Dear Editor Wilcox,
I hope you will print my reaction to your column “Stop Playing the Race Card”. First, I want to make a correction in regard to your comment about President Obama. You write that Obama states “If he had a son, he would want him to be just like Trayvon (Martin)”. What he actually said was if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin. There is a significant difference in the meaning of what you report in your column and Obama’s actual words. This is especially pertinent because I did not feel your portrayal of Trayvon was very positive.
I understand the feelings of the black community after this trial. There has been a long history of slavery, discrimination,poverty, lynchings, distrust and hurt right up until fairly recent times. You don’t easily erase that. When an incident like this happens, it brings it all up again. Think of the parallel with the war veteran who has flashbacks years later about his war traumas. It is not so dissimilar. And, I believe, these continual traumas can be inter-generational.
Some of the other concerns I have with your editorial are:
•”…Zimmerman was tried by a jury of his peers…” yet none of those peers included an African-American. It is hard for me to see how you can have 5 Caucasians and 1 Hispanic on a jury without including at least one African American. A jury should be representative of the diversity of the people in both the local community and on the trial itself and it wasn’t. The local community is 30% black and 20% Hispanic. Yet, 5 of 6 jurors were white females.
• I agree that Zimmerman was guilty of poor judgment. Had he not set the ball in motion, none of this would have occurred. And, had he not had a gun on his person in the first place, I doubt he would have had the courage to“set that ball in motion”. However,I don’t hear people talking about “the gun”. But, the gun was the cause of death for Trayvon. And, unfortunately, it gave Mr.Zimmerman the false courage to initiate the whole unfortunate sequence of events.
• “To call him (Trayvon) a child is ridiculous”. No, it is not. He was legally an developmentally a teen and still a minor child at just turned 17 years. He was not an adult.
All current research says the human brain is not fully developed emotionally or in terms of judgment until almost age 25 years. Yes, I know. That is long past the legal age of adulthood. But, Trayvon was much under this age anyway. You can’t expect a young person to use the judgment of an adult. Young people DO experiment, can be impulsive, they take more risks and often feel invincible. It is the nature of youth. I would expect the higher standard to be held of Mr. Zimmerman who was over a decade older and a man fully grown.
Sources I have read state Trayvon was 5’11” (5” shorter than you state) and 158 pounds. Nor was he a drop-out. He was a junior in high school and an A and B student. Trayvon had been suspended 3 times from school—once for tardiness and truancy, once for graffiti and once for having a marijuana pipe and “empty bag with residue”. Hardly a hardened criminal, but fairly typical teenage stuff.
•Frankly, were I a “just turned” 17 year old and being followed on a dark and rainy night by an unfamiliar man I’d be panicked. I have no doubt a “fight or flight”instinct would take over. I doubt Trayvon even thought about the possibility that Mr. Zimmerman might have a gun–much less that he might use it. And what do we parents tell our kids when they are in imminent danger? Often it is either “run” or“fight”.
Were I a black parent with a teenage son in Florida—or anywhere in the United States for that matter—I would be very worried. I only wish I knew what to do about it. This letter is my attempt to speak up and say, “I get it”. And I have a very different viewpoint than your column’s. I think the jury made the wrong decision. I can’t change that. But, I can speak my mind.
A number of years ago in Boston (my adopted home town) a white man (Charles Stuart) shot and killed his pregnant wife. He then shot himself in the leg as a cover up and blamed it on a black “assailant”. For days, the hunt was on to catch the perpetrator. No one questioned history. Eventually, it did unravel and he committed suicide by jumping off the Tobin Bridge. The whole affair was tragic from beginning to end. Saddest of all were his wife’s parents, left behind to mourn the death of their daughter and grandson at the hands of their own son-in-law. On top of that, African-Americans in Boston were seething at being wrongly accused without question.
I’ll never forget what happened next. Mr. and Mrs. DiMaiti, the wife’s parents, did the one unexpected thing that truly began the healing process for everyone. They played the race card the only way it should be played—in honor of their lost loved ones, they set up the Carole DiMaiti Stuart foundation which awards scholarship aid to Mission Hill residents (a mostly black neighborhood and from the area where Carole was shot by—as it turned out– her own husband) and to fund activities involving the amelioration of racism and violence in Boston.
Sometimes it takes an apology,forgiveness and an act of grace to begin the healing for everyone. I’m still waiting and hoping for that to happen this time.