The criticism and character assassination of Trayvon Martin are coming from those that can only identify with George Zimmerman’s side of the gun.
People wonder why Americans focus on the expanding nuances and implications of race in the Trayvon Martin case. Yes, there are other tragic and senseless murders that have been perpetrated recently, such as the horrible murders of two British students in Florida that failed to get presidential or media attention. However, between the arrests, trials, and convictions in cases such as the aforementioned and the lack thereof in this race-explosive Martin case, a clear contrast exists. That contrast highlights the confluence of race and perception in today’s America.
Yet, because of what is seen as an opportunistic dichotomy enacted on the part of so-called “race baiters” including the Reverend Al Sharpton and even President Obama, some social conservatives and non-minority observers have taken to the blogosphere with explanations and theories that place Trayvon in a poor light. Suggestions abound that, perhaps, without the hoodie, without the resistance to Zimmerman, or without a questionable teen-age background, Martin would be alive today.
Those people have a right to free speech, but I have grown tired of hearing it all. The blogosphere is full of these – from Joe Oliver on how Trayvon would not have been shot if he just complied with the volunteer watchman to Internet-aided anonymous writers and others that Trayvon was a thug that prompted this. These “theories” are being written by people that will never know what it is like to be a Black man on the wrong side of a loaded gun being held by an unknown White man with a hundred-pound advantage. This all happens while you are simply minding your own business.
After seeing Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin at the GameChangers365 event Wednesday, it clicked that few know what Trayvon may have thought and faced when confronted by George Zimmerman. Yet I have an idea, based on what happened to me on May 21, 2001.
There are only two options: resist or comply with a stranger with a gun. Those believing simple compliance would have spared Trayvon’s life obviously have no idea about the complexity of this particular situation. As a Black man in that predicament (especially as the burden of proof still rests on Black men regardless of the situation), does one resist or comply when no other facts are available in the heat of the moment?
In my case, I actually did both.
I initially fought with my assailant before recalling what a close family member went through as a shooting victim. Unable to wrestle the gun away, I stopped fighting and “complied.”
That led to me being handcuffed, blind-folded, and bound at my hands and feet. Afterwards, the assailant told me he was there to kill me. Then, he attempted to bash my head in with a 45-pound dumbbell. He missed by what felt like inches from my left ear. After a brief conversation with his accomplice (and a lot of prayer on my part), the assailant eventually changed his mind – from killing me on the spot and dumping me in the trunk of my car to sparing my life.
This was after complying.
Even if Trayvon did fight for his life with an unknown, unofficial, and unannounced stranger with clear physical advantages, how could he have had any idea that the alternative being suggested now – “compliance” with Zimmerman – may have yielded a less tragic result, particularly in an era of the James Byrd and Jackson, MS killings? How can we think this “merely” centers on racial stereotyping, not racial hatred, considering the inconsistencies we see in this case?
Trayvon’s memory is now under attack. Because of the complexities of race relations, explosive rhetoric on both sides escalates, with a notable increase in character attacks on Martin. Because of God’s grace, I survived and have been able to defend myself against the same line of attacks.
Was I on drugs? I never tried weed, coke, or any other drugs – ever. Anyone who knows my dad knows he would have taken me to the woodshed if I ever tried drugs – probably would still to this day. And I’ve never had a beer in my life or engaged in illegal gambling.
Was I where I didn’t belong? No. It happened on the balcony in front of my front door. It was in a safe neighborhood, according to statistics. And I didn’t have Skittles – just some black bean burgers on the stove for dinner as the (mostly) strict vegetarian eater that I have been for years. I wasn’t wearing a hoodie. I have no tattoos.
Questions about my demeanor, or if I attacked this guy first, or if I “had it coming to me” can be answered by me today because of God’s grace. Sadly, Trayvon doesn’t have that opportunity. Those slamming Trayvon’s character posthumously are both unkind to continue baseless suggestions or character smears. Most people that have defended Zimmerman or merely fail to understand the racial components of the shooting itself – much less the handling of the case by the Sanford Police Department – have no idea as to the confusion, fear, and historical weight that comes into one’s mind as a young Black man on the wrong end of a gun – especially one held by an unknown White man.
Based on American history and today’s society, the Black participant in this dynamic has little control. Obviously, the person with the gun does, but when that person is White, he generally also controls the presumption of innocence should a scuffle or a “he-said, she-said” dynamic occur. People that cannot see this– especially those that would never be on the wrong end of the gun barrel in this scenario – have an obligation, at the very least, to control their judgmental and misguided theories. We can only hope that they do so if they are unwilling or incapable of getting a grasp on the racial complexities still plaguing – and crippling – our nation today.
LENNY MCALLISTER is a senior contributor to Politic365 that can be found every Saturday with Democratic pundit Maria Cardona on “CNN Saturday Morning” at 10:30 AM Eastern (9:30 Central / 7:30 Pacific.) He is regularly featured on CNN’s “Early Start” weekdays 5:00 AM – 7:00 AM Eastern and CNN Newsroom at 12:30 PM Eastern. Hear “The McAllister Minute” on the American Urban Radio Network each week and catch the radio show “Get Right with Lenny McAllister” live on LMGILIVE.com at 11 AM Eastern weekdays and re-broadcast on Politic365.