Trayvon Is Everybody’s Son

zimmerman shoot firstThe killing of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, is shocking. Another young man, another teenager, killed senselessly. I cannot imagine the grief of Trayvon’s family. How does a family deal with this? Another young American family subjected to a horrendous act.

I believe that the President’s most personal message to the family – “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” -  is a metaphor. Trayvon represents my son, your child. None of us want any unarmed child, who is walking home from the store while chatting on his cell phone to a girl friend, shot down under any circumstances.

Period.

This is not about Black versus White even though Black children, for too long, have had to face the reality that in this land of promise, where we are all guaranteed freedom and equality, they can be denied these promises based on their skin color. To that extent, Trayvon bore the brunt of racism and hate.

This is about Right versus Wrong.

A posted sign at The Retreat at Twin Lakes, the gated neighborhood where Trayvon was murdered, announces that it is part of Neighborhood Watch. There is no posted warning that armed volunteers are on duty. The shooting of a teen-ager, under the guise of pretend-authority, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, is reprehensible. The gunning down of a 17-year-old by an adult who has been told by authorities to stand down is unforgivable.

The killing of a youngster, the ultimate bullying!

Some facts are irrefutable. Trayvon, 140 pounds, was unarmed and was 17. His killer, 28-year-old George Zimmerman weighs over 200 pounds and was armed. George was very experienced at reporting “trouble” to the police. At best, he is an overzealous, obsessed neighborhood volunteer who had desires to be in “law enforcement.” At worst, he is a scared racist and a trigger-happy killer. George was a self-anointed and appointed Neighborhood Watch “Captain.” But he is not a professional law enforcement officer and his thinking is flawed when he arrives armed to carry out the benign assignment of neighbor/volunteer .

There are many reports about the events of that night. Unfortunately, Trayvon is not here to give his accounting. I’m sure that Trayvon didn’t know that a “plain ol’ Joe” was watching and that his “purpose in life” was to protect his neighborhood while carrying a loaded gun. Who else knew about George’s activities? Was George following Neighborhood Watch protocol?

And, we’ll never know what Trayvon faced that night after he was first spotted by George Zimmerman. We’ll never know how and when he became aware of being surveilled. Did he hear footsteps? See a shadow? Hear the click of gun’s trigger? We’ll never know when and if he realized he was the focal point of an adult who was carrying a loaded gun.

We’re told that George had a permit to carry. So? Does that give him a license to follow? To surveil? To intercept and stop someone? Who knew George would become chief judge and executioner?

Bill Lee, Sanford’s police chief, said “Zimmerman had the right to defend himself with deadly force.”

We’ve all been teenagers. We know the wonder of talking with a friend, walking home, free, happy, drinking Arizona tea, full of teenage hopes and dreams. George wasn’t “Big Brother” watching a young man from security cameras. George was an unpaid, untrained, self-appointed “watcher” who was told not to engage by the professionals at the police department. And Trayvon was not acting in a suspicious manner; unless you count being black as being suspicious.

carl matthesHow many other Neighborhood Watch volunteers across the country are armed and feel they have a right to confront someone?

For any individual acting alone or even for those of us who belong to Neighborhood Watch groups, being armed is not okay. Surveilling a lone teenager with a gun tucked in your waistband or shoulder harness is not okay. Brandishing or pulling a loaded gun is not okay.

George, killing is not okay.

Period.

Carl Matthes

Published by the LA Progressive on March 28, 2012
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About Carl Matthes

Carl Matthes is a native of Los Angeles and has lived in Eagle Rock for 45 years. He is the current president of UGLA, Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a grassroots organization in Northeast Los Angeles which provides a support system for gay men and lesbians and education for individuals and the community-at-large on the true nature of homosexuality. He is a former columnist and a current advisor to the Lesbian News, the oldest lesbian publication in America, which is owned and published by his sister, Ella. He was editor of the GLAAD/LA (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) newsletter, a former GLAAD National Board member and served as a GLAAD/LA representative on the LGBT/LAPD Advisory Board. Carl has also been a Board member of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

In July, 2008, Carl was legally married to Carl Johnson, his partner of 45 years, by Los Angels City Councilmember Jose Huizar. It was a unique gay/lesbian double ceremony as Carl's sister Ella and her partner Gladi were also married by Jose.