I’ve been silent on Treyvon Martin thus far and will be no longer. I’ve been silent because I tend not to comment on court cases in general. I think everyone, including George Zimmerman deserves their day in court and I have no right to meddle in that.
But I’ll sum up my thoughts with several points to ponder:
1) George Zimmerman takes is role as a neighborhood watch almost obsessively in my opinion.
2) George Zimmerman also has the right to protect his home and to keep his neighborhood safe from robbers and other criminals.
3) It seems odd to me that Treyvon Martin was “minding his own business” in the rain in a neighborhood that was not his own.
4) Treyvon Martin does indeed have the right, however, to walk where he wants.
5) George Zimmerman called 911 and should have stopped being involved at that juncture. He is not a police officer and does not need to take the law into his own hands.
6) Anyone who thinks that Treyvon Martin wasn’t the one screaming on the phone needs to see their audiologist. It’s clearly a young voice and doesn’t sound like Zimmerman’s voice.
7) The big question is “Who rushed who?” How did the tussle begin? Based on the screams heard on the 911 call I believe that Zimmerman attacked Martin and Martin tried to stave him off as best he could. Zimmerman seems like a big guy to me in comparison with Martin. In the struggle, Martin probably did what he could to get away from Zimmerman and in that struggle Zimmerman retaliated by shooting Martin.
8) Regardless of any of the above, Zimmerman did not have the right to shoot Martin. In fact, he did not have the right to even touch him. He could have simply asked Martin “Can I help you?”
9) The issue here is stereotype. A young black man with a hoodie in a neighborhood that is not his own is not necessarily a criminal. The problem is that too many believe that they are. The second problem is that sometimes that person IS a criminal and when criminals get approached sometimes they take matters into their own hands and get nervous and attack. This is why George Zimmerman should have called the cops and stayed in his home if had concerns.
10) The fact that Treyvon Martin was a pot smoker, suspended from school, got into fights before and was interested in getting a gun is irrelevant. While he certainly was not a stellar citizen, he still has the right to walk on the street without being shot.
11) George Zimmerman’s background is also irrelevant to the case.
12) The police really mucked this case up and should have minimally brought Zimmerman in and charged him immediately.
I believe that Zimmerman unjustly and unnecessarily killed Treyvon Martin because he was walking in his neighborhood and he PRESUMED him to be up to no good. I wonder if Martin was a white kid walking around, if Zimmerman would have jumped to the same conclusion.
Two personal stories: I grew up as a white kid in a predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood. It was not easy. Sometimes I’ll admit, I was scared to walk down the street in my own neighborhood and I was mugged in front of my own house for TWO DOLLARS. The money isn’t the issue, the issue is that I could have gotten hurt. There were three guys who jumped me. Two were black and one was white. I knew them by name. One “set me up” by pretending that he was “kidding around” and threw me up against a car, “play fighting” as we called it. He was older and stronger than I was and I was terrified. The other two guys grabbed my hands and searched my pockets and took my money.
Color did not come into play here. But the fact that these guys were known as “troublemakers” was important. It made me afraid of them and with good reason. One of the guys indeed did kill someone with a gun, the murky details say it was an accident, but the fact that he had a gun disturbs me. The other two also had police records.
What did we do? We called the cops.
We left it to them and they did have me look at mugshots, etc. But nothing more was done. No arrests.
But I never saw two of the three men again. And “Mr. Set-up” was still present in the neighborhood and was a constant problem. I occasionally still have nightmares about him. Bad people are in fact real.
But I never went and got a gun to shoot him. Neither did my parents.
So I know what it’s like to live in a neighborhood where you live in fear from time to time.
But I also know racism when I see it. The great majority of people in that neighborhood were wonderful people. I had friends in the neighborhood and it did not matter if they were white, black, Hispanic. Color was not a determinate of friendship. And we didn’t make assumptions about people based on their color. We made assumptions about people based on what they did in the neighborhood, how they acted towards others and whether or not they were good neighbors.
My second story needs a fastforward to my years in radio. Ralph Snodsmith was one of our talk show hosts and one day Ralph was running late. He left his car illegally parked in front of our building and ran to the elevator. He tossed his producer the keys to his Mercedes Benz and asked him to park it legally around the block.
His producer happened to be black.
A cop saw him coming out of the car and immediately pulled up and asked him questions:
“This your car?”
“Nope. It’s my boss’ car.”
“What’s his name?”
“OK hold on.”
It checked out, naturally, but had I, a white man who was not the owner, gone and parked that car would I have been stopped?
When the producer returned I had never seen him so angry. And I realized just how tough it was to be him simply because of the color of his skin.
And so we pray today for anyone who has faced racism in their lives. We pray for Treyvon Martin. We pray for people who are afraid in violent neighborhoods.
And we pray for justice. God’s justice that redeems all suffering and pain.
Today’s gospel asks the question “Who is Your Neighbor?”
Perhaps that’s exactly the question for all of us to meditate on today.