Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Trayvon Martin

"I believe that there lives a burning desire in the most sequestered private heart of every American, a desire to belong to a great country. I believe that every citizen wants to stand on the world stage and represent a noble country where the mighty do not not always crush the weak and the dream of a democracy is not the sole possession of the strong. We must hear the questions raised...years ago...

What do I think of my country? What is there, which elevates my shoulders and stirs my blood when I hear the words, the United States of America: Do I laud my fellow citizens enough? What is there about my country that makes me hang my head and avert my eyes when I hear the United States of America, and what am I doing about it? Am I relating my disappointment to my leaders and to my fellow citizens, or am I like someone not involved, sitting high and looking low? As Americans, we should not be afraid to respond..." (Angelou, 2008, p. 83)

As an American, I am not afraid to respond. I can say with shoulders elevated and my head held high that I belong to a country that: strives for excellence, seeks nobility, values freedom, and provides opportunities. However, it is just as easy for me to be stricken with shame as it is for me to be stricken with pride when hearing the words the United States of America.

Consider the popular case of Trayvon Martin (seen above, left), a high school student, who was shot and murdered by George Zimmerman (seen above, right), a self-appointed neighborhood watchmen. 

ABC News has been tracking Martin's story since February 26, 2012 in their current Timeline of Events where, at the very least,  police conduct appears questionable - "Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Florida high school student, is found shot and killed, in Sanford, Fla., a community north of Orlando. Several eyewitnesses report to police that they heard a scuffle, then a cry for help, and then a gunshot. According to the Sanford police report, George Zimmerman, 28, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, is found armed with a handgun, standing over Martin. He has a bloody nose and a wound in the back of his head. Martin is unresponsive and pronounced dead at the scene. He has no weapons on him, only a pack of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea. Zimmerman tells police he killed Martin in self defense. Taking him at his word, police do not arrest him, nor administer a drug or alcohol test. They also did not run a background check."

As Martin's story unfolds more is being learned and more allegations are being made; while, some consider the incident to be a prime example of "walking while black," others are quick to portray a young adolescent as "a thug" and a nuisance - recent reports indicate that Martin was having problems at school and "recent pictures on the web and social media show him with gold dental grill and making obscene gestures to the camera." (Gutman, March 27, 2012)  It appears that people are loosing sight of the big picture and taking sides.  

It's disappointing. If any side should be taken it should be that of justice. As an American I have high expectations for my country's police departments; I expect for them to honor our country's name and act in accordance to their code - "all law enforcement officers must be fully aware of the ethical responsibilities of their position and must strive constantly to live up to the highest possible standards of professional policing." (Police Code of Conduct) It is in my opinion that "all" of law enforcement officers  involved in this incident were not living up to the highest possible standards.

What Are Your Thoughts? 


  1. I've been saying to anyone who will listen that it is not for the media to act as judge nor to sway public opinion one way or the other. It is their job to report the facts as they stand, not to speculate. There is both a moral and ethical obligation for journalists, I should know I am one, to avoid anything but neutral ground. Part of our training if we took a degree path, as I have, that we take a course on ethics in the media. In that course they detail out several cases where media bias has not only swayed the court of public opinion, but also soiled jury pools to the point of an impossible situation of the defense to do their job effectively.

    This is the real travesty in my opinion. Law enforcement does what law enforcement does, that is they do the best with what they have and the experiences they know. For anyone to start throwing rocks at the Sanford police department is simply immature and uninformed. Putting yourself in their shoes is the easiest way of balancing the scales. Law enforcement deals with the worst that society has to offer every single day. When you get enough of that under your belt you form some hard and fast rules of how to deal with people who act and dress in a certain way. One good example is if law enforcement shows up at a trailer park, sees a skinny white male wearing a tank top (or "wife beater") who looks like he is under the influence. The immediate assumption is that he is a "tweaker" or meth-head. They are probably responding to a domestic disturbance and the wife or significant other will fight for the police to not take her man away even though he just smacked her around. The same can be said for "thugs" or those who dress like them or act like them. Even if you are a "wanna-be" gangster you will get tre4ated as such by law enforcement.

    The rush to make this out to be a race issue is foolish as well. The black panthers putting out a bounty, the endorsement by the President of the United States, the "usual suspects" for "black oppression" taking the podium, the marches et al are only indicators that people do not fully understand the issue and react in an unjustified way to perceived injustice. Black in this country have every opportunity to "fit in" with regular society in which they do not pose a perceived threat either in character or demeanor. Perception is reality and always will be regardless of what people say and lynch mob mentality is almost always wrong in both the way it administers its brand of "justice" and its conclusions.

    If there is anything I learned from my military experience traveling the world is that crowd think is often ignorant of facts and dangerous in action.

    In closing, I have lived in the DC area as a white male. If you want to experience racism go to a black neighborhood as a white male. There you will be profiled, followed, threatened in sometimes overt ways and made to feel like an outsider in your own country.

    1. Thank you for sharing your opinion on this topic; while, I do disagree with some of it, I appreciate the thought you put into it.

      Moreover, I thank you for your service and please be aware that this post is not meant to throw any "rocks at the Sanford police department." It was written to share a snippet of my disappointment in the United States legal system where much work needs to be done. Although, I consider our justice system as one of the best in the world, I find it to have way too many flaws.

      Furthermore, as a student of Psychology I can put myself in someone else's shoes - for it is one of many ways to start to begin to understand someone else - and I can understand developing "fast rules" in order to deal with certain people and their actions; however, I do not believe that any person should develop "fast rules" or presume anything about someone solely on their clothes or skin color; that would be foolish.

      Lastly, I am sure that the public is not fully aware of all the facts present within the case of Trayvon Martin, but one thing does appear to be certain and that is pertaining to the questionable actions taken by law enforcement in this case. In conclusion, I think that it will be very difficult for Zimmerman to receive a fair trial, due to the poor handling of the case.

      Again, I thank you for sharing your thoughtful opinion.

    2. The media definitely skewed this case. Treyvon Martin was 17 years old, why do they keep showing pictures of him much younger? Why do they avoid showing images of him that would portray him as a thug? What is the explanation of him being in a secured neighborhood? Why did he not stop and talk with Zimmerman when asked to do so? Why did he assault Zimmerman? These are the facts that were not addressed in the media. That is irresponsible.
      Was Zimmerman justified in his actions? We will never know! All the black racist organizations mentioned in your response will make sure that only one side is told and America at large will continue to be silent and allow hate to flourish. They will not be satisfied until all non-black groups are silenced (South Africa). Our president's affiliation with a racist "church" shows that he is definitely not going to help the issue. He is viewed by the black racists as their man.
      American citizens are losing freedoms by the hour. I for one am tired of hearing about black oppression. Black applicants get jobs over white applicants. Black applicants for colleges and universities get accepted over white applicants. All this is black racism.

      I beilieve people should be rewarded based on their qualifications not their race. People should be defined by the content of their character and not the col
      or of their skin. (by the way this is a quote from MLK jr)

  2. I agree with Randa's train of thought that sometimes there is a rush to make situations a race issue, however, do you, Randal, understand exactly WHY there is a rush? What exactly do you know about black oppression? How informed are you on the history of racism and prejudice in our country (aside from what you learned in culturally biased textbooks)? How much knowledge do you possess on the minority experience in this country? As a black woman I understand the rush, although I don't always agree witht it. I also understand why most White people don't make the rush, and that is because there is a side of life that they are not privy to. This makes me think of a line from the movie Save the Last Dance where Sara, a white teen, says to her black friend, "There's only one world Chenille." Chenille replies, "That's what they teach you, we know different." And to show that I am not single-minded, I must state that this outlook is applicable to other racial groups as well, not just Whites and Blacks.

    I had more to say but honestly, discussing this is so exhausting. I'll close by saying that I to am stricken with pride and shame when it comes to our country. ? Do I love living in this country? Yes. Can I honestly say that I believe the lines in our Pledge of Allegience "to liberty and justice for all"? No.

    1. I concur! This topic was and is exhausting; there is so much that can be said, but I'm glad that we can have discussions like this with one another.

  3. @theBARBIEfication I do know what it means to be a minority in an area. Perhaps not every area, but living in DC as a white male was certainly eye opening. The overt aggression and belligerence towards me and others like me on the street was shocking. I watched a white guy get the snot beat out of him as he bumped into a black male. He apologized and got punched 3 times for his effort. This happened right in front of me. I helped the guy up and thought the black guy was going to try to fight me. He's fortunate he didn't but I digress. I am a peaceful man, but when I see violence for no good reason it gets under my skin.

    Some of my best friends are black and they all say that cities with predominantly high populations of blacks have a much higher crime rate, see more violence, have a higher percentage of arrest rates and a more violent reaction from law enforcement as a result. Not my words, but the words from blacks about blacks.

    There is a culture of fear among many whites of blacks in general. Movies portray blacks as violent, overly sexual people. Rap music reinforces this idea as well. It is almost as if it is some kind of badge of honor to scare "whitey" or "steal his women". I simply do not get it.

    The reaction from many is to arm themselves and then rely on a system of justice that favors their color of skin versus their opponent. In this case the opponent is dead. That is sad, yes. I honestly wish the Trayvon were still alive and had a future he could walk into. I do.

    The fact is that he is not. His killer is alive and may not be getting the justice that the public thinks he deserves. I do not, however, see people in the streets or putting out calls for someone's head when white justice fails to protect a white victim. Happens all the time too. I mean if you really want to get scary, our own government killed US citizens with no trial in Yemen. Father and child are dead. Not that I agreed with the idea of overthrowing the government (I don't), but they were entitled to a trial via the Constitution. Our most holy document in this country was torn in two. Now THAT is worthy of marches in my opinion.

  4. I do get why there is a rush. Because it will be swept under the carpet if there is not a sensation built around it. But have you noticed that now it is not even making the news anymore? It is a dying case as far as the press room goes.

    Let me pose this question. How many people are calling on the resignation of Obama for killing US citizens overseas without so much as a trial? How many people are marching on DC for the security leaks Obama and his administration gave to reporters that put American lives at risk? Why is no one putting out a bounty on him? Because he is black and beyond reproach due to the color of his skin in my opinion. I am neither republican nor conservative. I have no agenda with Obama specifically, no a beef in general. I just find it funny that the majority of my black friends voted for him based solely on his skin color. Not his stance on any issue, not his skill, nothing like that. It was his skin color. When I asked them why it was universally said that "the black man must have his due" in essence.

    Race is apparently always going to be an issue in this country, sad as that is. When we can look past skin color, past the twisted history, past the interpersonal entanglements of race, then we can move forward. So long as we "remember the past", we can never move past it in my opinion. What we focus on grows.


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