Forty years ago a friend was staying with me, and as we went by a “Neighborhood Watch” sign, he said, “I know what that means. It means, ‘We have no police.’” Today it appears to mean, “Armed vigilantes on patrol.” Woody Brock must wait for a day. I need to try to understand what happened to Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black 17-year-old whom a neighborhood watch captain shot and killed last month in Sanford, Florida.
Here is what I know:
- The young man’s death is a complete and needless tragedy, and a parent’s worst nightmare.
- Florida’s seven-year old “Stand Your Ground” law, which was pushed by the National Rifle Association and opposed by police groups, is an abomination – one that is in effect in 21 states and needs to be repealed in all of them.
- The police department’s response to the shooting is inexplicable.
- The New Black Panthers’ bounty offer of $10,000 for the capture of George Zimmerman is repellent.
Here is what I don’t know: What happened the evening of Feb. 26th that led to Martin’s death.
Here is what I fear: That we will never know and that justice will never be done.
Trayvon Martin’s death has become a cause in which the pressure to take sides has overpowered the search for truth – and the rush to either canonization or demonization has displaced the humanity of victim and shooter.
These days, it seems, if you want your voice to be heard, your mind must be closed.
And that, too, is a tragedy.