Let Trayvon Martin’s death be a catalyst for change

Here we go again…crowds are hitting the streets with rocks and rants of protest against the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder.

The underdogs are shouting for an equal playing field.

The big dogs are shaking their heads and shrugging their shoulders because the standing state law, backed by the NRA and other gun enthusiasts, supports the decision.

Frustrated, frightened and angry people are behaving badly all over the country in the name of Trayvon Martin and the media is stoking the fire.

Black folks are shouting about racism.

White folks are on the defensive trying to either explain their fear of black boys in hoodies or prove their innocence of such knee-jerk racial profiling.

But the problem here isn’t black and white.

Most of us from both races are shouting foul about the verdict that let Zimmerman have his gun, his freedom and his swagger back while the mother of a dead 17 year old boy cries herself to sleep at night.

But the verdict isn’t the problem, either.

In fact, the verdict is an example of our system of justice at work.

A jury reviewed the evidence, examined the law and then followed it to the letter.

In our country, which is still a pretty great place despite its glaringly obvious flaws, a person is presumed innocent until he is proven guilty, beyond any reasonable doubt, of violating the law.

The question put to the jurors wasn’t if Zimmerman was a racist. It wasn’t who was a better quality of person – though both parties had their dirty laundry aired in order to stir the fear pot on both sides.

It wasn’t even if Zimmerman deserved to be punished.

The question was whether or not he violated the law when he shot and killed Trayvon.

In Florida – he did not. The law says if you are afraid for your life you can use lethal force. There is no caveat for whether or not you created the situation.

I served for jury duty here in Baltimore. The defendant was a black man facing his third strike on a drugs and weapons charge. He was guilty. The evidence was irrefutable.

But every person on the jury liked the guy. We all understood that what he was doing wrong was the result of his background, his living conditions, his lack of education and advantage and, yes, his poor choices but he wasn’t actively hurting anyone but himself.

None of us wanted him to go to jail for any serious length of time. We sat in that room for two days stressing over it.

We weren’t talking about is guilt or innocence but how we could get him out of the consequences of our harsh, expensive and ineffective three strike rule.

We couldn’t.  I don’t know how long he was sentenced for but I know that I hated the verdict that we had to send down to the bailiff.

The problem with what happened to Trayvon Martin is not the fact that the jury acquitted Zimmerman in his murder.

The problem here is the law, itself, which the jury was duty-bound to uphold.

The law allows an individual to feel bold enough to follow and to confront a “suspicious” looking character.

The initial law, commonly referred to as the Castle Doctrine, was established long before we colonized in America.

It essentially states that a “man’s home is his castle” and that if someone should intrude in a person’s home with the intent to do harm then the person can do whatever is necessary to stop the intruder without legal or civil consequence.

I think most of us feel that this law is reasonable.  It was established under English Law in the 17th century but there is mention of the concept in the Bible and the Torah, too.

So there is a long precedent to argue the point that, in a civilized society, boundaries are necessary and a person’s home should be a safety zone from the madness of the world.

Sometime in the 80’s, there was an adaptation to the law known as Stand your Ground. The key distinctions to this law are that a person feeling threatened has no obligation to retreat and the threat can be perceived anywhere that a person is legally allowed to be.

There was a time when police and parents and community representatives taught us that if someone was acting in an intimidating or unreasonable way we should walk away from them to avoid escalating the situation and we should contact the authorities.

But avoiding confrontation is out of fashion.

We have popular reality shows depicting bitch fights in every area of life. We have musical celebrities getting famous not for their mediocre talent but for their thug like behavior.  Even cooking shows won’t air unless there is some element of in-your-face hostility involved.

And now, in at least 22 states of this great nation, the law encourages us to stand our ground rather than avoiding a fight. It promises that if things get ugly we can always use our weapons.

I don’t believe Zimmerman woke up that morning thinking he was going to kill someone.

He was a concerned citizen getting involved and trying to solve the problems that face all our neighborhoods.

If I stretch, I can imagine he might have been trying to help Trayvon. Stay with me here. If he did suspect that Trayvon was a kid in trouble he might have wanted to stop him as a sort of intervention. I know I have done that a time or two.

I can’t make a judgment about what happened because I don’t know for sure. I wasn’t there. Any judgment I make will be based on my own bias and isn’t that what we’re mad at Zimmerman for doing?

I do believe Zimmerman genuinely thought he was keeping the streets safe from the criminals that have been plaguing the community.

I also believe that Trayvon was not one of those criminals and that Zimmerman did not give him the benefit of the doubt that all people deserve.

As a result he got his ass kicked and Trayvon is now dead.

If Zimmerman wasn’t fully aware of the fact that he had a loaded gun in his possession, I imagine he would have made much different choices when he saw a young black boy that, in his own personally biased opinion, didn’t belong in “his” neighborhood.

He would not have been so bold as to ignore the instruction of the real officers of the law who told him to stay in his car. He would not have been so brave as to intrude upon this kid and cause Trayvon to lash out.

And now, he feels righteous and exonerated. He believes God planned for him to gun down a seventeen year old boy.

Well I don’t believe in that kind of God.

I don’t believe in the kind of justice system that condones territorial machismo and encourages us to respond to our fears with violence.

The rash of gun violence in Baltimore could all be explained away with this Stand your Ground rule if Maryland allowed that adaptation to the Castle Doctrine.

Thankfully, we don’t.

But the states that do are sending a message to all of our disenfranchised youth about the value of certain people’s life.

That message will have wide reaching consequences like the one that was imposed on Trayvon and his family.

And now, outraged citizens are taking to the streets to clamor about how unfair it all is.

Let me say this about that:

I believe that racism still exists. I believe that our system has poison in it and that poison needs to be extracted for all of our sakes.

I believe that our punitive system is dysfunctional and failing.

But, if racism is getting worse in this country, it’s not because the system is set up the way it is. It’s getting worse because we, collectively, do not know how to respond to and diffuse a threat.

We point fingers. We complain. We fight. We shoot people. And our system stays the same.

We need to come together – all of the people who don’t want to live in a world that looks like Thunder dome – and we need to extract the poison from our system of government that keeps some of us at higher risk than others.

Poor people think they can’t do anything about it because they have no money or power. But I keep saying that people are like dollar bills. If you get enough of them together you can generate more influence than you ever dreamed.

According to Forbes, the reason the Gun Control lobby failed is not because of politics or racism or anything like that. They failed because they didn’t have enough passionate volunteers standing up and making their case.

The death of Trayvon Martin can be a catalyst for violence, increased racial tension, and any number of other hurtful things but that would be a terrible tribute.

Instead, let’s make it a catalyst for organization, mobilization and positive growth for this country.

As the saying goes, we need to make the hate motivate.

We need to go up against the NRA and gun lobbyists to change these laws that only serve a few privileged, short sighted, individuals at the risk and expense of the rest of us.

When they try to intimidate us into giving up we need to gather together and stand our ground.

36 thoughts on “Let Trayvon Martin’s death be a catalyst for change

  • Nancy Murray
    July 20, 2013 at 12:41 AM

    And I’m done. I do appreciate the folks who chimed in. While the comments were insulting my intelligence, making assumptions about me that weren’t even close, and slinging some pretty intense fear and loathing, each comment helped me to hone my own thinking in a way that I believe was helpful. So thank you! I hope you feel safe in your neighborhoods and that your kids can walk down the street without anyone following them. Next week my blog will be about an art show or something. Whew!

  • July 19, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    “Most of us from both races are shouting foul”. You truly are an idiot, Nancy. Change your focus as you do not have a future in creative writing.

    • Nancy Murray
      July 19, 2013 at 3:15 PM

      Do you have a counter point of do you just want to spit on someone who thinks there may me more common ground than we think?. (Note: I may be wrong there)

      • July 19, 2013 at 4:38 PM

        Then perhaps you can learn from some of the comments posted. Did you write the article to make friends or placate? Or did you write what you believe to be a fair representation of this mess in FL?

        • Nancy Murray
          July 19, 2013 at 6:33 PM

          I wrote the article because I am wrestling with how I feel. I had knee jerk reactions based on my own personal experiences and I know that those reaction have nothing to do with what happened in Florida. I wasn’t there. I also wrote the article because I think we have an imbalanced justice system that is making matters worse for those of us who are trying not to be racist and afraid. I was hoping to get comments I could learn from but all I learned is that there are some seriously aggressive haters out there who don’t want to think about the whole picture or to work together to improve things but who just want the right to be angry and reactionary and racist and call people names.

  • July 19, 2013 at 4:08 AM

    Another fool that thinks civilized people should cower in their homes and let the criminals rule the streets.

    • Nancy Murray
      July 19, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      Or by a person (perhaps a fool) who thinks people might be able to diffuse a situation if they were not encourage to respond to fear with violence.

      • July 19, 2013 at 4:30 PM

        Diffuse? Those that are doing the shooting do not have to skills to diffuse and reason. This is how many of them live. Perhaps another gov’t program? How about the deterrent of an actual prison sentence?

        • Nancy Murray
          July 19, 2013 at 6:33 PM

          For what should Trayvon have been sent to prison? Buying skittles? Or for fighting the stranger with a gun who was following him? Perhaps for winning the fight? Or are you saying other people who are committing actual crimes should be going to prison. Yes. I agree. They should go to prison if they are committing actual crimes.

          • Nancy Murray
            July 19, 2013 at 11:15 PM

            and I must add that the person “doing the shooting” in this particular instance was Zimmerman – not Martin. So – by your point I will assume that you think Zimmerman should have an actual prison sentence. I kind of feel the same about that but I accept the verdict and will focus my energy elsewhere.

          • July 20, 2013 at 8:50 AM

            Allow me to clarify: if GZ committed a crime then he should be punished. The jury saw through the absurd prosecution and understood how clear it was that he fired in defense of his life and should be released. And of course you feel GZ should be locked up. Your position in your article was based on that view.
            That is why a minority of Americans agree with you.

          • July 20, 2013 at 8:45 AM

            1st of all, if the Sheriff in that county didn’t try to mask crimes committed by students as not really crimes but an infraction to be dealt with in school, TM might be alive. Don’t be silly about the skittles part. When TM accosted GZ, he was unaware there was a gun, so no need to include that to be dramatic. And your position as a journalist would benefit society more if you pointed out how violent offenders do not serve long prison sentences for their crimes, are able to plea bargain down and are let out to ply their trade once more.

  • July 19, 2013 at 3:28 AM

    Partisan hack.

    How about we do call for change. Let’s call for teenagers not to attack people anymore.

    • Nancy Murray
      July 19, 2013 at 3:05 PM

      Partisan??? Huh. I agree with the second part. Let’s make that call. So now we know what we both want. Next Question – what do we have control of? Having guns and killing kids won’t make it so that kids don’t attack people. So what would need to happen for teenagers not to attack people?

      • July 19, 2013 at 4:32 PM

        Uhhhh, try the new concept of actual punishing them. No silly juve detention or treating violent offenders with kid gloves. Try that concept for awhile and get back to me.

        • Nancy Murray
          July 19, 2013 at 6:33 PM

          Yes, punishing crime is necessary
          . I would like to see it done in a more balanced way then it is in some states. But, more then that I would love to see people from all races coming together to try to figure out how to help kids not become angry, hopeless aggressors. When they start out, at least in my opinion, they are just kids. For the record, I am a single white woman who lives in Baltimore City so I understand the fears and the problems. I just don’t think killing on more killing is going to make anything better. If anything, it’s making it worse.

      • July 19, 2013 at 7:08 PM

        Education and better parenting. I know a lot of teenagers that wouldn’t just attack someone for following them. Most teenagers I know who are scared of someone following them would run.

        Of course we can’t control everyone, and some people will just attack people and try to hurt them. So I’m very glad we have the natural right to carry weapons to protect ourselves.

        And actually, guns are a deterrent to attacks and crime .

        • Nancy Murray
          July 19, 2013 at 11:08 PM

          Oh I agree that education and better parenting are key. Have you seen the schools in Baltimore City? They are not conducive to learning. Better parenting? Again – agreed!! But as a mother who didn’t have the best roll models I can tell you that being a “good” parent when you didn’t have one isn’t as easy as it sounds. Especially if there is no help or support. (No I’m not talking about welfare so don’t go there) Do you have kids? If so, maybe you know what I’m talking about. Either way–there are a lot of kids out there that don’t have good parents or the best of schools. We can’t shoot them all! Most of them are trying very hard to transcend their circumstances. Unfortunately, its the ones that are spewing their anger and fear that are making a problem for the rest of them. As far as guns deterring crime – I haven’t seen that happening in the streets of Baltimore. The more guns there are – the worse it seems to get out here. I think I will study up on the stats there.
          Thanks for your response.

          • July 19, 2013 at 11:18 PM

            //But as a mother who didn’t have the best roll models I can tell you that being a “good” parent when you didn’t have one isn’t as easy as it sounds

            I agree. It pervades a culture. Doesn’t mean we need to ruin other parts of the culture. Fix it, don’t spread it.

            //there are a lot of kids out there that don’t have good parents or the best of schools. We can’t shoot them all!

            No one is advocating shooting anyone just for being ignorant. But one doesn’t have to be a Rhodes scholar to understand that you can’t attack people. And if someone is attacked, they have the right, nay, the duty to protect themselves. Thank God we are allowed to do so with effective weapons in this nation.

            //Most of them are trying very hard to transcend their circumstances.

            Not if they’re attacking people they’re not.

            //As far as guns deterring crime – I haven’t seen that happening in the streets of Baltimore.

            That’s because your dumb state doesn’t allow most normal citizens to carry weapons. Only the elite few are given the may issue conceal carry license in Maryland.

          • Nancy Murray
            July 20, 2013 at 12:18 AM

            “Fix it, don’t spread it.”

            Who are you talking to when you say this? The children with no role models? How, exactly can they possible do that? Me? I’m trying to by talking about it with people who call me names and say I’m an idiot just for trying. You? No. I didn’t think so.

            “But one doesn’t have to be a Rhodes scholar to understand that you can’t attack people.”

            And yet, you say that if you feel threatened you can shoot people.

            I put it to you that Trayvon Martin most surely felt threatened when he realized that some guy in an SUV was following him at night. It would have scared the crap out of me and I can’t say what I would have done if that man then got out of the SUV and came up on me.

            “Not if they’re attacking people they’re not.” (trying to transcend)

            So – do you know exactly what happened between Zimmerman and Martin? You keep saying Attack as if Martin was lying in wait for Zimmerman. Let’s not forget – he was buying skittles. I do not know what transpired between them when Zimmerman got out of his truck and approached Martin. Do you? I don’t think it’s unheard of for boys or men to get into fights. It happens a lot. Did Trayvon have any record for violent offenses? Did Zimmerman? For all I know Martin is the one who felt attacked and was defending himself with everything he had. Zimmerman was not attacked. He was beaten when he challenged a person who had every right to be doing what he was doing. Is fighting the answer? No. No it’s not but since I’m not sure what happened I can not make a judgment about it except to say that if Zimmerman had NOT gotten out of that car and confronted that boy, if he had listened to the instructions of the police then that 17 year old boy would have reached his destination and gone on with his life. He can’t now. He’s dead. I believe that the stand your ground law is responsible for emboldening people to create confrontations because they feel protected by the pistol in their pockets and the law that says they don’t have to avoid trouble. I would like the law to say – Carry your gun if it makes you feel safer. Just don’t go looking for trouble with it.

  • July 19, 2013 at 2:58 AM

    I do not see why SYG laws are being associated with Travon/Zimmerman case. We all had the ability to follow the case and there was no claim that SYG was part of the case. The SYG did not apply since Zimmerman was on the ground with a much stronger person holding and beating him when the self-defense event started. There was no way that Zimmerman could retreat. So, any discussion of SYG is just an indication of no knowledge of the case when applying to Travon/Zimmerman.

    • Nancy Murray
      July 19, 2013 at 3:11 PM

      I believe that the stand your ground is what made Zimmerman feel bold enough to start a confrontation. Without that and a gun in his back pocket he might not have gotten out of the car and a kid would not have ended up dead.

      • Nancy Murray
        July 19, 2013 at 3:12 PM

        NOTE: I am not saying no gun…I am saying no Stand Your Ground. Violence and confrontation should be a last resort. Not a leading option.

        • July 19, 2013 at 4:33 PM

          Traygone had no problem using his confrontation and sucker punch assault skills to handle the situation.

          • Nancy Murray
            July 19, 2013 at 6:32 PM

            Trayvon responded with violence. If he were my kid I would have encouraged him to walk away from the creepy guy in the SUV with a gun that was following him and to call the police. Unfortunately, there are those in the black community who have good reason to think the police are not really going to help them. It’s a problem.

            Also, when I was 17 I made a lot of mistakes in judgment. I am glad I didn’t get shot for them.

          • July 19, 2013 at 9:57 PM

            Not sure why you feel the need to say, “in the SUV with a gun”. TM didn’t know GZ had a gun. Obvious bias there. And I doubt that the thought of the police not helping TM ever crossed his mind, unconsciously or not. The mistakes most people make at 17 usually don’t revolve around sucker punching adults and bashing their head against the concrete. And at 17, TM was already experienced in stealing (jewelry, watches, etc) which was discovered when he was caught vandalizing. I won’t mention the pot stuff as many 17yr olds have gone that route.

          • Nancy Murray
            July 19, 2013 at 10:39 PM

            ok you’re right. My saying “in the suv with a gun” is totally bias! I have kids (young adults now) and the idea of some guy following them is really scary to me so didn’t realize I was playing that up. Thank you for pointing it out to me. It’s so easy for people who want to be fair and balanced to lead with their own personal bias. This is why Stand your Ground is so dangerous. As for TM stealing and fighting and smoking pot – those are some serious ways that kids get in trouble these days. I know I was guilty of all that when I was a kid. It really doesn’t matter any more than GZ’s gun, though, does it because GZ didn’t know anything about TM except that he was walking at night in his neighborhood which every American citizen has a right to do. He did the right thing to call the cops and report his suspicions. He did the wrong thing when he ignored the cops instructions and pursued that kid. Whatever happened after that is the direct result of that action.

          • July 20, 2013 at 8:40 AM

            What are you trying to say when you state, “…which every American has a right to do.” and “he did the right thing by reporting his suspicions”? You are making conflicting statements. As for SYG, it was not even used in GZ’s defense.

  • July 18, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    What a drooling, moronic article by a ‘creative’ writer that has zero knowledge of what she speaks. There are roving bands of black ‘youth’ seeking out and beating white/Hispanic people every summer across America. Blacks are INCREDIBLY racist, and feel they have a right to ‘beat down’ any non black which ‘disrespects’ them, which can mean anything, or many times the violence is just for fun. There are web pages where they post videos of the beat-downs and brag about them. The author very likely lives in an insulated, safe world where she can foist her anti self defense fantasies on others from the comfort of her cozy sun-room. She can speed by ‘those’ areas where she wouldn’t last ten minutes on foot without being accosted.

    Blacks, with the help of democrats, broke their culture badly. Blacks need to fix same, without the help of the liberals who put them in the position they are in.They are not the children that the condescending liberals treat them as. They need to shake off the liberal/government grip and get their own house in order.

    Murray believes the ‘solution’ is to the problem is to disarm those that are being attacked…. which can be likened to curing a puncture wound by pulling off the scab. Nancy Murray is just another in a long line of racists who believes that she has the answers for ‘those’ people. Her fear and loathing of blacks cause he to project the same hate on others where it does not exist.

    My family will not wind up defenseless because of Nancy Murray’s problems. Her cause is not noble one, it is a smokescreen to hide the true Nancy. It’s all an act to her, but it gets people killed daily on the streets.

    • Nancy Murray
      July 19, 2013 at 3:16 PM

      This post was made by someone hiding behind a profile for a make pretend person.

      • July 19, 2013 at 4:28 PM

        How do you know and who cares? It was succinct, informative and accurate, unlike the article.

        • Nancy Murray
          July 19, 2013 at 6:39 PM

          It’s actually not. I live in Baltimore city and I don’t have a sun room. I only drool when I’m asleep on a plane. I live in Baltimore city so I have first hand knowledge of the roving gangs of black kids beating people up. I also have personally been attacked by a gang of white kids. I said nothing about disarming. I said avoid confrontation. There is a difference.

  • July 18, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    Ah, another confused screed by the Society of Friends of the Department of Pre-crime, written by someone who can’t decide if Zimmerman is arrogant, lucky, stupid or a concerned citizen. Why do the little details matter when ALL YOU WANT ARE THE GUNS.

    • Nancy Murray
      July 19, 2013 at 3:20 PM

      Rest assured- I don’t want your guns.

      • Nancy Murray
        July 19, 2013 at 11:19 PM

        Oh – and it’s not that I can’t decide. It’s that I do not know and I can only imagine what was in Zimmerman’s head when he ignored the police and approached Martin. It’s all any of us can do so for anyone to claim they KNOW what happened would be irresponsible and false. What I was doing in my post was considering other possibilities so that I might not rush to judgments that could get someone else hurt.

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