Trayvon Martin and the Village Park 7-Eleven

I am an adult resident of Encinitas. Those are two elements of my identity. 

My whiteness is another element of my identity, and I am reminded of it regularly. I would guess that for many coastal North County residents, Trayvon Martin’s experience with George Zimmerman and the experience of being black in America generally are abstractions, footnotes of someone else’s experience in a different America that has little to do with them.

I believe, and have thought for much of my life, that it isn’t necessary to share every aspect of another person’s identity to have a sense of their experience in the world. That is a hallmark of human intelligence and sensibility (e.g., empathy, sympathy, and compassion). I think this is true when it comes to understanding black America’s reaction to Trayvon Martin’s murder, and I also think it is true in the context of the African American experience.

These are some aspects that I think I understand about being black in America, whether it is Sanford, Fla. or Encinitas, Calif. When you grow up black in America, you assume a mantle of suspicion-by-association from the day you are born, against which you must prove yourself every day, repeatedly. Many people will assume that you are less: less intelligent, less capable, and less trustworthy. And you will have to achieve above and beyond white peers to remove the taint of suspicion that you don’t measure up.

If you are male, you will be particularly suspicious — guilty of BWB (breathing while black). As President Obama noted recently, he had the seemingly magical ability to make car doors lock and sidewalks clear just by walking down the street. I bet hailing a cab wasn’t a gimme either. He said that all of this only ended with his ascendance to the presidency. Black youth and men particularly face the burden of broad and deep societal prejudices that must make it hard at times simply to walk out the door.

Black Americans understand that white privilege is real. Many white Americans would have no idea what those two words mean. To be white in America is to be privileged from birth. Your orthodoxy as a citizen and human being are taken for granted because you are in the majority, your “people” have always held power in society, and they have had the opportunity to set the rules therein. There is no mantle of suspicion associated with a white skin. That skin is akin to a passport granting the user freedom of movement and peace of mind: freedom from fear and suspicion. My sense is that few African Americans feel either of those freedoms all the time and absolutely, while many white people assume them as natural law.

Trayvon Martin was shot on his way to his father’s fianceé’s residence where he was staying at the time, armed with an Arizona Iced Tea and a box of Skittles. He was shot to death 70 yards from the back door of that residence. He was walking home when George Zimmerman accosted him.

I know one thing about this incident: Trayvon Martin’s death was unnecessary, and speaks to the burden of blackness in America. I have a 13-year-old son. We live in a townhouse down the block from a 7-Eleven in Village Park. I know — know — that if my son goes down the block to buy a drink and snack, the police may see him, but they will not stop him; residents may note his presence but will go on about their business. Because of this, I don’t send my son out in the world every day with the fear that something he does, or says, or just the fact of his being will incite someone against him.

While I am glad that my son will grow up absent that mantle of suspicion, my gladness is tempered by my sense of the difficulties that African Americans live with every day. Each of us, by our actions, still bears responsibility to realize a more perfect union, and white Americans’ recognition of the privileges they enjoy set against the automatic challenges of blackness has to be an essential element in moving us toward that realization.

Joshua Lazerson is an Encinitas resident.

 

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  1. Jay Gold says:

    The problem has been the focus on irrelevant arguments – some of which are actually unsupported by the evidence.

    1. ‘GZ racially profiled TM’ There is no evidence of this.

    2. ‘GZ disobeyed an order by the police’ * The civilian dispatcher, Sean Noffke, testified that he did not give GZ an order and, in fact, he, like his fellow dispatchers, are trained not make comments that sound like commands. * Noffke also testified under cross that, as a result of his asking GZ which way TM was going, GZ could have reasonably interpreted this as being asked to follow Martin. * It is also not a crime in Florida to disregard a comment made by a civilian dispatcher.

    3. ‘GZ got out of his car’ Not a crime on public property and not negligent either.

    4. ‘GZ followed TM’ Again, anyone can follow anyone on a public street unless the followee has obtained a restraining order against the follower and even there, the RS only places time, place, and manner restrictions on the person enjoined.

    5. ‘GZ wasn’t really injured’ * Under Florida’s self-defense laws, one doesn’t have to be injured AT ALL to use deadly force * No one is required to refrain from defending himself while another is engaged in or attempting to commit a felony.

    6. ‘TM is dead through no fault of his own’ * If you believe that TM assaulted GZ, then he IS dead as a result of his own actions.

    7. ‘GZ could have left’ * Under Florida law, there is not a duty to withdraw rather than use deadly force * TM was straddling GZ so how the latter was supposed to leave the scene is unanswered.

    8. ‘GZ was armed and TM wasn’t’ * One’s fists can be considered weapons and can result in severe bodily harm or death. * GZ was legally carrying a weapon * There is no requirement under the law that the same weapon be used by the assailant * A homeowner can kill an intruder whether or not he has been threatened * Those that attack cannot feign surprise if they are met with superior firepower.

    9. ‘Stand Your Ground!’ * SYG is NOT at issue in this trial. * The defense is a classic self-defense case.

    10. ‘Black men NEVER get to use SYG!’ * Wrong http://tinyurl.com/nboht35

    11. ‘GZ is a man and TM was a boy!’ * As if ‘boys’ don’t commit murder, rape, and assault everyday in this country.

    Oh, btw, it was Arizona Watermelon drink and Skittles, not iced tea. Look it up. Those are two of the ingredients in Purple Drank or Lean, a drug of choice for young Trayvon.

    • Matt Carter says:

      The problem has been the focus on irrelevant arguments – some of which are actually unsupported by the evidence.

      Clearly you did not even read this piece. This isn’t an argument about whether GZ or TM was in the right…at all. You clearly think that GZ was in the right shooting TM, and he got off free. So why the need to constantly defend him in places where he’s not even being attacked? We get it…your guy won, let it go.

  2. Ells Fremont says:

    Try this

    Go visit a friend in a gated community. This confirms that you do not belong there to begin with.

    Then, at night when it gets dark and it is raining, wear a black hoodie, pull it up over your head,

    walk through other peoples’ properties (trespass)
    close to their houses, walk in between the short distance between houses,

    then beat (assault) the hell (aggravate) out a man that LIVES THERE, when he asks “What you are doing there”

    And see what happens to YOU?

  3. Anila Abhay says:

    These are just some of the hundreds of examples of violence and lawlessness in more than 80 cities around the country. There’s this book I have read, just google “White Girl Bleed a Lot” or this site http://whitegirlbleedalot.com/. It’s an epidemic of black mob violence.

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