On the drizzling night of Feb. 26, in Sanford, Fla., Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African-American, was wearing a hoodie while walking to his father’s fiancee’s house in the Twin Lakes gated community. He had just been to a nearby convenience store where he purchased Skittles and an ice tea. Within an hour he would be shot dead by George Zimmerman, 28, a neighborhood watch captain. (Whatever that means.)
After the shooting Zimmerman was taken into custody but not arrested because he claimed self-defense. This, despite Martin being completely unarmed. (Unless you count Skittles as a potentially lethal weapon.) So, to put things in perspective, the woman who threw flour at Kim Kardashian was arrested immediately. However, the man who killed Trayvon Martin is still free.
On Wednesday a police video was released. Zimmerman is seen arriving in a police cruiser and gets out of the car with his hands cuffed behind his back. He’s clean-shaven and shows no bruises to back up his story that Trayvon had broken his nose and slammed his head into the ground. The police released Zimmerman saying “There was no proof it wasn’t self-defense.” On the face of it, that sounds absurd.
Speaking of absurd, recently Geraldo Rivera, appeared on “Fox and Friends” TV show with a “different take” on the tragedy. “The hoodie was as much responsible for Trayvon’s death as was George Zimmerman,” Geraldo opined. “If Trayvon didn’t have that hoodie on, that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn’t have responded in that violent and aggressive way.” (“Nutty?” Jerry Lewis was nutty, Zimmerman killed someone.)
Geraldo went on to say that hoodies, when worn by African-American and Latino youths, are “menacing.” Hopefully he was well-meaning, but frankly, I couldn’t believe my ears. The hosts of “Fox and Friends” were squirming in their seats as though they couldn’t believe theirs either.
Following Geraldo’s logic, if a woman were sexually assaulted and wearing a short skirt, she’d be as much responsible as her attacker. I don’t think even Geraldo would say that, but for ratings and attention who knows.
Geraldo added that when his boys were growing up he often lectured them not to wear hoodies or “gansta” clothing. It’s worth noting that the next day, his oldest son tweeted that he was never more ashamed of his father’s comments. Ouch.
And over the years, Geraldo has pulled some stunts to be ashamed of, including his live international telecast of the opening of Al Capone’s secret vault in April of 1986. Geraldo was hoping there would be evidence of major crimes inside, even dead bodies. But as the vault was opened there were only some empty gin bottles and an old stop sign. Did that mark the end of Geraldo’s career? Hardly. The show got such high ratings that it launched Geraldo’s talk show career. Only in America.
Back to poor Trayvon. I can just hear people insisting that George Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty. And certainly that’s true. But that he wasn’t arrested is nonetheless mind-boggling. Imagine for a moment that the man with the gun was black and the dead boy was white. Does anyone realistically think that the black man wouldn’t be arrested?
Zimmerman’s 911 call is particularly telling. When the police dispatcher asks Zimmerman “Are you following him?” and the answer is yes, the dispatcher tells him “we don’t need you to do that.” There’s a pause and you can hear Zimmerman reluctantly say, “OK.”
But right before that exchange, you hear Zimmerman mumble under his breath, “These a**holes, they always get away.” Moments later we understand who the “they” is when we he adds, “f***ing coons.” (Listen for yourself http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNI5CA5jijw)
For me, the Travon Martin tragedy is proof that racism is still alive and sick in America. It’s also another example of gun violence. But whenever I write about gun control I get critical e-mails from the NRA crowd and those on the left who think without guns private citizens are vulnerable to governmental oppression. The example often given is that Hitler’s regime imposed severe gun control.
Personally I’m an advocate of the Brady Campaign for sensible gun control laws. For example, until Jan. 1, it was legal in California for citizens to carry their guns in public. Legislation is pending in Sacramento — AB 1527 — to stop open-carry of rifles and shotguns.
For Suzanne Verge, born and raised in Santa Monica, the Trayvon Martin tragedy is particularly painful. In 1978, her 18-year-old brother was murdered with a handgun. Susanne is president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Brady Campaign.
Will Trayvon’s family ever get justice? The Color of Change website has collected over 1,500,000 signatures demanding a Department of Justice investigation. So there is hope, which, quite frankly, is more than I can say for Geraldo.
To stop open carry of rifles go to http://www.bradycampaign.org. To demand justice for Trayvon Martin go to http://www.colorofchange.org. To never have to see Geraldo on TV again, go to … just kidding about that one.
Jack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.