarification of and improvement to the law and recognize that the boycott is not an indictment against them; it’s an indictment against the creepy statute.   Even with the district gerrymandering games that are afoot, join us and together we can change it.

Finally, for those that say it’s not about race-that black people have executed their rights under the law as much as white people-I agree with you.  But having said that, I know that race will always ultimately be a part, or a possible part, of any altercation that occurs in a jurisdiction that has the statute, unless prohibitions are in place.  Race will always be a part of our lives.  It figures into how we interact with each other, treat each other.  Put simply, no man, regardless of the color of his skin, should have at his disposal a law that affords him an unfair advantage; an advantage that allows him to routinely kill another.

So it’s good we’re having these discussions.  In September, the eyes of the world will once again be on Florida where another case of self-defense/stand your ground will have to be decided.  Michael David Dunn is accused of opening fire on a group of teens at a gas station, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis, because he thought he saw someone leveling a shotgun towards him.  No gun was found, witnesses will testify that Dunn had instigated words with the teens and his girlfriend is turning state’s evidence against him.  Yet, none of that will matter.  What will matter-and only, it seems, what will matter-is what Michael David Dunn thought at the time.  And so far,  he’s not changing his story.

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Filed under Opinion

Martin verdict demands a call for action

I was outside in the garden already sweltering, when my wife hollered out to me that a verdict had been reached.  It seemed, at the time, that her five words, “they found him not guilty”, turned up the heat on me ten-fold.

Since then, I’ve calmed myself.  As much as I’m not surprised by the verdict I nevertheless wondered, how could that be?  As the aggressor, how could he be found not guilty?  Didn’t it occur to them that this young man had every right to defend his life from what he perceived to be a dangerous threat with the same fervor that George Zimmerman defended his?  Where was Trayvon Martin’s right to stand his ground in all of this, I asked myself.

Now, as the verdict continues to be vetted this way and that, I understand how they got to that point.  It’s that twisted and vague statute.  Even if you concede that the verdict was brought without any sort of behind-the-scenes racial collusion, you have to admit that the court failed to provide any justice for Trayvon and his parents.   And while justice is blind and can be notoriously unreliable, the scales generally balance.  This time though something went terribly wrong.  Again, it’s because the “Stand Your Ground” law, as it’s written, really doesn’t allow for justice; a decision made from the thorough and fair scrutiny of all the facts and both parties.   Currently, it seems to favor the last man standing.

I’ve questioned before the prosecutions attempts to make this into a racially motivated case.  Proving such hatred, without a preponderance of evidence, is a hard sell.  We’re talking about Florida, remember?  And as I said previously, it would be just as wrong if Trayvon Martin was a white youth.  Understandably though, African Americans feel strongly that it’s so mainly because Zimmerman’s actions harken back to that time, not so long ago, when a black man could be killed on the streets, in front of witnesses, for simply disrespecting his white counterpart.

Unfortunately the verdict did little to stem those emotions; if anything, it intensified them.  And while a call for action could be taken as a summons to commit violence, violence would solve nothing-would more than likely exacerbate the situation-and do little to respect the Martin family.  Instead of that, what we need now is a concerted, well-thought-out type of action; the sort of protest that assisted people in the past in their struggles for social, economic and legal equality.  I’m talking about boycott.

If there’s anything America understands, it’s money.  Likewise, if there’s anything that will get Americans’ attention, it’s the moolah, again.  For now, a particular group of Americans, aka the state of Florida, are content that justice has been done and the only way that their collective minds will be changed is through a strong, prolonged economic boycott of all things Florida, or at least those aspects of coin that we can affect.   Start with Florida tourism; that means no more trips to Orlando, Miami, Key West or South Beach.  Forget about Disney, take the children somewhere else.  If you want to visit relatives, have them come north.

Other leisure activities should not be overlooked.  A vast amount of money is being made through the sports franchises of the state.  So, let’s boycott all Miami Heat games (Sorry, LeBron!) home and away, as well as the games of the Miami Dolphins, Orlando Magic, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning.  And we need to do the same for the Arena Football teams and minor league clubs, as well.

Such an embargo would not be an easy task.  We Americans, both black and white, love our leisure activities.  So, there is some hardship to be suffered if we do this.  But if we are emboldened, it can succeed; history has shown us that.  Two years before Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat to a white rider on a Montgomery Alabama bus, commuters in Baton Rouge, Louisiana stood up for their rights to ride in equal comfort to their others.  In 1960, black consumers of New Orleans boycotted stores on both of the city’s main shopping avenues, seeking to end the shop owners’ use of segregated facilities and employment discrimination.  Also in 1965, Activist Caesar Chavez organized the Grape Boycott, after an independent walkout of Mexican and Filipino farm workers, to highlight the hardship of migrant farm workers incurring low pay and unsanitary housing and working conditions.  And more recently in 2002, Samira Ahmed organized wives of fighters in the second Sudanese Civil War to withhold sex from their husbands until hostilities ended.

Such an action would definitely be a wake up call not only for the Justice Department but also for the state of Florida, where “Stand Your Ground” change must emanate from.  And change is what we want; we being any rational and fair American, not simply a black one.  Change is what America demands; and if she doesn’t, she should.  For any law that allows one man to take the life of another in such a frivolous and sanctioned fashion with little to no legal recourse is an unjust law and should not be allowed to stand.  I’ve said before, today it was a young black male but who knows who’ll be looking down the barrel of a gun tomorrow.  I’m just saying…

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