Opening statements for the Zimmerman trial began this morning, with prosecutor John Guy starting off with a quote from Zimmerman: "F*cking punks, these a**holes always get away." In a society where racial profiling has become an accepted norm, this case has the potential to change the way Americans think and approach these issues.
The Zimmerman case is about a 28-year-old neighborhood watchman who shot and killed a 17-year-old unarmed African American boy in "self defense." On the night of February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was on the phone with his girlfriend while walking home from the convenience store, minding his own business, when Zimmerman approached him as a "suspicious person." The only items Martin had on him were a soft drink, candy, a small amount of cash, and his cell phone. He was unarmed.
Thereafter, a series of altercations ensued, resulting in a lifeless Martin with no blood on his hands and a confession from Zimmerman.
While the specifics of what happened that night are still not 100% clear, here are the facts we can all agree on:
1. On the night of February 26, 2012, Zimmerman called his department's non-emergency line to report a "suspicious person," and officials instructed him not to get out of his car or approach.
2. Zimmerman got out of his car and approached Martin.
3. Martin was not acting in a suspicious way (he was walking home from the convenience store talking to his girlfriend on the phone).
4. Martin was not carrying anything suspicious (the only items he had on him at the time were a soft drink, candy, a small amount of cash, and his cell phone).
5. Martin was unarmed.
6. Martin was a 5'11", 158-lb minor.
7. Zimmerman was a 5'7", 185-lb adult man.
8. Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.
9. Officers did not find any blood on Martin's hands after his death.
Whenever I read about this case, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a boy around Martin's age a few years ago after he was arrested for loitering around a bus stop. He was with a group of friends waiting for the bus, and after a few buses had passed and they had not boarded any of them, a police officer approached them and asked them to leave the bus stop. When they refused, the officer arrested the boy but did not arrest any of his friends. When I asked him why the officers only arrested him and not his friends, he responded in a matter-of-fact way: "It's because I'm darker."
This conversation has stuck with me over the years because of the sad reality it opened my eyes to. A watchman's duty is to protect citizens from situations that he reasonably believes to be dangerous, based on the activities observed and not on the appearance of an individual. Here, the only activity Zimmerman observed was a young black male walking down the street talking on his cell phone; by this alone, it was completely unreasonable for Zimmerman to suspect any dangerous activity, let alone act upon it by approaching the boy and, under whatever circumstances, killing him.
It is for these reasons that I am writing this today, on the first day of the Zimmerman trial, in hopes that the outcome of this case can change the way Americans think and set a positive precedent for similar cases in the future. This is my tribute not only to Trayvon Martin but to the many young black males in our country for whom racial profiling has become the accepted and expected norm. I hope and pray that one day, you may find justice in our system.