COMMENTARY | As everyone should know by now, on his walk back to a townhouse complex just north of Orlando where he was visiting his father, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by neighborhood watchman, 28-year-old George Zimmerman. Zimmerman said he confronted Trayvon because he was acting suspiciously. However the real reason that walk home from a nearby 7-Eleven turned deadly was because Trayvon was black and because if he had known Zimmerman was armed he may have reacted differently when confronted and provoked by him.
It should be very clear that there was no legitimate reason for Zimmerman to have been suspicious of a young man walking down the street on a rainy Sunday around 7 in the evening; if it was late at night or very early morning, perhaps, but not at that time of day. The situation was perilous because he was walking down a street in a community Zimmerman believed a black man had no right to be. That’s what triggered Zimmerman’s distorted stereotypical perception of black people. He stalked him in his SUV, parked his vehicle and then confronted Trayvon Martin, disregarding the police dispatcher’s directive not to intervene.
Moreover, just as troubling are Florida’s and America’s lax Gun Laws that are very much at the heart of this matter. But it’s Florida’s gun legislation that makes actions taken like Zimmerman’s a justifiable homicide. And consequently, justice may be denied for Trayvon and his family.
As of today, Zimmerman is a free man. Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence will be determined by a Seminole County Grand Jury on April 10. However, because of Florida’s “stand your ground” law, Zimmerman might never be convicted. America’s racial history should dictate to anyone that if Trayvon was white and Zimmerman was black, regardless of that law — a law that law enforcement would otherwise find some unique way to circumvent — Zimmerman would be in jail right now.
Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett said “I don’t understand how someone could not be arrested.”
And, Police Chief Bill Lee announced he is temporarily stepping down. His decision was announced the day after the Sanford city commission voted in favor of a nonbinding measure of no confidence, and, more to the point, as a result of vociferous outrage over the fact that Zimmerman is still a free man.
What speaks volumes, too, is that Chief Lee has never expressed condolences to the parents of Trayvon on the tragic loss of their son, regardless of whether he and his police department acted appropriately or not.
Zimmerman claims he acted in self-defense. News reports claim that what happened is not entirely clear. However, Zimmerman outweighed Trayvon by 100 pounds. He followed him and parked his SUV, and then confronted and provoked Trayvon. Not knowing who this man interfering with his right of way was up to, I am sure, in some way, Trayvon defensively responded to the provocation. What Trayvon Martin didn’t know was that Zimmerman packed a concealed 9 mm handgun. Without any apparent need to use deadly force, Zimmerman shot Trayvon in the chest and killed him.
Not only Florida legislators who voted for the “stand your ground”” law, Governor Jeb Bush who signed it, Police Chief Bill Lee and the Sanford Police Department for not responding appropriately, and Floridians who supported the law, but also Congress and every American who has not demanded strict federal gun laws — not only on ownership but laws governing “open carry” and “concealed carry” — are complicit in this tragic shooting.