Could Trayvon Have Prevented His Own Death?
To argue whether or not George Zimmerman is guilty or innocent seems futile at this point. Our judiciary system has spoken, and we as citizens of this country need to accept that. Now it is time for us to examine what we can take away from this trial to make our society a better place and what we can take away to improve the quality of life for our sons and daughters. As the co-parent to a young black male, I understood immediately after the verdict was read that I needed to have a talk with my son. No, I am not going to tell him that he should be leery of all white people like my father taught me. But I am going to talk to him about what to do if he feels he is being followed by anyone African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, young or old. In my opinion, there were several missed opportunities by Martin to perhaps save his own life, and I want to make sure that my son doesn't make the same mistakes.
I wonder if Martin had run home, back to the store or to the closest house if he would still be here today? Rachel Jeantel, Martin's friend who was on the phone with him when he was approached by or approached Zimmerman, said that when he told her that he was being followed by 'a creepy cracker' she suggested that he run. Martin refused. The reality is that boys of all ages and races are taught to stand up to challenges and adversities. They are taught that a man faces down danger and that a punk, wimp or coward dodges it. Perhaps we are sending our sons the wrong message. Maybe we need to be teaching them that avoiding confrontation is often times the real measurement of a real man.
I wonder if Martin had used his voice if he would still be with us today? In any self-defense class, one of the greatest tools that a person is asked to use is his voice. When you believe you are in danger, you should yell to the top of your lungs. Some argue that is was Trayvon's voice on the recording yelling for help. Others argue that it was Zimmerman. Either way, at that point the altercation had already begun. What if before it escalated to that point, say when Martin observed Zimmerman following him, he began to yell for help? Those phone calls from concerned neighbors, if dialed minutes earlier, could have potentially saved his life.
I wonder if Martin had gotten off the phone with his friend and called the police instead if he would still be here with us today? Just like Zimmerman, Martin had the ability to contact the police and notify them that he was in danger. The difference is that Zimmerman used technology to his benefit and Martin did not. Perhaps multiple calls coming from the same area could have prompted and expedited response. Perhaps having a dispatcher on the phone giving him instructions could have altered the course of events.
Today, as we travel home from vacation, I will be talking to my son about the stereotypes that he will potentially face. He will be made to understand that these stereotypes are not only held by those of different races, but he may find himself being judged by his own people based on the stereotypes. I will instruct him on how to present himself, conduct himself, and perhaps even save himself if he finds himself in a potentially dangerous situation. That talk will go something like this, 'If you are ever walking the dog, walking from school, walking in the mall and find yourself being followed scream like a girl, run like hell, and dial 911.'