What if George Zimmerman had known Trayvon’s Dad?

Interracial Marble Relationship 3

Interracial Marble Relationship 3 (Photo credit: wjserson)

What if George Zimmerman had known Trayvon’s Dad? I’ve been pondering that question for the past 24 hours and for me it’s progress and one step toward healing. For the past few weeks, my questions have been a lot more contentious.

In a statement released by Robert Cohen, President of the Southern Poverty Law Center, after the Zimmerman verdict, he asks many of the questions that have been on my mind and the answers were making me equally angry and sad.  I’m saddened by the verdict, though it was not unexpected—many legal commentators said that the state had failed to make their case—but also by the discourse that I’ve heard around the case, which led to more questions for me.

How could George Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, say during his closing argument that he wishes that his client could be found “completely innocent?”  How could one kill an unarmed child and be completely innocent?

How could Rep. Andy Harris, (R-MD), appearing on “Mornings on the Mall” on WMAL Radio in Washington, DC who admitted he had not followed the case closely say “We’re hung up on this one case, where this one fellow was, in fact, found not guilty by a jury. That’s the way the American law system works. Get over it.”?  For a public official, the statement was at best callous and could insight unnecessary anger and torment.

As I watched attorneys and commentators discuss the trial during the deliberation, one said that some people in America have been given the “right to fear others.”  I believe the jury acquitted Mr. Zimmerman because had they been in his place on a street alone at night with a black teenager, they would have feared for their lives.  However, in the reverse, they simply cannot imagine that Trayvon Martin (who juror B37 accused of contributing to his own death) feared for his life when being followed by a white man.

Even if things happened exactly as Mr. Zimmerman said they did, at no point did he identify himself as a neighborhood watchman or ask Trayvon Martin why he was walking through his neighborhood.  Mr. Zimmerman and later the jurors, likely did not see Trayvon as a person with the right to be afraid in that situation.

Those who are protesting are asking the question ‘Why would a person, armed with a loaded gun, who chose to get out of his car and follow someone on foot, have reason to fear for his life from a person armed with only his fists?

As we are now almost three weeks post-verdict, many of the questions in my head have focused on how we address the systemic issues of this case:

  • Would the police have made an arrest sooner if the race of the victim and perpetrator had been reversed?
  • How can we do a better job at both impaneling juries with a wide range of perspectives and ensuring that they understand the laws that they are to apply?
  • How do we address the killing of thousands of young black men by gun violence every year?

In trying to look at the bigger picture, I hoped to relieve the sadness I feel for Trayvon Martin’s family and friends, but these bigger questions are even harder to answer.

Finally, yesterday, as I listened to a group of people talk about the importance of getting to know your neighbors, it occurred to me that George Zimmerman and Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s dad, were neighbors.  How might this situation have turned out differently if George Zimmerman had known Tracy Martin, had known Mr. Martin’s son?  Would Trayvon be alive today?

In his testimony before a Congressional Caucus, Tracy Martin said “his legacy will be Trayvon helped bridge the gap of America.” Each of us can contribute to that by getting to know the people who live in our neighborhoods on a first name basis. Understandably, we all define neighborhood differently, but let’s remember Trayvon by getting to know our neighbors, especially if we perceive them as being different from ourselves.


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Arthurine Walker

As Vice President at Campaign Consultation, Inc., I work on new business development, external affairs, and project management. My personal passion and professional goal has been to address issues of social and economic inequity and I’m pleased that my work with Campaign Consultation has allowed me to do that. I am a skilled trainer and facilitator with 25 years of professional experience; my work has been focused on community organizing and development through strategic action planning; organizational capacity building; marketing, outreach, and communications; and program management and replication. Read more.

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