Thursday, March 22, 2012

Teen's Death in Florida Shows that Divisions are Still Strong

I am sure that most, if not all, of you have heard about the shooting death of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida late last month.  As a quick recap, the teenager was walking through a gated community on the way to his dad's home, having just stopped at a local convenience store for some candy.  George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain in the area, deemed Martin to be suspicious for some reason and called 911.  Despite the dispatch office telling Zimmerman not to chase down Martin, he proceeded to provoke a confrontation.  What exactly happened in the next few minutes isn't totally clear, but it ended up with an unarmed young man dead.

George Zimmerman has not been charged with any crime, stating that he acted in self-defense, and the protests against the way law enforcement has handled this case are growing.  Crowds gathered in New York and Florida yesterday and online petitions have been circulating internationally in an effort to at least bring Zimmerman before a judge to explain his actions and to criticize police for their lack of thorough investigation at the scene of the crime and thereafter.

At the heart of the issue is the matter of race and the discussion of how young black males are viewed in our country.  Did George Zimmerman make assumptions about Trayvon Martin due to his skin color?  We can't say for sure.  Would the police department have handled this case differently if a white teenager had been shot?  Some are arguing that.  Is the furor that this case has caused coming to an end anytime soon?  Hardly.

While I realize that my works of fiction are hardly comparisons for real-life violence, the writer in me is drawn to events such as this one as they reveal how we interact with one another on the most basic level.  I explore issues of race and stereotyping in all of my books, and particularly in my third novel Tuey's Course I dig into the institutional power in government and how it deepens the racial and socioeconomic divide that exists in so many towns and cities throughout our country. 

I hope in this instance that the true timeline of what happened that night in Florida can be told and those who need to be accountable for their actions or inaction will be brought to light.  I also hope this becomes a moment that creates conversations that somehow help us in moving forward with how we look at and react to one another. 

1 comment:

Gerry Wendel said...

Don't know enough about the story to seriously comment here, however, the fact that the teen was unarmed and had a destination says a lot.

My heart goes out to the Martin family.