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George Zimmerman is Not Our Problem – We Are

Murder of Trevonne Winn

Trevonne Winn, 24, murder was caught on video tape. His killer remains free.

I first wrote about Treyvon Martin weeks ago. I finally blogged about it last week. But there was always a thought in the back of my mind that something was wrong.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t follow the crowd. When most people zig, I zag. And my friends routinely call me because I don’t live in the echo chamber that surrounds like-minded individuals. My favorite Saturday afternoon is reading a book by Milton Friedman, while listening to Tavis Smiley and Cornell West after I catch up on my podcast of Rush Limbaugh’s shows. Put simply…I am not your average bear.

But it took a lot – I think it was the screeching shouts by race hustler Al Sharpton, or maybe it was the trademark registration, or the legislators wearing hoodies at the statehouse – for me to start rethinking this Trayvon Martin thing. But the first inkling I had that something wasn’t quite right was when I found out Trayvon was suspended from school for 10 days and no one would say why.

Now a school suspension isn’t a big deal. I’ve never been suspended from school, though and if my child ever got suspended from school he’d be on lock down for sure, no cell phone, no NBA all-star game and yes, no Skittles. But that’s just me…

Still being suspended from school doesn’t make you worthy of death. But, let’s just say the seed was planted. Because as a journalist I think of the world in stories. But not in the way PR people do – like the firm working with the Martin family. PR and marketing professionals think of stories in rigid storylines, good vs. evil, bad vs. good but I, having been a police reporter for two years, on and off for eight years, know that life doesn’t fit neatly into those 60-minute television dramas like “Law & Order.” Bad men do good. And good men do bad. There are no true villains and heroes.

So when the storyline started getting more like an after-school special than real life the questions started to come.

Was it racism? Was he an innocent boy? Was George Zimmerman a wanna-be cop vigilante hell bent on stopping the “coons,” from robbing his neighbors?

Was Trayvon a thug, whom neither his parents, nor school officials could not control and rejecting their responsibility they unleashed this hood on upon unsuspecting innocents? Or was Trayvon a kind and compassionate kid who washed cars, wanted to be a pilot and took care of his disabled uncle?

These questions all asked do not really matter. What matters for the level-headed is 60 seconds of silence. It’s the 60-seconds that followed Trayvon’s interrupted cell-phone conversation with his girlfriend and proceeded George Zimmerman standing over a dead teen telling a bewildered woman to call the police. There were only two witnesses to those 60 seconds and one of them is dead.The other one killed him and well…here we are.

The facts of this case are short and the speculations could fill the Library of Congress.

I have no doubt that if George Zimmerman had done what the 911 dispatcher told him to do Trayvon Martin would be alive. I do not think this shooting was an accident. And I believe that no teen – no matter if he’s wearing a hoodie or an altar boy robe – should live in fear that some man will blow him away if they questioned him. No child deserves that death.

That’s what I believe. That does not stand up in court. And that is not fact. The fact is there are no real answers – at least not yet- to either set of questions. George Zimmerman deserves an unbiased trial but the PR machine backing this case isn’t going to give him one. I am not defending him, I’m defending the constitutional right for all Americans – black, white, Asian, Latino, Native America, Mestizo whatever – to be tried for our crimes in front of a jury of our peers.

I am chilled and scared that lawmakers are trying to skip that part. When a U.S. lawmaker says they will not rest until a person is arrested when there is not evidence yet that there is a crime well, my alarm bells go off. When Congress starts telling state prosectuors who to put behind bars that put chills up my spine. Because that’s exactly what happened during Jim Crow. And we don’t want to return to that system of injustice. Injustice anywhere – even against an armed suspect who shoots a teenager- is injustice everywhere.

Justice may not be blind but she shouldn’t be social media to death either.

As I’ve been gorging on the media over Trayvon’s death I’ve seen headlines that make me roll my eyes with such fervor I fear I’m going blind soon. The ignorance of the general public always comes out on things like this. I saw it with Kony 2012, with The Hunger Games and now with Travyon Martin. Any idiot with a keyboard is giving legal opinions. But the media circus, fueled by the social networks is in full spin and real journalists are too busy trying to keep up with the merry-go-round to do any real investigating.

  • Why hasn’t anyone reported about this so-called legal defense fund for Trayvon. Um he’s not the one on trial? Who are we paying for?
  • What is the Justice (trademarked mind you) for Trayvon Martin donation campaign – over 485 donors have given to the effort. From the website “These monies are for the family to cover the advocacy and other cost associated with the pursuit of justice on behalf of their son Trayvon Martin. ” I read “lawyer fees,” and the fancy law firm of Parks and Crump don’t come cheap. They also make good money scoring $8 million judgement against city boot camp after the death of a teen. The guards escaped jail, a jury acquitted them but they didn’t escape the bank.
  • The law firm is also affiliated with a PR/Marketing firm Medium Four which started the donation site and has an “official website,”

I could go on and on but slowly but surely the circus has come to town and Travyon Martin is no longer a murdered human being but a paycheck for a lot of folk. But maybe this is the age we live in, the media age where death is a bloodsport that plays out on reality television. Thank you Hunger Games.

But all this erases the tragic fact: there will be another Trayvon Martin, lying dead in the street from a fatal handgun injury. But that next child murder victim will most assuredly not have a George Zimmerman. Black male youth are gun down on the regular but they are hardly ever – gun down by ordinary white citizens. (Blacks getting tortured or shot by cops is a different story).

Truthfully, Treyvon’s greatest threat before he walked down that complex sidewalk was not George Zimmerman it was another child who looked him. George Zimmerman is an outlier folks – we’re the biggest threat to each other. Here are some facts:

  • Nearly half of all murder victims in the U.S. are black
  • 94% of blacks who were murdered were killed by other blacks
  • Murder is the leading cause of death among black males age 15-19
  • Blacks are FOUR TIMES more likely to die from homicide than the national average and SIX TIMES more likely to die from homicide than whites
  • 72% of black murder victims were killed by someone they know
  • Nearly 90% of firearm deaths of black youth were homicides (1,337 in 2007)
  • Number of black youth killed by guns since 1979 is more than 10 times the number of all black men, women and children who died by lynching.

In the face of these facts it’s clear that George Zimmerman is not our problem. That Congressional hearings on as yet to be proven hate-crime is a little farcical in the face of these kinds of numbers. Only Mexican youth, in a nation embroiled in a brutal gang war, are more endangered than our young black men.

It crossed my mind that in some twisted way justice for Trayvon, for many of us, would make up for the injustice we see played out each day – of young black men being continual sacrifices to violence at the hands of other black men. It’s as if that battle is too big, too complex, too scary and tough to tangle and this one is just right, made for T.V, and easier to find resolution. For it’s easier to make a boogey-man, even if his evil is grounded in truth and point to him when we fear than to look at the mirror and point to yourself.

Do I cry for Trayvon Martin? I do. I cry because he died, and I cry for the life he could have lived. When I listened to those 911 tapes I couldn’t help but cry. There are those who say don’t use the Martin case to talk about black-on-black crime. They want us to focus on the racial wildfire that is sweeping this country. But to do that is to ignore the facts and to ignore the lives and deaths of black males like Trevonne.

My heart also hurts for another Trevonne. There were no rallies for his death. No hoodies worn in state legislatures. No NBA basketball team footwear sporting quotes for justice for him. No trending Twitter tweets, no celebrity cries for justice. Just a grainy video marking the moment he actually died, when an armed gunman walked up to Trevonne Winn, a man visiting relatives in New York City, pulled out a gun and shot him twice in the chest as onlookers looked and did nothing. Just another black male, dead on the sidewalk.

No one came to Trevonne Winn’s defense. His toddler daughter now doomed to live without her dad. His mother traveled without the NAACP or politicians or athletes at her side from her South Carolina home to collect her son who was wanted by the law down south. But she was left to bury her son alone. His killer, even though the killing was caught on tape, the murder occurred during the day, there were several witnesses – Trevonne’s killer remains free of capture.

People tend to follow the storyline they are fed. And the story line of Trayvon was too good to be passed upon. But the truth is if whites were as evil as the race hustlers want you to think they are we’d all be dead. No matter what they say, the “white man” is not our biggest problem. We are our biggest enemy. The self-hate that makes our lives less valuable to each other spills over to the wider world. And until we realize our problem is self-loathing, the racism that comes from it won’t dissipate. How can we expect others to love us, if we don’t love ourselves? How can we expect people to value black life, if we don’t value it oursleves? Being black should not be a reason to be profiled. But it also shouldn’t be a reason to be killed. Until we fix this internal issue where we don’t even care about our lives how can we expect the larger society to even make a dent in the issue?

In the past, the burden of the Negro, as W.E.B. Dubois, would always say was trying to fit in to a society that didn’t want us. This story line has been fed to all of us throughout the generations and it is a story based in truth. We have all been taught that our biggest problem is other, what others did, what they’re still doing, what they’re thinking about doing. We have created our boogey-man and he becomes the cause of all our ills. But when we chase him down, catch him and make him disappear, when we get resolution or justice for Trayvon, we’ll still have to deal with a much stronger enemy the boogey-man may have created but who lives because of us.



One thought on “George Zimmerman is Not Our Problem – We Are

  1. Wow. Thank you for such poignant, honest writing. THIS is the conversation Bill Cosby tried to start years ago and it created such a tremendous controversy. Keep talking about it.

    Posted by Amy McCloskey Tobin | March 28, 2012, 5:55 am

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