Living While Black

black man walkingIt is a sensational story. An unarmed, black 17-year-old male is shot while walking in a residential neighborhood in which he was visiting while coming back from the store with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. The only thing that we are certain of is that the man who shot him thought that he looked suspicious, and that the man who shot him says that it was self defense.

The basic problem that I have is the willingness of so many to accept the assailant’s account of events as fact. Without the public outcry of the black community and some whites there were no plans to charge him with anything. This case should have always been headed for trial to determine the facts. You cannot kill someone and say it was self defense without offering facts to support your claim. That’s what is meant by an affirmative defense: “Yes, I killed someone but I had good cause.”

There is nothing cut and dried about Zimmerman‘s claim of self defense. There still has not been a medical report confirming the allegation that Trayvon Martin broke his nose. We don’t know that Trayvon initiated the fatal confrontation. He could have resisted Zimmerman’s attempt to detain him. On the 911 call, Zimmerman expresses his frustration with how “they” always get away. He doesn’t specify who “they” may be.

I find it of interest that the partial police summary clearly states that Trayvon was found face down. Was Trayvon on top when he shot him? He would have had to be on top to be banging Zimmerman’s head on the ground or was it the sidewalk? If Trayvon was on top and he was face down when the police arrived, did he fall over on Zimmerman when he was shot and Zimmerman wriggled out from under his body? No pun intended, but Trayvon would have been dead weight and wouldn’t it have been easier for him to push Trayvon off rather than slide from under Trayvon? And if he did push Trayvon’s body off, is it likely that Trayvon would have landed face down? I don’t know, but it’s something for forensic experts to consider and answer.

Why is there an assumption that Trayvon was obliged to treat Zimmerman as someone with authority? One thing that Zimmerman has not alleged is that he ever identified himself as part of the neighborhood watch to Trayvon.

Why is it that some people apparently have no problem with Trayvon being followed? Put yourself in Trayvon’s shoes. There is a strange man following you. You don’t know what he wants but he keeps following you. I would be wary and fearful and act defensively. How was Trayvon supposed to guess that Zimmerman was a member of the neighborhood watch and thought that he was thereby authorized to follow people?

Zimmerman lost track of Trayvon but was so determined to follow him that he got out of his vehicle to track him down. He alleges that he couldn’t find Trayvon and was heading back to his vehicle when Trayvon initiated contact with him.

Evidently, the right to defend oneself only applies to Zimmerman. Trayvon was followed by an adult male whom he did not know. For all he knew Zimmerman was a pedophile or a kidnapper or both.

Zimmerman states that Trayvon asked, “Do you have a problem with me?”  Why didn’t he identify himself as a member of the neighborhood watch and explain why he was following Trayvon? Instead, according to Zimmerman’s account, he shrugged off the question and indicated that he didn’t have a problem with Trayvon at which point, according to Zimmerman, Trayvon said, “Well, now you do.”

The majority of people have opinions on this case including those whose opinion is that the media has stirred up the frenzy about racism. Nope, living while black in this country is what makes some of us talk about racism as a factor in Zimmerman’s conclusion that Trayvon looked suspicious. That and the willingness of some to declare that Trayvon was a thug and offer as proof that he was suspended from school three times and may have smoked pot.

sheria reid

He wasn’t a thug; he was a teenager. But even if he were a thug, it doesn’t matter; he’s dead and Zimmerman killed him, and now he must show that he had just cause for doing so.

He will have a trial and a chance in a court of law to convince a jury that he shot and killed Trayvon for justifiable reasons. Trayvon cannot tell his side of the story. It is up to the District Attorney and forensic experts to make certain that his side of the story is told.

I’ve read stories that state that Zimmerman cries a great deal. So do Trayvon’s parents.

Sheria Reid
The Examined Life 

Published by the LA Progressive on April 18, 2012
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About Sheria Reid

Sheria Reid is a native of eastern North Carolina. She is a former high school English teacher, a licensed attorney and currently works as a legislative analyst at the North Carolina state legislature.