Monday, March 19, 2012

Listen to his screams

I am glad my parents aren’t alive to see this. I had not listened to the 911 tape of the murder of Trayvon Martin until tonight. I had intentionally avoided it. I couldn’t take it. My son could have been Trayvon Martin. My father could have been Trayvon Martin. My sister’s boys could be Trayvon Martin. My ‘nephew’, Jayvin, could be Trayvon Martin.

It’s the screams. Listen to them. Really listen to them. The terror reaches out through the speakers and grips you by the heart. If you have the least bit of empathy, your mind will be inexorably drawn to imagining the last few terrified moments of this kid’s life as he pleaded to be allowed to live.

When I heard it, all I could think of was my son’s face, his eyes wide with fright, pleading for his life and hoping that someone anyone will come to his rescue. Then the gun shot. Then the second gun shot. Even if one were trying to be ‘fair-minded’ (i.e. pretend that this might not be about race) the second gun shot makes it clear that Zimmerman meant to get himself a trophy. He was going to be the hero who saved the gated community from the young black man. It is bad enough that cops kill black people in the course of routine traffic stops and walk away without even a slap on the wrist. Now, it appears that--at least in Florida--we’ve taken a gigantic step backward and civilians can also kill a black man who is carrying Skittles-of-mass-destruction in his hand.

Imagine that you are there. You’re Trayvon Martin. You are walking home from the corner store with Skittles in your hand and suddenly you face every black parent’s nightmare. Yes, every black parent’s nightmare. For now, right now, I don’t really want to hear white people jumping up with their story of how their neighbors’ brothers’ best friend
knew this guy who was neighbors with this woman, who had a third cousin thrice removed, whose former neighbors’ son went to school with a guy who was randomly shot by a black guy. It’s a genre of ‘karmic balancing act’ tossed into American discussions of race. You are probably more familiar with the genre wherein the storyline is this, “When I was right out of high school, I tried to get a job as Attorney General of the United States and they gave it to some black guy named Eric Holder because they needed to fill a quota.” Never mind that the story teller hadn’t gone to law school. When the subject is job discrimination based upon race there will inevitably be some story where a white person didn’t get a job because ‘they’ had to ‘give it to a minority’. It is inconceivable that a black person might actually be the most qualified candidate for the job. Oh no! If a white person and a black person compete for the same job and the black person gets hired it must be because a quota had to be filled so any ongoing job discrimination is just karmic just desserts for blacks taking so many jobs we aren’t qualified to do in order to fill a quota.

There’s a difference between this hypothetical story and what actually happened. There are no municipalities where a black man could run down and shoot a random white kid, have the police show up and that black man just go on about his idle business. If Trayvon Martin had been white kid, and George Zimmerman a black man I guarantee you that Zimmerman would, even now, be sitting in jail awaiting trial. But since Martin was black and Zimmerman white, the latter gets to go on with his life. I wouldn’t put a $10 bet (much less a $10,000 dollar bet, Mittens) on Zimmerman doing any time whatsoever. IF it goes to trial and IF he is convicted, I wouldn’t be the least surprised if Zimmerman got off with time served in county jail. This guy Zimmerman, against the advice of 911, followed this young black man and killed him thinking he would be thought a hero. He’s not far off wrong.

Oh, he won’t be praised on Red State or anywhere else, at least not immediately. But the fact that he was carrying a gun and is defending himself under the ‘Stand your ground’ law is instructive. Apparently, the men I listed at the head of this piece (and all the one’s I left out) are so deadly that one has to stand one’s ground while following him down the street when he is armed with a pack of Skittles. At some point some conservative commentator or another is going to make a statement to the effect that Zimmerman reacted properly because how was he to know that a black kid walking with candy and an iced tea wasn’t a threat.

The 911 tapes are here (opens new window). Listen to them as many times as it takes for you to internalize this fact; Trayvon Martin is dead because he was black and a male over the age of 8. George Zimmerman is free because Trayvon Martin was black. Listen to his screams. Imagine him backing away from Zimmerman. Listen to the gun shot. Imagine the bullet striking his young body. See him falling to the ground. See Zimmerman taking another shot. You will have entered into the nightmare of every black parent in America.

And I still don’t want to hear any tales or statements of the ‘that could have been anyone’ variety. The shade of Billy the Kid or John Dillinger could walk down the street carrying a suitcase nuke and a AK-47 while wearing a tee-shirt reading, “Ask me about my plans to pillage and kill” and not be seen as ‘suspicious’ while a black kid with Skittles is a mortal threat.