Trayvon Martin, A Story that is More than Facts, but Perhaps Less than Its Legend

When a young person’s life is extinguished, before it even has had a chance to unfold, it is truly tragic.  Not only for the family and friends of the young person, but for all of us as society has been cheated out of the gifts that this young life could have brought forth.  While the finality of death is always hard for mortals to fathom, we continuously try to make sense out of our loss, but we never quite get there…  When a life falls to violence, the loss is even more unfathomable.

Some of us express their loss in sadness; some in despair; some in depression; some in anger, and some in hatred.  Sometimes the loss is compounded by circumstances that dredge up thoughts of the past, thoughts of injustices, and thoughts of betrayal.  But it is incumbant on all of us to honor the loss of that life that has been taken from us and not allow that life to be dishonored by allowing it be hijacked and used for purposes that do not exalt that lost life.

From all accounts, Trayvon was a normal teen, with a girl friend, good student, and certainly loved by his family and friends.  As with most teens, he probably viewed life as an adventure that had not even begun to unfold and the best lay in front of him.  There is no doubt about one fact, the night of his death, he was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time whether it was fate or merely a random happenstance.  Trayvon was an African-American teenager.

The second player in the tragedy is George Zimmerman who is a 28-year-old who was born to a white father and a Peruvian mother.  He was brought up in a racially mixed home much like our President.  George was employed as an insurance underwriter and was attending college with dreams of becoming a police officer some day.  George was a volunteer for a neighborhood watch program and was licensed to carry a gun.  That night, George was patrolling his neighborhood when circumstances brought George and Trayvon face to face in a deadly confrontation. 

The awful truth is that we may never absolutely know what really happened that evening.  Much has been written about the events of that night that lead to the death of young Trayvon and the subsequent investigations, allegations, innuendo, blame, threats, and even about a bounty being put on Zimmerman’s head by the New Black Panther group.  But the only two people who actually knows what happened that night are Trayvon and George, but unfortunately Trayvon cannot tell his story.  That leaves us with the scene’s forensic evidence, 911 calls, neighbor accounts, and George’s account of that evening.  All of the background on the victim or the shooter will never tell us much about the actual events of that night.  The families of both individuals cannot unequivocably attest to what their son would or would not, or could or could not do under certain circumstances.   Fear and anger can cause individuals to act in ways that are totally outside of the norm for them. 

  • Did George act out of some macho motivation and pull a gun on Trayvon and shoot him knowing that he was not carrying a gun?
  • Did Trayvon fear what would happen to him as he was approached by George that night and went on the offensive and accosted George leading to a struggle for the weapon which discharged killing Trayvon?
  • Did George approach Trayvon with his weapon in hand then accidentally shoot Trayvon due to a perceived threat?

Several levels of law enforcement have not been able to conclusively deem Trayvon’s death to be a criminal act.  The Chief of Police of the City of Sanford investigated the case, then later resigned as well as  Norman Wolfinger who was a state attorney assigned to the case.  Another state attorney as well as the Justice Department and the FBI are continuing to investigate this tragedy.  With the Federal involvement this case has been elevated to a Civil Rights investigation.  At some point, a Grand Jury will hear what is known about the shooting and may well determine the outcome of this matter.  But, will the Grand Jury vote to indict Zimmerman out of fear of the public sentiment being promulgated by Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, the New Black Panther Party and others?  Or, will the Grand Jury vote not to indict Zimmerman and will that suffice for those protesting the handling of this case to date?  If the Grand Jury does not indict, will the Justice Department continue to investigate Zimmerman and perhaps local law enforcement for civil rights violations? 

What this case should not be able to do is pit White against Blacks, or Blacks against Hispanics.  It is understandable that there are outcries for justice but the justice in this case has to be for both Trayvon and George and their families.  Trayvon as the ultimate victim and George as a party to this incident.  Justice in this case is not a redress for slavery.  Justice in this case is not final absolution for every social injustice that every Black American has received at the hand of a Non Black American over the history of this country.  Nor should this case be about a cause that only serves to elevate a few self-serving individuals as the expense of fostering racial divide.

I would hope that we can all take a step back, say a prayer to God for a swift delivery of justice in this case, whatever that means, and spend more time treating each other like human beings rather than separate groups.  Further, that we reflect back on the life and death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who fell to his death because of what he was, an African American who spent his life seeking true racial equality to the point of color blindness.  He had a vision of this country that is not reflected in the way we are responding to this current tragedy.  We can only hope and pray that we can all know and accept the truth of what really happened that night.  We can’t bring Trayvon back but we can honor his death by honoring the rule of law that separates us from utter chaos and self-destruction…

RD Pierini



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