That hoodie, Skittles, and iced tea are back in the limelight as a Port Canaveral police sergeant and firearms instructor was fired this week for possessing shooting targets with the likeness of Trayvon Martin. Sgt. Ron King was fired this week after an internal investigation revealed that he had offered the paper targets to others for practice.
Given the wide ranging and often frustrating reactions to this case from the beginning, including the specific racist overtones that have emerged about the hoodie alone, one cannot be surprised that somebody thought the idea of having shooting targets resembling Trayvon would be a good idea. However, the fact that a uniformed member of the police force would feel confident enough to first purchase, and then publicly display the targets intended for use is a clear example of the incomplete nature of race relations and sensitivity training in modern America.
The paper targets, that surfaced online last year shortly after the incident, are black and white images of a faceless person wearing a hoodie and holding an iced tea in the right hand with a bag of Skittles peaking through from the right pocket. This is the description of Trayvon Martin that neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman called in to 911 before stepping out and confronting Martin and shooting him on February 26, 2012.
Port Canaveral Interim Chief Executive Officer John Walsh described Sgt. King's behavior as either coming from "hatred or stupidity, [and] none is tolerable" when discussing King's termination from the Port Canaveral Police Department. Fellow officers who saw Sgt. King's shooting targets reported him to the department, prompting the investigation and consequent termination.
The Martin family issued a statement through their lawyer Benjamin L. Crump, summarizing common sense sentiment that, "using a dead child’s image as target practice is reprehensible." King is trying to make his case that he agrees. In a video posted to YouTube on Sunday, King defends himself by saying that his intent for the shooting targets was to use them as an example of "no-shoot" scenarios while training his students. Saying that he is being used as the scapegoat for "political agendas" of the Port Canaveral Police Department.
This story is about to become national news as the court case against Zimmerman continues on June 10, as has every single aspect of this case because of the lack of dialgoue surrounding these issues. That might seem like an underestimation but given the rise of self-expression through the internet using social media, it is clear how many people continue to harbor ignorance and latent (or not so latent) racism in this country.
We tend to pay attention to the loudest and most absurd, but events like this are to remind us the that majority of the people are like King, exhibiting a racist ignorance common in our cultural reality and acting as a consequent victim of the ignorance.