|Trayvon Martin and father Tracy Martin from family photos.|
I don’t always agree with President Obama, but in this case, I think I have to. He acknowledged that the judge did a professional job and the jury did its duty; that reasonable doubt was relevant. As the President he was right to affirm that our justice system must be honored. But he also talked about how the verdict made many African Americans feel and I think that is important to hear. He is right that history and context make a difference. I have witnessed the kind of fear of African American men that he talked about. And I don’t think it is possible to argue that African Americans are treated differently in the criminal justice system.
I accept that the jury had “reasonable doubt” and it may be that Trayvon Martin wasn’t particularly smart in how he reacted to George Zimmerman. But I don’t understand how it can be okay that George Zimmerman went after Trayvon when the 911 operator told him not to. He could have walked away. Why didn’t he?
I read the Stand Your Ground Law and I am troubled by the paragraph that reads:
(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
Maybe a person has no duty to retreat, but I don’t see that a person has a duty to move forward either. This sounds more like vigilante justice to me.
I also agree with President Obama that young African American boys and men need to be encouraged, mentored, etc. Particularly now. And I don’t think that mentoring should just be from African American men, but men of all cultures/colors/nationalities. This “crossover” mentoring wouldn’t just be for the benefit of the young, but for the benefit of the mentors as well. I think it unlikely that a white, Hispanic (or any other brand of) male who takes the time to mentor an African American boy is going to see such boys as threatening and suspicious just because of their color or dress.
Finally, I think the President is correct that we each need to look at our own biases and see how we are contributing to the racism problem. While the issue of racism may be getting better, I just don’t think it is gone. For that I am deeply sorry.
I have to say that my heart goes out to George Zimmerman and his family. He may have been acquitted, but no one wins in this situation.
But especially, my heart goes out to Trayvon's family. I look at those family pictures and see a young man who was at one time full of promise and joy. His Dad was trying to get him out of a situation that was harming him by bringing Trayvon to live with him for a while. Instead his son wound up dead. I can't even imagine how that must feel.
May God have mercy on us all.