‘Life isn’t too short – it just moves too fast”
Hard to believe it’s been a full year since the small Florida town of Sanford was thrust into the national spotlight. When 17 year old Trayvon Martin was shot by self-appointed neighborhood watchmen, George Zimmerman, we were yet again to bearing witness to a country divided by race and fundamental ideology – black vs. white, urban vs. suburban, liberals vs. conservatives, activists vs. convenient outrage.
What I find remarkable is that this case hasn’t fallen off the radar of America’s conscience. The black community especially has the tendency to be united by anger for a limited time. Once a story loses traction, we lose interest. But the parents of Trayvon Martin, as well as their counsel Benjamin Crump, have kept Trayvon’s image in our minds. Their countless media appearances, coupled the mobilization of young Black America and even celebrities like the entire Miami Heat roster, haven’t allowed their son’s life and the injustice to be another tragedy forgotten.
Not only did this young man’s death awaken a long-ignored fear that young black men have, it also put a statute into question. Last year, I discussed how absurd the Stand Your Ground law in FL is as it’s currently written. Its application has a certain objectivity in the actual text that legislation just shouldn’t have. While some media have turned this into a case of gun laws and policy, it goes deeper than that. Guns are just an extension of a bigger problem. Zimmerman didn’t shoot Trayvon Martin simply because he had a gun. His defense rests on SYG and that he drew his weapon prepared to use it because he felt his life was in danger. Zimmerman shot a child because of preconceived notions and assumptions that he conjured up in his mind. Let’s be honest – he stereotyped. We all do it. But most of us know how to discern when a stereotype actually has merit enough to warrant a direct response.
I personally can’t let go of this case. Maybe it’s because I’m a black man who will eventually have black sons. Maybe it’s because I grew up in FL. Maybe because I hate that we’re desensitized the widespread gun violence that’s plaguing our children. I mean, let’s consider the major calamities involving gun violence that have happened since 2/26/2012;
The Aurora Shooting at The Dark Knight Rises premiere
The Sandy Hook tragedy
Countless murder-suicides involving women and children
The continued increasing murder rate in Chicago
All of these crimes involve guns that A) shouldn’t be on the street or available at all and B) have no legitimate motivation. There’s an embedded sense of paranoia and fear that exists in people. And these outliers continuously slip through the cracks of justice as its intended to be administered. When I say slip through, I’m referring to the fact that there were obvious signs along the way that may have prevented the tragedies happening at all. It’s irresponsible and careless to make this a mental health issue. However, I think we can all admit that most of the gun violence that occurs in this country is somehow connected to a perceived unrealistic threat between the offender and his/her victim(s). A large number of these deaths are avoidable in different ways. But hindsight is 20/20.
I’m generally not a cynic, but I don’t think we’ll ever see a unanimous mandate regarding gun control. I do know that FL. State Representative Alan Williams has introduced a bill in the legislature that would do away with the Stand Your Ground defense. But as recent as last week, a task force put together by Gov. Rick Scott, upheld the law. Sometimes I liken gun control to the 1st amendment. Everybody wants to protect free speech until something is said that encroaches on their beliefs or makes them uncomfortable. Gun violence and access to guns isn’t an issue that you can have it both ways. Not when precious lives are involved.
So yeah – I’m still pissed off. Are you?