The tragic slaying of 17-year-old unarmed Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a killer who remains at large thanks largely in part to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, has placed new scrutiny on the controversial legislation. Under the Stand Your Ground law, a person has the right to use deadly force if they “reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to him or herself or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”
On the surface the law seems quite reasonable, after all, everybody has the right to defend themselves and their loved ones from great bodily harm.
But as we all know, this was not the case with Trayvon Martin. When Zimmerman first saw Trayvon, the neighborhood watch captain was armed with a loaded gun and sitting in the safe confines of his car following Martin, who was unarmed and on foot. Zimmerman ignored the authorities’ request to not follow Trayvon, yet Zimmerman got out of his car and pursued Martin on foot, not the other way around.
Now let’s look at this from Trayvon’s point of view. Here you are, an unarmed minor walking to your father’s apartment, minding your own business, when you spy a stranger following you in a car. You walk fast hoping you can avoid any kind of confrontation. Within minutes the stranger, an adult male who appears to be more than a hundred pounds heavier than you, gets out of his car and follows you on foot. At this point, if you were Trayvon, how would you perceive that person? Are they friend or foe?
I don’t know about you, but I would see any strange person aggressively following me as a potential threat to my life.
Unfortunately, the Sanford Police Department (SPD) either couldn’t or wouldn’t view the crime through the eyes of Trayvon Martin, the victim of this horrible crime, and apply the law accordingly. If they had, Zimmerman would have been arrested and charged with shooting Trayvon.
Instead, it appears the Sanford police looked at the case solely through the eyes of Zimmerman. And what they saw about the man whom Zimmerman shot was a Black male, a potential threat who couldn’t possibly be innocent. The truly tragic result of the SPD’s skewed vision of young African-American males was that Trayvon’s family is forced to live with the painful fact that not only is their beloved son dead, his killer remains at large. This is totally unacceptable.
It’s far time that America re-adjusts its vision of Black males: a vision of Black males that doesn’t see us as thugs, rapists, criminals and menaces to society; a vision that sees Black males as more than entertainers and athletes; a vision that includes seeing us as husbands, fathers, sons, uncles, grandfathers, brothers, businessmen, scholars, doctors and scientists.
Until America can gain a holistic vision of the Black male, I fear (and I say this as the father of three Black sons) there will be many more Trayvon Martins killed in this country.
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