No Justice, Not Yet

Authorities are saying that the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was self-defense.

But few people are buying that explanation. This unarmed, African-American youth was walking home to his father’s house in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, when he was shot by a neighborhood watch captain, a man by the name of George Zimmerman.

To many onlookers, this case looks like another sidestepping of justice for an African-American.

Zimmerman was said to be white, but reports today say that he is Hispanic. Regardless, the case has enraged the African-American community, because Zimmerman has yet to be arrested. Police in Sanford say there is no probable cause, and the 911 tapes, which might help Martin’s anguished parents hear for themselves what happened, have not been released.

Today, a televangelist, Rev. Jamal Bryant, a preacher from Baltimore, Maryland, declared that people are going to “shut Florida down until justice” is done.

And I would suspect that Bryant’s expressed rage is just the tip of the iceberg. Black leaders in Florida are vowing to bring at least 1000 people to a City Council meeting in Sanford at the end of the month unless charges are filed against Martin’s alleged attacker.

The history in this country when it comes to African-Americans has been paltry at best; there always seems to be a reason for some unprovoked violence on a young man, and far too often, law enforcement officers and others who have murdered African-Americans have gotten off scott free.

Young Martin was wearing a hoodie when he was shot; as previously mentioned, he was unarmed. He was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. But for some reason, he appeared to be “suspicious” to Zimmerman. The gated community has signs up that “suspicious” persons will be reported to the police. Zimmerman apparently called police, but also apparently approached Martin. What happened next is unclear. The 911 tapes have not been released. But the aftermath of whatever happened is that young Martin was dead, shot once in the chest, allegedly by Zimmerman.

I am not an attorney, but it seems that if this was a case of self-defense, Martin would have had to have approached Zimmerman in a threatening way. Reports say that Martin was about 100 pounds lighter than Zimmerman. He was not armed. And…he had no reason to approach Zimmerman.

It seems far more likely that Zimmerman approached Martin and said something to him. Whatever was said, and however it was said, might have provoked an argument between the two…but then, what?

What is so disturbing about this case is that it is NOT unusual. African-American youths can look “threatening” or “suspicious” just by wearing a hoodie, where a white kid wearing the same hoodie might be ignored. A black kid wearing a hoodie in a gated community should not have in and of itself, however, made him a suspicious person. Yet it did, and far too often, black kids get pestered and even harassed because of the way they look.

The case reminds me of Amadou Diallo. In 1999, this young man from Guinea, West Africa, was shot 41 times and killed by four white officers who thought he was armed when he reached into a pocket. It turns out he was not; he only had a wallet in his pocket. He had been stopped by police because he resembled some other person, African-American, who was a serial rapist.

There it is again: he “looked” suspicious.

In the eyes of we on the outside, it feels like injustice is happening yet again in a case involving a young African-American male. Rev. Bryant’s response, when he heard the police say that there was not “probable cause” to arrest Zimmerman, was “you’ve arrested a lot of black men without probable cause.”

So true.

So, now the family, already aching because this young man, their son, has been senselessly shot and killed, is aching even more because it feels like they will have to fight for justice. Zimmerman walks free because there is no “probable cause.”

It doesn’t feel right.

A candid observation.

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