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March 27, 2012

Racial or not, itís tragic

Derek Shackelford

There is no doubt that we live in a dangerous world. Service men and women place themselves in harm’s way daily to secure the freedom we enjoy.


Innocent civilians were killed in Afghanistan apparently by an American soldier. There is the growing dialogue of Iran attempting to develop a nuclear weapon which raises tensions between Iran and Israel. All of this has an effect on us directly as well as indirectly, and we have not even mentioned the dangers of living out our everyday lives here at home.


Some may cite dangers we all could face on an everyday basis that could have us living in fear. That is until it happens at our front door.


This is what Trayvon Martin’s family may have believed before the tragedy had struck the 17 year old. It appears that Trayvon may have just been enjoying life as a young person only to be wrongfully accused of wrongdoing because he was young? Being tall? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or dare we say it – for being black?


Some would say this is not a racial issue. It is just a tragedy where a person is killed who just happens to be black. Perhaps, but the racial component apparently plays a large role in the slaying.


The shooter in the case, George Zimmerman, was a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain who identified Trayvon as a threat to the neighborhood although for no apparent logical reason.


Let’s take a look at the timeline of what apparently happened. Young Trayvon was found shot and killed, in Sanford, FL, just north of Orlando. The incident occurred February 26 but has garnered national attention just over the last week.


Several eyewitnesses reported that they heard a scuffle, a cry for help, and then a gunshot. According to the Sanford Police report, Mr. Zimmerman is a self appointed neighborhood watch captain who carried a gun to validate his title.


What is interesting about the case is that Mr. Zimmerman reportedly told police that he killed Trayvon in self defense although the victim had no weapon on his person. What Trayvon did have was a pack of skittles and a bottle of ice tea.


Police have not arrested Mr. Zimmerman, did not administer a drug or alcohol test, or run a background check on him. The case becomes more interesting when tTrayvon’s family requests that the 911 tapes be released by the Sanford Police department on March 9. Sanford’s police chief even remarked at the time that there was no evidence to dispute Mr. Zimmerman’s claims of self defense.


Conflicting evidence has surfaced disputing Mr. Zimmerman’s claim. Trayvon was seen – according to some eyewitness accounts – running in the opposite direction from Mr. Zimmerman and even pleaded for his life before Mr. Zimmerman pulled the trigger.


The 911 tapes may even confirm that Mr. Zimmerman followed Trayvon as the radio dispatcher asked Mr. Zimmerman if he was following the man who turned out to be Trayvon. Mr. Zimmerman replied “Yes.” The 911 dispatcher then said “don’t do that.”


Furthermore, Mr. Zimmerman may even have violated the neighborhood watch regulations by acting with “police powers” that have not been granted. Also, Mr. Zimmerman does not have the authority to carry a weapon while acting as the neighborhood watch captain, or the capacity to “chase” down an individual. According to the evidence, Mr. Zimmerman violated these particular rules.


The case has received attention by most media outlets because of the apparent injustice that appears to be taking place. The issue of race enters into the equation because Mr. Zimmerman reportedly uses a racial slur when speaking with police during his 911 call.


Also, one can only ask the question: what if the tables were turned, would the person receive the benefit of the doubt according their recollection of the story with no charges being filed? In all likelihood, no.


This case stirs the emotions of people, and it should because a young person’s life has been taken for no real apparent reason. Also, the cover-up and lack of injustice has surfaced so much that the U. S. Attorney General’s office and the FBI are now investigating the incident.


The outcry is national, and pressure is mounting for an arrest to be made. When situations like this occur, there are some valuable lessons that can be learned. Here are a few that have grabbed my attention.


·        None of us should even attempt to capitalize on this for commercial purposes or to bolster our own name.


·        Be careful in misplaced anger in labeling this just a racial incident when we mistreat, disrespect or even kill each other without having the same righteous indignation toward what happens to our men, women and children.


·        At the same time, I am not so naïve to know and understand that as a black man – the chances of me or my fellow brethren being targeted higher than most others in our population, and I base it on my own personal life experience. The reality is this: could it be me, my son, my brother or my nephew.


·        Yes – we should advocate and demand that justice be served while at the same time not becoming so complacent afterward that we need a tragedy that grabs national attention to clean up our own households and neighborhoods.


Every now and then we are reminded that we live in a dangerous world. Sometimes it hits us in our own neighborhood and at our own doorstep.


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