by Franchesca Lane-Warren
All of us have lived in neighborhoods with over zealous neighbors who have made it their mission to protect the neighborhood. They hound their neighbors about unkept yards, delinquent HOA dues and sometimes even keep watch over our houses while families are on vacation. Many times me and my neighbors would occasionally laugh, groan or even have disagreements with “these” type of people. But up until two weeks ago I did not realize how dangerous people like George Zimmerman can be–especially if you are a young black male.
On the evening of February 26 in a gated community outside of Orlando, FL, an unarmed 17 year old, Trayvon Martin, was gunned down by a “self-appointed” Neighborhood Watch Captain, George Zimmerman. When I first heard this story, I only caught a brief news story about it but I kept going.
Yes, I was sad for the child’s parents but I did not want to dwell too long on it because I did not want to feel sad. I chalked it up to a “sign of the times” and kept it moving with the thought, “Surely this man would be punished for this crime.” I went to work and while researching something on the internet, the story kept “popping”up. Intrigued by all of the fuss, I decided to read the hundreds of articles about the case. The more I learned about the case, the more connected I felt to the injustice of this case. How does an adult kill a child and get away with it by simply claiming “self defense”? Why did the local police department botch so much early on in the investigation?
Then last night, I caught the interview with Trayvon’s parents. As I watched the interview I saw the utter anguish on his parent’s face. They lost achild because of prejudice, racism and fear of the unknown. The more I thought, the more I began to realize that this could of happened to my kid. There was NO difference in my child in Trayvon. None at all. I began to get angry and before I knew it I was crying while signing my name to the petition to put Trayvon Martin’s murderer in jail.
As I began to internalize the anger of his parents, the community I realized a very important fact- Trayvon Martin could have been my kid.
Trayvon Martin was just like many other kids I know. He was by all accounts a good kid. He never got into fights. He decided to go to a nearby store and pick up some snacks for his little brother. He decided to walk home from the store. He had a good relationships with his teachers. All in all, he was a “normal” child. As I stared at his picture for a couple of hours, I realized this was my kid.
So what went wrong? Did Trayvon get into some trouble? Was he somewhere he was not supposed to be? No, because of his skin color and choice of clothing, he was targeted as a criminal. At the moment Zimmerman confronted him, it did not matter Trayvon was not a criminal all that Zimmerman saw was a young, black male in a gated, mainly Caucasian neighborhood. Just like Martin, my son occasionally wears hoodies, sneakers and sometimes will walk to a friend’s house, so does that make him a criminal? Of course not, but for people like George Zimmerman this is enough to be “judge and jury” and commit a murder.
After the community fought to have the 911 tapes released, I realized something that was even more heartwrenching. Trayvon Martin was scared after being chased by this vigilante, Zimmerman, and he did want any normal person would do..he ran. As I racked my brain for what I would tell my son to do in the same situation, I realized I would tell my child to do the same thing–run for your life…run to safety. Instead Trayvon ran into a bullet. This time instead of crying, I began to get angrier and decided that I had to do something..but I was confused what to do.
Distraught, I woke my eleven year old son out of his bed, turned on the CNN and made him watch the interview. After watching the Martins cry, all my son could do was look at me with fear in his eyes, and he asked me, “Mom is that going to happen to me?” I looked at him and told him,”No, because we are not going to let this child’s death be in vain”. So we immediately decided that we had to do something—anything to feel like we could do anything. He agreed to talk to his classes at school about the injustices in this case, I decided to send out a blast to all of my blog followers and sign our names (again) on the petition. We want to go to the rally planned this Thursday but we are unable to attend but we continue with spreading the word to bring this killer, George Zimmerman, to justice.
As I continue to post Facebook statuses, watch the news, talk with my kids at my school about this case, I know in my heart that this killer will be brought to justice because the people have decided to MARCH, PROTEST and use our influence to send a message to people like Zimmerman and the PoliceDepartment that this behavior will not be tolerated. But as I type and protest, it does nothing to ease my pain, my concern…that this could have been my kid.