Black Man’s Burden

“…And if I die in Raleigh at least I will die free…”
-Old Crow Medicine Show

A black teenager, Trayvon Martin, is accosted while walking home. He is guilty of no crime, suspected of no crime. He has every reason to be where he is. He does, however, look “suspicious” to a mania-driven neighborhood “watchman” with a Rambo fantasy. (What exactly looked “suspicious” was never explained.) This gun-toting Good Neighbor, George Zimmerman, has decided there will be a confrontation if he has to instigate it himself. Zimmerman stalks the teen for ten minutes—in a car and then on foot—and shoots him square in the chest when Martin finally reacts. The killer is hailed a hero, the teen is relegated to the ranks of all the other “suspicious” black men we are lucky to be rid of. No harm, no foul.

And what about this good-hearted neighborhood watchman with such benevolent purity of intention? His history reveals a credible accusation by a relative of sexual abuse; documented domestic violence with an ex-fiancee; and documented harassment and racist taunts toward a former co-worker–who was so happy when Zimmerman left his job he threw a party. Zimmerman also has a record of battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.

We are asked to believe that a man of such demonstrably low character would then make the judicious decision that it was necessary to kill an unarmed teenager because of an “imminent threat.” It doesn’t pass the smell test.

The concept of legitimate self-defense has been turned on its head and is now a caricature of itself. In the Zimmerman case, it has morphed into the kind of lawlessness conservatives used to decry. This new paradigm permits one individual to forcibly engage another in a public venue—to restrain, intimidate, and harass him—until a physical altercation finally occurs and it becomes “necessary” to kill. This new paradigm manifestly declares,”You are not free. You must assent–or prove why you shouldn’t.”

Failure to comply is now a reason to be killed.

Anyone who professes to care about freedom should be mightily disturbed. Every presumption in this case was given to one side. Every benefit of the doubt was given to one man-the man throwing his weight around, the one intent on inciting a confrontation, the man who believed his superior status justified his aggression. Why? Because he unilaterally decided another another free citizen looked “suspicious.”  If you are not appalled, you should be.

In the Zimmerman school of constitutional law, looking “suspicious” is reason to suspend probable cause and get straight to the business of detaining another human being by force, just because you feel like it.  Even cops can’t lawfully do that.  And God forbid the person being harassed should react negatively in any significant way.  It may be the last thing he ever does.

Trayvon Martin was operating under a faulty presumption: that he had the same rights as any other law-abiding citizen. That he had the right to keep walking, to direct his own movement, to determine his own associations. That he had the right to defend his personal space against hostile intrusion. That he had autonomy over his own person, the right to refuse communication with an unidentified stranger without having to explain himself. That he had the autonomy we’re supposed to grant even tall, black teenagers wearing hoodies, or tattoed counterculturists with eight earrings in one ear, or anti-social old men in dirty shirts who just want to be left alone. He was wrong.

George Zimmerman is not behind bars, but he will never be free. Poetic justice for a man who, in his colossal hubris, appointed himself the last and final arbiter of another man’s liberties.

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2 Responses to Black Man’s Burden

  1. this is a nice Spin piece however lets examine Trayvon Thug Martin here for a second. In his own words Trayvon liked to fight, he was on team sports and wrote on his facebook he was upset he didn’t get to hurt the other guy more when he won a fight. he has a history of aggression as you can find with very little effort.

    the whole stalker thing. trayvon was an athlete he could cover distances very quickly and Zimmerman is a fat slow guy, they measured out the distance it would of taken for him to catch up with Trayvon and it just didn’t add up math wise. Trayvon should of been well out of the area before Zimmerman caught up with him however instead evidence points that trayvon circled back around for a confrontation.

    Now lets examine the innocent “skittles and Ice Tea’ thing. sounds innocent? wrong he was using it to along with other substances to make “Purple Drank” or lean. a drug to get high with and was found all within his system.

    for a more in detail account of it go here

    Trayvon fit the description perfectly of the person who was breaking into houses in the neighborhood and they found a few weeks prior in his locker at school burglary tools and stolen items which for whatever reason the police didn’t arrest him he was just suspended from school (not the 1st time he was suspended mind you)

    Trayvon wasn’t a shining example of what a black teen should be he was well on his way to thugdom and spending many years in prison

    • landocotton says:

      I appreciate your response. It is not spin; it is a perspective we should seriously consider. All your supposition about what Trayvon purportedly was, could have been, or might have been is not germaine to the night in question: He was committing no illegal act and was doing nothing to provoke the kind of treatment he got. Who or what came before him in the neighborhood, what Zimmerman thought criminals look like there had nothing to do with Trayvon. The only thing relevant is that, in that point in time, at that moment, Trayvon had all the rights you and I have not to be harassed or followed or intimidated. And I can’t say that if I were followed in the dark by a stranger for no ostensible reason, I would not have reacted similarly–with fear and perhaps a well-timed shove or blow. Thank you for your most civilized response.

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