Tuesday, March 27, 2012


By now, everyone has surely heard about Trayvon Martin, the 140lb. 17-year-old who was shot and killed as he walked through the gated community of a relative he was visiting in Sanford, Florida. George Zimmerman - the 240lb. neighborhood watchman who said he began following the teen from his SUV because of his "suspicious behavior" - was the gunman, but although Trayvon was armed only with a bag of Skittles candy and a can of iced tea, Zimmerman claims he shot Trayvon in self-defense. Under the state's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law (which says anyone who feels threatened with eminent danger in a public place can use deadly force to end the confrontation), Zimmerman has not been arrested and charged with Trayvon's murder. And that has a whole lot of people outraged and upset.

Many of us are wondering how a big burley dude with a 9mm handgun could feel threatened by a teen he is chasing (according to the 911 tapes, Zimmerman got out of his car and chased Trayvon on foot before the shooting). What made the Black teenager seem so suspicious? Did he look out of place in the community of nice town homes and freshly manicured lawns? Or was it the hooded sweatshirt Trayvon wore as he walked from the store in the night rain? Was it that he ran from a guy who was following him or did the shinny can of tea look like a weapon? Since Zimmerman isn't saying much other than it was self-defense (he hasn't even really been thoroughly interrogated by the police), no one but Zimmerman knows for sure. To this mom of a teen who looks an awful lot like Trayvon, those are the questions that I wish were answered.

Every martial arts self-defense seminar I've ever been to has said that awareness is the very first rule of thumb. Zimmerman has said he was aware that this kid might have been up to no good simply because there had been a rash of break-ins around the neighborhood. We know he was way, way off base about that, but at the time, his "spidery senses" we're tingling. What the seminars I've been to all hint at is that being aware - especially in that hyper-vigilant sort of way - is only the very beginning of the story. How you process that awareness and determine if what you are aware of is cause for concern must come next. What follows that should be avoidance (or de-escalation if avoidance isn't an option), but it appears Zimmerman missed that part of the neighborhood watch training.

Please don't tell me how "going with your gut" is often necessary when sizing up particular potential dangers. I know that - still someone's son and brother is dead because another someone's gut was flat out wrong. All Black boys in hoodies aren't menacing creatures searching for prey is all I'm saying - and we all have an obligation to stop believing the hype and buying into that crap. There has to be a way to not lump every person/place/thing unlike you into a big ol' "suspicious" pile, there just has to be. Of course I hope my 18-yr-old son is never pegged as suspicious because he happens to look or sound different than the others who normally inhabit a space, but he just might be someday. And it makes me very angry that all I can do is hope he is never where some crazy fool with a weapon and an excuse doesn't think he should be.

But I also hope we figure out how to end this stupidity soon - before another person is killed out of fear, racial profiling or blatent stereotyping. I think we owe it to the memory of the teen who was pegged as suspicious just because he looked like he didn't belong.

Rest in peace, Trayvon.


  1. Well said. This is truly awful, and it makes me angry that Zimmerman, who shot him under such a ridiculous and flimsy law, could get off free. I hope all the hoodie marches make people take it seriously and get him prosecuted, and maybe even get that law changed to one that would require stronger grounds for such action.

  2. I'm so aghast & disgusted at Zimmerman, it's hard even to write a coherent comment. It seems obvious to me that Zimmerman didn't act of self-defense, but out of a messy complex of internalized fear, ignorance, racism, smug self-righteousness & perhaps some delusional wish to be a hero. His behavior & his choices are indefensible. He needs to get a life and a clue. Your closing paragraph says it all.

  3. We should restrain ourselves from commenting with incomplete data on the entire situation. Even the Police have not finished their investigation and you should realize what is published is slanted for the best drama possible to promote greater viewing and sales.

    I bend toward a position to "wait for the rest of the story" and even then there is much the media, the family and the public don't know and will never know.

    To judge and convict anyone on media information, youtube video's, etc. is just not right.

    1. Although I knew there would be folks who disagreed, I had no idea it would be expressed in such a condescending manner. So to you, Mr. James - SIGH. I'm not even sure you read the post completely from your comment and I have to admit, my first impulse was to delete what you wrote instead of publishing it. Ironically, my 18-yr-old sun (as in light of my life) talked me out of it. At his urging, I will try to take the high road here.

      A reminder: this is MY blog. It represents MY feelings, thoughts and opinions about things I encounter or experience and how they relate to things martial. I'm glad you are a reader, but it is not your place to tell me how I or anyone who comments here should and should not conduct themselves. Your stab at doing so was more than a little upsetting, truth be told.

      Let it be known that I am a card-carrying member of the media and I teach journalism to undergraduate students at a four-year college in Westchester, NY. Obviously,I don't share your assertion that "what is published is slanted for the best drama possible." Truthfully, I think THAT is total BS. My advice to you is to step away from FOX News; it will rot your brain.

      Everything I've written here on MY blog post is factual based on what has been released by the Sanford Police and other published reports (ever heard of F.O.I.L.? It can be a journalist's best friend). The one fact is absolutely indisputable is that Trayvon Martin was at least initially followed because he was perceived as some kind of possible threat. What happened next only happened because of that perception and sadly, a young man is now dead as a direct result. As a mother of a Black male teen (whom I no longer see everyday because he is away at college), I KNOW that could have easily been my child, my nephew, my cousin or my hubby-to-be and it makes my heart ache to think that a child died alone and in pain in the street 75 yds from his destination. Yes, I worry about my own kid's /nephew's/cousin's, /hubby-to-be's safety and well-being, as I don't share the same inherent trust of police and others who supposedly protect and serve that you seem to. It pains me to think about the hurt and sorrow that the Martin family is now experiencing. My opinion - that I expressed here on MY blog - is that the "what are you doing here?" confrontation was the direct result of racial profiling gone wild - which I have also experienced. I think Zimmerman should have been arrested immediately and that the investigation was terribly bungled. I respect your right to disagree , I really do - I just ask you to do the same. Telling me how to think and express my thoughts will definitely get your comment deleted next time, because that is not respectful at all. Trust and believe that I didn't need YouTube to help me arrive at my conclusions. Your insinuation that any of us did is truly insulting.

      BTW, I commented in much the same manner about the Yardley Love story (the UVA lacrosse player who was beaten to death by her boyfriend) a while back. Her killer was convicted because he was arrested and charged. That situation opened major dialogue on dating violence and I hope Trayvon's death will do the same in regards to this stupid law and racial profiling.

      When we talk about blogging in my classes, I compare it to talk radio without the anonymity. It is the electronic equal to a newspaper opinion piece in case you didn't know. Thanks for helping illustrate that comparison for me as I will most certainly be working this into my lectures next semester :-)

      For the record, I stand by everything I said in my original post. Color me judgmental if you will as I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the manner in which you said it. Again, feel free to disagree - because I do with many, many blogs I read (yours included), but if you cannot express your disagreement in a less destructive manner, please don't bother to comment here at all.

  4. Excellent analysis Felicia. I hope that, at the very least, Trayvon's death will bring a reassessment and repeal of this knee-jerk, irrational and unworkable "stand your ground" law.

  5. I find it unbelievable that such a law as 'stand your ground' can exist. How can Zimmerman claim self-defence if he's the one doing the following?

    1. Sue, this reply came via email from Jack:

      Hi Sue.

      I live in Florida, where the recently infamous "Stand your ground" law is at the center of the legal part of this tragedy. The law was meant to undo the previous law which stated that if you have a gun you have a LEGAL requirement to flee and NOT defend yourself with lethal force; and if you dont adequately flee then you may be criminally liable for defending yourself or your family with lethal force. SYG was signed into law because there have been enough cases where honest, good, citizens have been protecting themselves or loved ones against criminals and the courts have had no choice but to sentence them to prison for doing so.

      SYG law says that if you feel your life is in jeopardy then you can legally shoot. This, I feel, is a better (not perfect) law than the one it replaced.

      Explanation aside, at the end of the day I am not certain that Zimmerman has a shred of a prayer that he will have legal protection under the SYG law since he pursued his victim. And since we're discussing emotions let me give you mine: I FEEL that a large part of why this poor boy was murdered was because he is "a few shades too dark" to be assumed non-threatening by this man. (Actually, I've got some stronger language to describe how I really feel about racially influenced murders, but it would be inappropriate for a forum like this).

      I just hope Treyvon's family can someday find peace.

  6. Thanks, F., KK and Dan. I appreciate that you understand the perspective. And I hear you, Sue: the law is ridiculous, but believe it or not 23 states in the US have similar laws on the books. Scary...

  7. Today, I heard the speech from the Florida Special prosecutor and as I meant to imply the wait was worth it for the system did its job and now this person is to be tried for 2nd degree murder in spite of everything.

    I was impressed with the speech and its content.

    1. I saw it too and the prosecutor did an amazing job handling the questions. Glad that a jury will get to decide the dhooter's fate, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't upset that the original idea to arrest him on probable caused was nixed 44 days ago. It's truly a shame it took so long...

    2. Think of it the way the special prosecutor stated, it takes time to create charges that will not be lost in trial.

      I believe taking the time to get it right means much and the chances of a conviction are far greater.

      If the actual facts bear it out and they should or they would not have arrested him for prosecution he has a greater chance of going to jail.

      The ancient Chinese were correct, everything has its process and time .... the time was right in this case ....

    3. I'm concerned that the initial investigation was so botched that the necessary forensic evidence to prove guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt won't be there. Ith should not have taken a state prosecutor to get this far.

    4. Good point .... you can expect a bit of yin-n-yang ebb and flow to balance things out.