Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Ground We Stand On

I’ve been trying to ignore it, hoping it would go away. But apparently it is here to stay, at least until a more sensational story takes its place. It is the on-going saga of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. I wrote about it last year, shortly after it happened. (

My position then was that Zimmerman was in the wrong. I still feel that way. And but for Florida’s very questionable ‘stand-your-ground’ law, he would have been found guilty of manslaughter if not second degree murder. Last year I said that it was NOT about race. I still say that it was NOT about race. I’m a conservative white guy, so my opinion on matters of race doesn’t matter I suppose. That certainly seems to be the position of some blacks and most white liberals who deem themselves qualified as experts on all matters of race. But, the last time I checked, it’s still a free country and I am entitled to have my own opinion. (It is still a free country isn’t it?)

I can’t get inside Zimmerman’s head or know exactly what he was thinking on the night he pursued Trayvon Martin. Some might say that his comments to the police dispatcher had racial overtones. But, does anyone seriously believe that Zimmerman would not have pursued a white, brown or yellow kid in a hoodie who was cutting through his neighborhood on foot at that time of night? Neighborhood watchmen/wannabe cops live for this stuff. This was a call to action for old George. Race was not a factor for Zimmerman.

Did race factor into Trayvon’s behavior? Perhaps. I’m not qualified to speak on this, but I can understand why a young African American male might be upset, scared and angry when an unidentified civilian comes after him. Had it been a white teenager, perhaps the kid just waves, says hello, tells Zimmerman where he lives and that he’s just coming back from the store after a munchie run. So being black does matter. I’ll grant that. There are also reports that Trayvon smoked weed and had a little wannabe “gangsta” thing going on. Sounds like a lot of other kids, regardless of race.

George Zimmerman is the only one still alive who knows what really went down that night. Wannabe cop meets wannabe gangsta. Perhaps he just wanted to talk to Trayvon and the kid turned around and jumped him. Maybe Zimmerman was fighting for his life and Trayvon was just a bad man and not your typical teenager. What ever it was, it should not be used as fuel to stir up old racial tensions and stereotypes. While we are debating where the country is on black vs. white race relations, we are ignoring the more important issues of what is actually going on in large segments of the black community, i.e. black-on-black crime, children born out of wedlock, poor education, high unemployment and the list goes on and on. Maybe at the bottom of that list, we find some white folks killing black folks and vice-versa. But if we focus on these isolated events, tragic as they may be, we are missing the bigger issues.

Instead of making Trayvon Martin the trump card in the race deck or the poster child for racial justice; we should be talking about the serious problems inherent with “stand-your-ground” laws. And we should be taking a closer look at neighborhood watch groups, who is armed and how they are trained. Trayvon Martin is dead because an overly aggressive neighborhood watch guy put himself and Trayvon in a deadly situation. George Zimmerman is legally not guilty because of a Florida law that, as written, should not be on the books. We should be talking more about those issues than the color of Trayvon Martin’s skin. But what do I know? I’m just an old conservative white guy.

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