Trayvon Martin was tailed by self appointed Neighborhood Watch captain, George Zimmerman because he looked suspicious, in a hoodie and a pair of jeans, head down, and hood up. Why? I’m not sure. A person with their hood up could be cold, or attempting to keep some part of themselves a little more dry than without the hood. A person with their hood up could just want a little privacy as they walk along, chatting on their Bluetooth enabled phone.
Since Trayvon was a teen, any of the above may have been the case. That didn’t make him dangerous, or even suspicious.
So, why the uproar? A few reasons: one, he’s dead. Two, he was deemed suspicious just because he was black. Does being black make one automatically suspect? I have trouble answering that question, having been treated as automatically suspect myself.
Unless you’re in the position that I, and millions of black men and women are in, it is extremely hard to understand, imagine, or feel when your every move is scrutinized for the hint of a threat, the shadow of intimidation.
A third reason- as the 911 audio and video have illustrated for us all, George Zimmerman’s intent was not to merely watch and report suspicious behavior. The 911 call illustrates that George Zimmerman did not co-operate with police, as Neighborhood Watch members usually do, and had no intention of co-operating with the police even as he made the call! He did not make mention of a citizen’s arrest, and I believe that Mr. Zimmerman felt justified in whatever action he took, since he notified the police of his suspicions.
A fourth reason- how the police department handled the initial possible arrest. Mr. Zimmerman had been taken into custody- but not charged with anything- supposedly because of “stand your ground”. Why? Again, not sure, the incident was in a public area, not a private home or business.
Here in Jacksonville, emotions are mixed. Race relations are a strange mélange of acceptance and checkered past. We now have a black mayor, and some neighborhoods are quiet. (There are issues in impoverished neighborhoods and those issues revolve around one color, money green.) Maybe the calming influence of the Navy has influenced them- maybe it’s just the passage of time.
While there are no hoodie marches, we do have the New Black Panther Party putting a bounty on George Zimmerman, ostensibly to bring him to justice, however, the very vocal nature of the New Black Panthers makes many nervous. This group behaves more like a paramilitary organization than the Black Panther Party created in Oakland California 44 years ago, which was just as well known for its social programs as it was for its militant acts.
The problem is- racism for a person of color in America is like a scenario described in my Psych 101 class- it sits over the head of a person of color and if ignored, the person of color is hit with it. However, if the person of color complains, he or she is hit with it anyway!