Zimmerman Verdict: Why Parents Fear it is Open Season on Black Boys
Emotions are still calming today, a few days after a 6-woman jury handed down a not-guilty verdict against a self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman who admittedly shot and killed 17-year old Trayvon Martin in the heart following a scuffle precipitated by Zimmerman’s initial contact.
Pro-Trayvon Martin supporters were in shock Friday upon hearing the jury’s decision. To them, a man who follows a teen in the middle of the night despite 911 dispatchers commands to not do so deserves some jail time for his role in that killing.
Those siding with Zimmerman perhaps could empathize with him more, starting with his preconceived notions that Martin dressed in a hoodie and being black most likely was a criminal–A notion that, even if believed was justified given past burglaries in the area, still was heavily based on race.
Martin couldn’t have been among the 1.4 million black men in college but once outfitted in something as benign as a causal sweatshirt with its hoodie up to shield from drizzling rain that night, Martin was just another black thug.
Many Zimmerman supporters could not fathom that Trayvon Martin himself had a reason to fear that night.
There is a perception among many that Black boys, teens and men must be feared.
Not the other way around.
Following the verdict, following the shock, following the tears, I began to notice the desperate scramble among parents searching for answers to what they should tell their young sons to make sure they don’t become the next Martin.
The fear among black moms and dads is prevalent.
Among the accounts I noted were that of
- New York city educator Wesley Hall who yesterday posted this heart wrenching narrative on his wall to his Facebook friends sharing how following the Zimmerman verdict how he now appreciates in hindsight all the things his mother did to prepare him to survive amidst people who see him as a menacing threat. Hall writes:
As scary as people think black males are, black males are conditioned to be ten times more afraid of everyone else. We’re conditioned to be afraid of going to certain parts of the country, afraid of people with certain political view, afraid of police officers, and sometimes even afraid of other black and Latino males.
- Reporter Jill Hudson, who too now worried for her two boys, posted a photo of them on her wall and made the image public so all the people of the Internets will learn the face of her two boys who one day would grow to be the height that Martin was and perhaps considered a threat.
Meet my loves, my sons, Blake and Cole. Please study their faces. Memorize their features.
Familiarize yourselves with their open smiles and loving eyes. Blake is eight and Cole is almost 11. But they will soon be tall, athletic teens. If and/or when they come into your neighborhoods at that time, PLEASE DO NOT SHOOT THEM! Consider this a proactive and passionate plea from a soon-to-be divorced mother who moves forward in the world so that my boys reach adulthood. I wake up and go to sleep thinking about them, praying for their safety and happiness. Keep them in your hearts if you see them without me. They deserve to be safe.
- The California mom who wrote about a recent walk with her son when a white male yelled at her, “Go back to Inglewood or Ima shoot you like they did that Trayvon Martin!” She’d have to bite her tongue to not start a confrontation and scare her child she said in her contribution on the website, For Harriet.
- And just today, Mike Dunn, another Florida man who opened fire on a car full of black teens in a rage over too loud music killing one,Jordan Davis, plead not guilty in the killing. Dunn’s lawyer has already boldly tried to present the teens as members of a gang with no basis to that claim. Dunn may likely be using the Stand your Ground law saying he feared for his life despite the fact he is the one who assaulted and shot at them while they were just sitting in their vehicle listening to music. “I don’t have to prove the threat, just that Mike Dunn believed it,” his second Defense attorney Cory Strolla said cockily from his office in West Palm Beach.
And so it starts again.
The volatility I’m seeing on comment pages and Facebook updates is astounding. People have been unfriending, blocking and unfollowing “friends” for the last few days over this case.
So these stories tell of the fear of it being open season on black boys.
Below are some rules that people have shared across the web of what they will and have told their sons to make sure they know how to get out of confrontations alive:
- Anyone can take your life with a concealed gun, including people you don’t know, so avoid arguments and physical altercations as much as possible.
- Try not to wear clothes that would connect you to hip hop culture because someone would deem you a thug and you can wind up in a situation when you are against someone claiming to be standing their ground.
- Walk straight with your head high, but not too high so you don’t come off as overly aggressive, empowering or menacing.
- Don’t raise your voice or get angry even if someone wrongly accuses you of doing something wrong or crime because your anger will have you come off as hostile and guilty.
- Don’t hang out in groups of 3 or more in public places lest you be confused for being in a gang.
- Never talk back to police.Always be respectful. Follow instructions and make sure your hands are up and where they can see them if you are ever arrested. If pulled over, keep your hands at 10 and 2 o clock. Avoid making sudden movement so you are not mistaken as going for a gun or weapon. If pulled over and asked to get your license and registration, announce out loud that you are reaching for your wallet. Ask the cops permission to reach over to your glove compartment box to remove your registration.
- Don’t get mad, but certainly don’t ask for badge numbers as you may think you have the right to as you never know if you may run into a rogue cop who may get offended by your request. Simply, keep a mental note of events for later, just in case.
- When a fight breaks out at a club, the mall, the park or anywhere, leave the scene quickly, but walk swiftly, don’t run. You running away may give off the appearance that you are guilty of something and leaving the scene of a crime.
- Don’t post any photos in social media with you engaging in any illegal activity and certainly not smoking weed, giving a camera the finger, or any other obscene gesture because besides the fact you shouldn’t do those things in the first place, and they could hurt your chances of getting a job later, they could also be used against you in a trial or court proceeding.
- Keep us at home updated with your whereabouts periodically during the day via text message.
- Mention that you are related to an officer, city worker, that your parents are lawyers whatever necessary that may curry you some favor.
- Be mindful of the company you keep and distance yourself from those who have gotten in trouble with the law because you can end up guilty by association or caught up in a bad situation because of that person.
You would think it should be simple as work hard, study hard, get good grades, be a civic member of society, get a good job, stay out of trouble and trouble won’t find you. But as Skip Gates and many professional men and women of color who may have gotten profiled will tell you, all that goes out the window in the dark of the night, and if you are wearing anything other than a formal suit.
Think about Trayvon Martin.