Last updated on May 30th, 2014 at 12:12 pm
After self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman was acquitted in the wrongful death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, his brother, Robert, Jr., tweeted: “Today, I’m proud to be an American.”
I am proud to be an American every day. But the knowledge that it is apparently possible to get away with killing someone without punishment is not a contributing factor to my love of country.
On NPR’s website, one of the early top-rated comments included: “One thing I don’t understand is what was the young man supposed to do when approached by an armed guy on the side of he [sic] road? Black, White, whatever—if a guy with no obvious authority stops anybody on the side of the road in an accusatory manner, exactly what could they say to put them at ease? (emphasis added).”
“As the prosecution summarized, it’s any child’s worst nightmare (or any person, really): walking home alone, in the dark and being followed. How many television shows, movies and books begin this way? The creepy music starts. The tension is palpable. Something bad is about to happen.”
As first described by American physiologist Walter Cannon in the 1920s, such conditions cause the human body to mobilize its resources to deal with threatening circumstances. It’s called the flight-or-fight response.
We know from witness Rachel Jeantel’s testimony that Martin tried the former, flight, but that didn’t work.
The two individuals, civilian adult and minor, came face-to-face. What was Martin to do? According to Florida law, the Zimmerman family and their attorneys, Martin’s only alleged defensible position was to become victim to his pursuer. A successful self-defense by Martin was apparently out of the question.
The Zimmerman family would understandably rather have their loved one survive.
In his 2012 interview with Sean Hannity, Zimmerman seemed to have no remorse about setting off the chain of events that culminated with him killing a child. He does not regret getting out of his car. He does not regret taking his gun with him. He does not regret pulling the trigger. He believes it was all part of “God’s plan.” Perhaps that’s why he didn’t call 911 and ask for medical assistance as Martin lay dying for up to 10 minutes.
According to defense attorney Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman will spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. If true, he at least won’t have further opportunity to act as an angel of the god he believes wanted him to take a life.
Zimmerman’s delusions aside, it is difficult to believe Florida’s various defense laws are intended to afford so little protection to potential crime victims. The precedent established here is concerning. How this will play out for other young people deemed out of place in the future is worrisome.
Kids should be able to go to convenience stores, walk in the rain, talk on the phone and wear hooded sweatshirts as long as doing so is lawful and parentally approved. They should be expected to return home alive from such excursions.
Kids should also be able to flee from “creepy” men or, that failing, have leave to effectively protect themselves when so accosted.
What is more, grown men who kill kids through the consequences of their own actions should be held accountable.
As Tina Tuner sang in that Mad Max movie: “We don’t need another hero.” We certainly don’t need any more George Zimmermans.
Florida needs to re-examine and correct its laws before these patterns of behavior get out of hand, or else this country will find itself undeserving of anyone’s pride on any day.
(Djana Milton, a member of the Project 21 Black leadership network, is a software engineer, product of Catholic schools and is a classically trained musician, pilot, and former athlete. Comments may be sent to however, the views are those of the author, and not necessary those of Project 21.