**Trayvon Benjamin Martin (February 5, 1995 – February 26, 2012) was the son of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. He was a junior at Dr. Michael M. Krop High School. He lived with his mother and older brother in Miami Gardens, Florida.
On February 26, 2012, the late Trayvon Martin returned from the store to the gated neighborhood he stayed in with his father in Florida. A local Neighborhood Watch captain spotted the late Trayvon Martin and profiled him as “suspicious” and “up to no good” in a call to non-emergency dispatch. Despite the fact that the non-emergency dispatch told the Neighborhood Watch captain not to follow the late Trayvon Martin and the Neighborhood Watch captain reported the late Travyon Martin as running away, the late Trayvon Martin suffered a fatal gunshot wound to his heart 3 minutes after the Neighborhood Watch captain ended his call to non-emergency dispatch.
The Neighborhood Watch captain remained a free man who was never arrested until 44 days later after countless local, national and global protests demanded the arrest of an adult killer of a unarmed, teenaged child. Most protesters argued the Neighborhood Watch captain was never treated like a criminal because he shot a Black boy and also because he was White. Parents Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin are now worldwide anti-gun law and Black youth protection advocates in the wake of their son’s loss.
I thought I lived in a civilized, free country. Now, it appears I live in a wildlife free-for-all. As a Chicago resident who is simply disheartened and de-energized by the chronic avalanche of political scandal, citizen oppression and violence here (nearly 70 people murdered or shot over the long holiday weekend), I have long abandoned local news broadcasts. In February 2012, I was hiding from the blanket hostility and frustration that is rampant in such a distressed urban city within such an impoverished State. My hiding place? A pre-school full of bright, happy, funny, energetic, eager and cooperative toddlers who made my life bearable in light of the pre-apocalyptic state around me. I was their teacher, far from the academy where studying racism and Black history felt like overkill since I was living it. Murder and scandal never made it into the nursery rhymes I sang with kids.
That hiding place was penetrated last winter when my co-workers began to discuss some “mess,” down in Florida, “Stand Your Ground,” grass on a jacket, Skittles and ice tea. They were flabbergasted I knew nothing about it. By the time I started to find out, Reverend Al Sharpton was in Florida and protest groups had taken to the streets. From the moment I found a picture of the late Trayvon Martin on a national news site summarizing the “self-defense” conundrum created to justify his confessed killer’s freedom, and I saw a young Black boy no different than the wisecrackers I have taught writing to, I put him in my heart. I missed him as if I had known him. I did.
The late Trayvon Martin looked so similar in smile, build, height and weight to my younger brother it is uncanny. My little brother is far, far from perfect. A bright kid in school, he became consumed with hip-hop dreams and the lazy crowd to derail himself from sports and high grades to a fast GED and Job Corps. Despite those imperfections, there is absolutely no way on this Earth I would ever envision him jumping from bushes on a rainy dark night to beat up a stranger. There is not that kind of person inside him.
However, the fact that people look at boys and men just like him, as tenderhearted and gentle as they really are, to do just that—plus utter movie lines like “You gotta problem, homie?” and “You gonna die tonight!”—is reason for his refusal to venture too far from the familiar nests of home and into college, the cities or a high-profile career.
(By the way, the new generation of teenagers does not use the word “homie” as George Zimmerman said the late Trayvon Martin did. Rather they are more likely to say “son.” “Homie” is outdated slang more appropriate to George Zimmerman’s and my generation, further evidence of how much Zimmerman’s perception of the black boy was illusory and imagined.)
My little brother visited me in Chicago once for a few months, and he rarely left my apartment—both for the fact that the neighborhood around us was rife with gang members I did not trust him to know how to relate to, and for the fact that he was not that impressed with a city he said seemed full of “prejudiced White folks.” That saying was his Midwesterner version of the late Travyon Martin’s description “creepy ass crackers.” His garb of choice is jeans, tennis shoes and a hoodie. If he ever committed a crime he would have three sisters and two parents to beat him thoroughly for it. And he knows it, so never has.
For that sure recognition of a little brother I most certainly knew well in the late Trayvon Martin, then and now being mysteriously being raked over the coals for a few marijuana baggies any person in Seattle can walk around with legally, I became transfixed to know what happened to this young man. I was driven into an insanity of wondering why there was any controversy at all about his killer serving time. Now, nearly a year and half later, I see this killer’s trial moment as showing us exactly why America is so deep in the red and why we needed a Black leader of the highest integrity. George Zimmerman’s high-cost trial is just as “retarded” as its star witness Rachel Jeantel accurately stated many of defense lawyer Don West’s questions were. I am ashamed to say I live here where something like it could occur.
If the laws of this country dictate that neither the Federal nor state governments can sentence a human being to death by lethal injection or the electric chair for burglary, then what type of country do we live in when a proven liar and former arrestee can sentence a human being to death by gunshot to the heart for not even committing a burglary—but merely being suspected as one who could?
For the sake of argument, let us pretend the late Trayvon Martin had a juvenile record for burglary, suspensions from school for fighting and a daily marijuana habit known to 4/20 lovers as “Wake and Bake”: potheads wake up to consume a joint, just as readily as most commuters stop in Starbucks before or after they ride the train to work every day. Let us pretend the late Trayvon Martin waked and baked on Sunday, February 26, 2012. Reefer (as my parents’ and grandparents’ generations call it) is not the drug known to make its users energetic and aggressive. Marijuana was the “peace and love” drug of choice for a hippie movement more likely to fall asleep to music than go on the chaotic sprees of coke and crack users. Robberies for drug money never involve the herb. It is still associated with the slow-pace and calm waters of the Caribbean. In many parts of Europe, marijuana is freely legal and sold in stores- while these countries can boast of the lower crime rates in the world. It is an abomination that anyone defending the murderer of a child wants to now twist those known attributes of the love drug to explain a sensational portrayal of a Black child who had no hard drugs in his system.
Cocaine and meth, used predominately by White people, are the drugs most associated with users’ delusions of grandeur, disregard for others and instant acclimation of inexplicable strength that can keep them up for days in a row. Had the late Trayvon Martin smoked marijuana on the day of his death, he was more likely ready to fall asleep than he was to fight.
Let us pretend that the late Trayvon Martin was on the phone bragging about an empty house at the Retreat at Twin Lakes, and how he was about to rob it. Let us pretend he was in the backyard of one of those houses with all of its lights off, no one home inside and many of its electronics visible from unclosed blinds. Let us pretend neighbors noticed him and called the police before the late Trayvon Martin was successful in his plans. Let us pretend the police arrived and took him into custody for it, so that when his father made a missing person’s report the next day he instead learned that his juvenile delinquent pothead Black thug son was in trouble yet again.
If all of this pretending were correct, then the late Travyon Martin would be alive in a jail cell with reflective hope of spending his 30th birthday as a rehabilitated young man free to marry, have children, attend college, hug his family, ride a horse and speak to other “ghetto” boys about the risky perils of “thug life.” He would be free to take a stance on crime in his own neighborhood, and become a part of the Neighborhood Watch team that calls the police on violated neighbors the same way others called police on him. He would be free to tell the world it was “God’s plan” that he got caught burglarizing a home, for without that plan he would never have become the contributory citizen he has.
He would not be in a grave, forever erased, with a truncated history on this planet ending a few weeks after he made past the age of 16… with nothing to say about it but a horrifying recording to document the blood-curdling screams he was shrouded within in the last moments of his consciousness: a bizarre, bewildering, shocking, surprising, confusing and weird event that we have all laughed at in a few bad horror movies. Dark, rainy night. No one else on the street. The monster or killer appears.
There was no one there to hold the late Trayvon Martin’s hand. There was no one there to say: “I love you.” And, unlike serial killers who have willfully murdered multiple people before serving out a death penalty conviction, there was not even a moment for him to speak any last words. When the late Trayvon Martin passed away, he was alone save for a strange person he had only known for two to three minutes and had no context for beyond the fact that he was a “creepy” stranger. And that stranger had been watching him for over ten minutes. And that stranger had time to contextualize the late Trayvon Martin as a person with something wrong with him. And that stranger had moments to brace himself for a possible fight with the person up to no good.
And that stranger had a gun.
Execution is a terrifying, disproportionately high price to pay for punching a strange adult man on a dark, rainy night in an unfamiliar neighborhood where you know no one but people in the house you are residing in. Had the late Trayon Martin punched someone in school, he would have gotten an after-school detention— not an assassination. Had he punched a police officer and resisted arrest during a burglary attempt, he would have gotten overpowered and handcuffed— not a fatal bullet clean through the heart.
In a land where “Animal Rights” seems to be a fashion statement for new-age holy rollers, and right-wing conservatives wreak havoc on abortion clinics to fight for lives that have never stepped onto the Earth yet, and affluent Americans in gated suburbs have made Whole Foods the new Kmart, it is shameful this very population for which all that is true is largely the same one anointing George Zimmerman as King of his own Jungle. As that King, we are supposed to accept his power to kill an unarmed teenager that no one can prove was doing anything wrong at the time he was hunted down.
In the jungles of Africa, brave wildlife photographers and documentary filmmakers lie in wait for days and sometimes weeks to capture the fierce moments of attack in nature’s game of survival of the fittest. We have all seen those films and photographs on the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet or National Geographic. A group of beasts who are unarmed with the most formidable predators’ speed, power and strength graze peacefully. The young beasts foal among their mothers. The animals relieve themselves of the heat in shallow and scarce pools of water. Then, suddenly and with no warning, a big cat or other “top dog” animal bursts from its camouflaged shadows to start a heart-wrenching clash of life and death with the few smaller beasts who simply can not get away in time.
The video cameras record the preys’ wide eyes as they search for some opening or escape, and watch their herd move further and further away in the distance. The audio systems capture the gut-wrenching yelps and howls that remain the preys’ only recourse once they are captured and pinned down by one or multiple predators. Parts of them are often eaten away in whole before they fully lose consciousness and die. These are animals. We are human.
The late Trayvon Martin used his primitive right to “flight” (Zimmerman himself acknowledged on record that “He’s running”). So, after the late Trayvon Martin tried to enact his non-aggressive right to flee from danger, our legal system and sadly bigoted Americans may condemn him for his only other option besides flight— to fight?
A few older Black men I have discussed the case with all stated that if a kid they thought was up to no good came back to punch them, they would have given him the lesson of an ass-whipping before taking him home to his parents. It is pretty clear, from where he was found and where Zimmerman left his truck, that the late Trayvon Martin did not make all of that effort to come back to punch George Zimmerman as he claims (one minute he said the late Trayvon Martin came back to punch him, and the next minute he said the late Trayvon Martin jumped from the bushes while he was going back to his car).
George Zimmerman changed his mind from waiting in his truck or meeting police officers at home at the end of his distress call, with unclear and changed accounts of why he did not do either. All of this is fact. When it became fact that George Zimmerman did move beyond his vehicle or his own home, the conundrum could no longer claim he had not followed the boy in some way. Then, justification for this stupid situation became that George Zimmerman had just as much right to follow the late Trayvon Martin as the late Trayvon Martin apparently did not have to walk around.
Finally, the sad conundrum that acknowledged the late Trayvon Martin never followed after George Zimmerman (but rather ran from him) had nowhere to land except where George Zimmerman’s trial gridlocks now: the late Trayvon Martin yelled gangsta lines when he saw a stranger, then angrily sucker-punched the stranger right after asking about the NBA All-Star game and then was a typical strong Negro buck who could suddenly summon enough superhuman strength to make a heavier, fragile grown man cry like a baby.
We have the right to bear arms in this country, but we do not have any rights to defend ourselves against a stranger on a rainy night who is asking questions with a flashlight?
I believe, given the role-playing on a “cops and robbers scene” George Zimmerman seemed to revel in (despite the morbid outcome it produced), that this killer made some sort of gestures or quick flashes of his gun to assert himself as the alpha male in the house. In his past, George Zimmerman has already shown he will push his own wife as well as a police officer who had full rights to question George Zimmerman’s friend who was underage drinking. Yet his defenders have called these events “minor” signs of his potential to initiate aggression, while inflating two cuts on his scalp and a bleeding nose as “major” signs that a Black child with no proven criminal record would initiate aggression on George Zimmerman.
Let us pretend the late Trayvon Martin did punch George Zimmerman. I would have done the same. It was dark and raining. You can not get home with a wanna-be cop blocking your path. Those who wish to condemn the late Trayvon Martin for his “lack of respect” to George Zimmerman, a security guard with no formal police affiliation or Neighborhood Watch captain badge, are delusional and mentally ill from racially-prejudice roots. I have never in my life heard an older teacher, elder, church member or relative instruct me or any other younger person to “respect” a guy who watches us from a truck and then shows up in our faces in the dark. I would never tell a younger person to respect that. I would tell them to do what the late Trayvon Martin did: try to run, and if you can not, stand your ground to let the stranger know you will fight back.
The prosecution expert who thought he heard “I am begging you” on the 911 recording that captured the incident (so did I last year, before this expert even surfaced) cements the other tactic advised for ill-willed strangers: beg to be pardoned from getting killed. I can not imagine the heartbreak of a family who knows their fallen child could not flee, fight or even be proven to have begged–three options that George Zimmerman could have yielded to, and chose not to. He is despicable.
Anyone who has ever witnessed animals attack know that there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the struggle for life. The moments leading up to one or the other’s death have not been scripted as elegantly and precisely as a Superbowl’s winning touchdown play. It is an unfair event where the loser is, quite simply, the one who lacks the stronger muscle. Yet, even a lioness who grabs hold of a beast suffers a few unexpected desperate kicks to her skull in her prey’s effort to live. Even a cult of leopards who, together, can wrangle a giraffe to the ground have bruises from the prey’s massive legs and wounds from a giraffe’s strong teeth to show for their supper. This trial’s attempt to dissect every single moment in the struggle for life and distill it down to one question of “Who was on top?” is one of the lowest points of impure common sense and absurdity I have ever known. I am ashamed of my nation.
Even more impure and absurd than the sanctioning of an American boy’s virtual lynching is the strain of far too many to turn a few cuts and a bleeding nose into a grandstand of self-defense evidence for George Zimmerman. I have seen men engaged in a bar fight who looked worse than the living George Zimmerman by the end. The fact that an expert witness with over 40 years of evidence had to be called to the stand to say the living George Zimmerman’s injuries were “minor” is a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars. A child could have said that.
My largest concern, certainly in the instance where we are all talking about a late child, is what many children in many households are being programmed to grow up into. It is obvious so many parents across this country have anointed George Zimmerman as some form of role model to defend, argue for, curse people out online for, bash an innocent child and parents for, release pent-up steam against Blacks for and even donate thousands of freedom dollars for. Those parents are allowing children to hear them call a Black man they do not even know a “thug” and a bi-racially White man they do not even know a hero. Those parents live in households with children the same way as parents and people who say what I do: “Thou shall not kill,” don’t judge others based upon how they look, stay away from strangers and respect the law. Those parents glorify a proven liar and killer. This means my children and grandchildren will stand alongside these victimized child racists-in-training decades from now, just as I stand beside the children and grandchildren of parents who once thought Emmett Till deserved to die.
Let us pretend Trayvon Martin had been watched by a Neighborhood Watch captain who graduated from college— on time, four years right after high school, right on track with where the late Travyon Martin’s brother is and where the late Trayvon Martin would have been this coming fall (he would have graduated high school in June).
Let us pretend the late Trayvon Martin had been watched by a Neighborhood Watch captain who was actually accepted into the police academy, and not one who did not pay his bills on the level that the police department determined him to be too financially irresponsible to join it.
Let us pretend the late Trayvon Martin had been watched by a Neighborhood Watch captain who was successful in a first marriage, not one who ran to get a court order of protection against his soon-divorced wife presumably as retaliation when he caused her to do it first.
Let us pretend the late Trayvon Martin had been watched by a 28-year old man who was an actual attorney already— not dreaming of it, like George Zimmerman who had to settle for being the Neighborhood Watch dude instead.
Let us pretend the late Trayvon Martin had been watched by a Neighborhood Watch captain who was totally drug-free, with no need for prescribed medication to help him organize his thoughts and control his mentality. Lest I be attacked by all those who think I am calling ADHD sufferers crazy or inadequate, I am not. However, most people have some form of mental eccentricities that used to be handled naturally. Based on George Zimmerman’s neediness in many other areas, I am questioning whether he really needs ADHD medication or if it just another ploy to excuse himself from reaching any higher potentials.
Chances are, that hypothetical Neighborhood Watch captain would have had so many other celebratory and proud moments bring him attention that he would not have needed the capture of a “bad guy” to do it for him. If anything, that hypothetical Neighborhood Watch captain would have had a real legal or law enforcement career at stake. If the stakes had included possible disbarment and relief of duty from a police job he worked hard for (and, not to mention, children at home waiting for Daddy to return with dinner from Target), chances are that Neighborhood Watch captain would not have been intrigued by the idea of excitement at a suspicious kid’s expense. The late Trayvon Martin, someone else’s beloved child, would still be here.
There is something eerie about the lack of achievement and goal fulfillment George Zimmerman’s life reflects. Despite two marriages, he has not even achieved fatherhood (that is a blessing for us all). Every witness and neighbor who called 911 while in the house on a Sunday night, with no gun necessary for their trip to Target, testified of some chosen career path: medical services, financial services, real estate, education, law enforcement and government services. Even the late Trayvon Martin’s relatives testified to their achievements of college, with the late Trayvon Martin’s mother sharing the same major and field I love: English. All these successful citizens have had their lives and minds shattered, missed days from jobs that meant something to them and gotten their faces on national television in the name of a guy whose highest ambition in life was to hunt down bad guys– as written on an application for a course or program to do so.
George Zimmerman is the only major player in this sad situation who could not testify to being anything specific in life or completing a major life goal beyond high school graduation; he worked as a security guard as he crept through college en route to a law career he may have reached by his mid-thirties— 10 years after most attorneys start. Before the age of thirty, he was on his second marriage. By his own admission (after denying it initially), he wants a jury and the entire country to believe that his response to a fight with a skinny teenager would be howling screams even though he has a gun. So…he cannot pay bills, graduate college or even fight like a man?
And, apparently, he cannot even keep his lies straight. I imagine there is a fine delicacy to what his prosecutors can introduce if they are to protect further character assassination of the late Trayvon Martin. So, we forget that George Zimmerman stared the late Trayvon Martin’s mother in the face at his bond hearing and told her he thought his son was his age (he first referred to the late Trayvon Martin as “this kid” and told the 911 dispatcher that the person he observed looked to be in his late teens). We forget he stared a judge in the face and used specious reasoning to justify he had no money (when the same supporters who claim he is truthful now had donated over $150,000 to him then). We forget he used a sneaky (and failed) code to direct his wife on how to move the money he collected from people who claim he is truthful throughout various accounts to hide it from the IRS.
We are reminded he said the late Trayvon Martin jumped from bushes, but there are no bushes near where he met him. We are reminded he said he got out of his car to look for an address or remember his street names, but an address was actually visible and the neighborhood he lived in for years only had three streets. We are reminded he said the late Trayvon Martin double-backed to meet him as he walked back to his truck, but their encounter took place very far from where he parked the truck. We are reminded that he told a live national television audience he knew nothing about the Stand Your Ground Law, but in fact he had studied law en route to a (now) failed criminal justice degree and more specifically as part of a class he got an “A” in.
In comment to a New York Times Opinion page essay written by Charles Blow, a user stated she did not watch or read much associated with the trial because she was disgusted by Zimmerman’s bloated face and tired of seeing this coward. So am I. I watch for the late Trayvon Martin. However, for whatever Mr. Zimmerman is or is not, he is certainly famous. The same hubris that provoked him to get a restraining order against a wife he attacked or lie on national television about not knowing a controversial law that even I (an Illinoisan) knew of is the hubris come home to roost now that the world knows his name. Part of the reason I was late to learn of the case is that I got tired of the entertainment-driven news media that made me know these types of people’s names and faces. How dare they?
I cannot share the “hope” Sybrina Fulton strongly spoke of, without the fragile tears that George Zimmerman’s friend’s wife demonstrated on the stand when testifying “It’s Georgie” to identify the 911 call’s screamer; just as people need to see the late Trayvon Martin deserved his assassination, they need to see yet another “strong Black woman” deserves to be unsympathized with for anything unfair we go through. I can hope her family heals to peace, and that all those affected—even the witnesses—can somehow forget their grisly memories. I can hope the late Trayvon Martin resurfaces in divine form on this planet as a guardian angel, merry butterfly or lively redwood tree.
The prosecution argued George Zimmerman shot the late Trayvon Martin because he “wanted to.” If he had really, really wanted that, there is no way he would have been hollering the way he was if anyone believes him when he says it is him hollering. He would have been far more composed. George Zimmerman wanted, instead, to get attention and earn the praise of a law enforcement he had been courting for years and his successful neighbors who largely paid him no mind. The fact that he had to shoot a child walking home in the rain in order to get that attention and reverse courtship is a byproduct of what he really wanted: maybe at least one major event to work out for him that would reverse all the ones that did not. And, he did so because he only wanted the event but not the real fight most men would have conducted with their bare hands. Zimmerman had so little to do in the makeshift law officer career of his mind that he judged a Black boy as easy to play it with. And, from all the theatrics required to get him arrested and stand trial for it, he was right.
I hope a jury realizes the late Trayvon Martin was happily talking to a girl, thinking of the All-Star Game, about to play video games and ready to drink an ice tea when his mind had to swiftly switch to being pursued and stalked. I hope the jury sees the late Trayvon Martin tried to do the right thing once and get away— before a weird man with a gun sent him into a degree of traumatic shock that made him flail and fight for his life like a wild animal in the jungle, until he had to surrender not to a better fighter but to a gun. I hope George Zimmerman is convicted of a life sentence to watch his name and face fade—rapidly, given the media’s high turnover—from the public eye and consciousness so that he is just another elderly dude in a jumpsuit. I hope he gets the rest of his life to wonder if the time he thought he was going to be celebrated for his cops and robbers hunt that only brought back a skinny, unarmed child—like a hunter who went out to snag a steer, but returned with nothing more than a skunk—was worth sitting in a jail to learn what real thugs, brutes and fights would truly necessitate self-defense of a lethal force. I hope he gets a life sentence to expire his soul inside a form of the jungle he needed guns to recreate.
I hope the future generations who will never have to know George Zimmerman’s name or see his unremorseful face the way I will have to know Trayvon Martin’s doe-eyed face as part of our nation’s haunting history forever. I hope they will learn from the enormous lengths the American justice system went to allow a killer to frame his child victim however he saw fit to corroborate justification for shooting that child a few minutes after framing that child as committing a crime he did not commit. Long, long, long after any unfortunate Zimmerman defenders forget the moment they had their parade, witch-hunt and say, we will still miss Travyon.
Emmett Louis Till (July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955) was an African-American boy who was murdered in Mississippi at the age of 14 after reportedly flirting with a white woman. More on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmett_Till.
*Since the time of this writing, the killer of the late Trayvon Martin has been acquitted of all charges in connection with the late Trayvon Martin’s death and now walks a free man.