Seventeen-year old Treyvon Martin was walking back from a convenience store to his father's home, when he was allegedly accosted and shot dead by a community watch captain. Heading home put him in a “gated” community where he clearly wasn’t welcomed. Treyvon was black and his presence in that “gated” community was a source of consternation for the man who shot him dead as evidenced by the 911 telephone call that was made just minutes prior to the deadly shooting.
The media reports that George Zimmerman, a white man, called for police assistance, reporting that Treyvon was “a suspicious person". Despite being advised by the 911 dispatcher to not follow the young man and to wait for police, Zimmerman felt that he had the authority to approach and confront Treyvon instead. That confrontation has now left a family to bury a child who once had a bright and promising future.
The central Florida police have yet to levy any charges against Zimmerman and it is unlikely that this man will face any consequences for his actions. Treyvon was, after all, just another young black male viewed as a threat.
As a little girl I learned early how to behave and not behave when accosted by police or persons of authority who questioned my presence where they believed I had no business being. I learned from watching my father and my godfather, black men who were readily stopped and questioned about their activities and presence in the bright white community where they owned real estate, paid taxes, sat on community boards and participated in numerous neighborhood activities. Despite the green of their wallets and their very active presence in community affairs, they were still black men viewed as a threat to somebody.
The same lessons I learned I passed on to my boys, reminding them every time they left our home that not everyone knew them, knew our family, or even cared that there was nothing malicious in their intent to simply go about their daily activities. I reiterated the black parent's mantra over and over again, that if they were ever waylaid by the authorities that they were never to be disrespectful, never to mouth off, to always keep their hands where they could readily be seen, and to remember that even if they were not at fault and on their very best behavior, that not everyone had their best interest at heart.
Treyvon was allegedly shot because the bag of skittles and bottle of Snapple in his hands and pockets looked like weapons and were a threat to his aggressor. I have no doubt that when this young man was unnecessarily detained by a man who had already deemed him suspect, he himself felt threatened. I know that my father and my godfather felt threatened by law enforcement more times than not.
Despite my frequent admonishments to my baby boy to be mindful when he was out and about he still had to learn his lesson the hard way. His first encounter with law enforcement came when he was seventeen, lean and lanky much like Treyvon; features still more boy than man. Sonshine and his two best friends were playing basketball in the rear lot of a sports center within walking distance of our home. It was night and the three boys were shooting hoops beneath a single light in the parking lot, something the previous property owners had readily allowed them to do without complaint. With new owners came new rules and the boys were visited by local police who questioned them first and told them to move on home, that they were no longer welcome there during the late night hours.
As they turned to leave, friend number one, blond and blue-eyed, had something rude and sarcastic to say. Sonshine, thinking that he too could mouth off and wanting to defuse the seriousness of the moment with a cheeky comment, interjected with, “What’s the worst thing we can do…steal the pool water?” Before he could blink John Law had Sonshine jacked against the side of the patrol car, his manner threatening as he unholstered his weapon, clearly not finding anything funny about my child’s remarks. In that moment my son was clearly reminded that he was a black male in a world that saw no value in his presence and would sooner see him dead before they would see him President of the United States. The incident shook the boy to his core, him discovering that he would always be singled out from his white friends because as a black male he’d already been labeled a threat, even when he wasn’t. It is only for the grace of God that the incident went no further, that my baby boy did not become another statistic, just another black mother’s son cut down in his prime for what someone feared he would do, and not for something he had actually done.
Treyvon’s mother now has to bury her baby and my heart breaks for her and their family. Sadly, George Zimmerman couldn’t see past his own fear, the man wanting to find trouble where there truly was none. George Zimmerman's feeling threatened, by a kid allegedly minding his own business, has been the justification for him needing to defend himself with a 9mm semi-automatic against a boy with a bag of candy. And as the mother of amazing and accomplished black men, I find that absolutely appalling.