DO SOMETHING! (A RALLYING CRY)
You shot him over some music? - Lucia McBath, Mother of 17-year old, murdered Florida teen, Jordan Russell Davis
Last year during Winston-Salem State University’s Spring break, I decided to venture over to the beautiful O’Kelly Library on WSSU’s campus to take advantage of the quiet since most of the students were away visiting their families, road trip’ing, catching up on school work they’d been shirking off all semester, catching up on sleep, working to make extra money like many college students have to do over Spring break or doing whatever college students do these days when they have a week off from attending classes.
I used the computers in the O’Kelly Library for a few hours to do some writing and spoke with one of the technical assistants there who had signed me up as a guest community patron. I told him that I was working on a piece about the popularity of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) basketball tournaments versus the popularity of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Association (MEAC) basketball tournaments that has yet to be published. I conducted an impromptu interview with the young man who gave me a wealth of information that I intend to share by blog one day when my merry-go-round of a life settles, stops for a minute to allow me to get off and board an even gentler ride. (TY, Justin!)
After I was done in the library I ventured over to the Ram Shack Food Court of the Thompson Center for some nourishment. I don’t remember exactly what I had for lunch that day but I ordered my food from one of the many national chain vendors that are located in the Food Court (when did this happen to on-campus dining? In my day, there was the dining hall and vending machines!). I sat down near a gentleman who was about my age. I assumed that he was an instructor on campus and after introductions and niceties; we began to converse about the recent Trayvon Martin murder in Florida and Stand Your Ground Law.
My lunch partner was an IT guy in business for himself. In a former life, I, myself, had obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Business concentrated in Information Systems. We seemed to share much in common, had a nice conversation, exchanged contact information and promised to keep in touch. I informed this man, as I do everyone to whom I selectively share my contact information, that I am a sister living on a seriously small budget. I carry a Tracfone with limited voice minutes and that if he wished to get in touch with me, that he should text me or email me and not telephone me as a primary means of contact. Telephone calls are $1.00 per minute and text messaging is $0.30 per minute. (You do the math!) As most men do, because they do not listen, this man called me almost daily, several times a day, for several weeks. I would respond to his calls with a text message reiterating that I cannot accept telephone calls because they reduce my voicemail minutes that I try to save for emergency family situations.
Perhaps he’d finally gotten the message and understood that I was serious about my telephone situation. A few weeks later, he sent me a text message inviting me to lunch. “Sure,” I texted him back; always eager for a meal that I didn’t have to shop for, prepare, or clean up after. I texted him back indicating that I didn’t have any cash on me and that I didn’t think my unemployment benefits had been deposited into my checking account for the week and that I would need to go by the bank and check my bank balance. His text reply was that the meal was on him.
We then met on the campus of Forsyth Technical Community College and decided to go have lunch downtown Winston-Salem at Meta’s, a soul food buffet-style restaurant. Before leaving for Meta’s, I checked my bank balance and lo and behold, there was actually money in my account. I withdrew some cash and we proceeded to Meta’s.
Long story short, Meta’s lunch special offered an entrée and two vegetables. I love vegetables and ordered an entrée and four side veggies (I know right) - adding an additional charge to the regular lunch special price, so I offered to pay for my meal because I at this point, my lunch tab had gone above and beyond the normal cost of lunch that I am sure he had anticipated.
“Sure you can pay for your meal,” he acquiesced and began to hunt for his money or credit/debit card. As MY luck would have it, he explained that he didn’t have any money on him and asked if I would mind paying for both meals and he would reimburse me in a couple of weeks.
“No problem,’ I responded skeptically. I paid for two meals, we parted company and I have never seen him again to this day.
I’ve not seen him but I did send him a text message a few weeks later after I’d treated him to lunch requesting my portion of his meal be returned as he promised.
“I paid for my meal and you paid for your meal!” he texted me back.
“I need my money back!” I texted him.
I was really angry at this point because as some of you may know, ten dollars can seem like one million dollars when you don’t have any money and I wanted my ten dollars back.
“I’ll need to see a receipt showing that you paid for both meals,” I texted him.
“Go to Meta’s and you get the receipt,” he replied by text,” and you are never to contact me again.”
Little did he know that he was actually doing me a favor by demanding that I never contact him again; however I was ANGRY!
So I texted him again, “Would you mind driving me down to Florida? I don’t need to go very far into Florida - just across the state line would be just fine. Just beyond the ‘Welcome to Florida, The Sunshine State’ sign.”
This man immediately understood my meaning and realized that I was quite angry. My meaning and intentions were immediately clear to him as we had discussed the Trayvon Martin case and the Stand Your Ground law at length over the course of our two lunches together.
There seems to have been a lack of forethought when the Florida legislators passed this law. If one feels threatened; one can load, lock, shoot and kill without repercussions. The threat I communicated to my lunch companion may be stretching the situation somewhat, but what if this law eventually brings our justice system to this point? Won’t some smart Alan Shore* type of attorney be able to stretch the limits of this law and argue that the law exonerates anyone from punishment as long as it can be proven that a defendant felt threatened enough to load, lock, shoot and kill because of a perceived threat.
The Stand Your Ground law states that a person may justifiably use force in self-defense when there is a reasonable belief of an unlawful threat, without obligation to retreat first. Does wearing a hoodie and/or appearing to be “out of place” like Trayvon Martin who was killed last February, constitute a reasonable threat? Would this threat be justification enough for someone to load, lock, shoot and kill? Does playing one’s music too loudly as was the case with Jordan Russell Davis who was murdered this past November, the day after Thanksgiving, constitute a reasonable threat? Does sagging pants or any style of clothing, hairstyle, or physical characteristic or arbitrary locale pose a reasonable threat to anyone who wishes to demonize young Black males, load, lock, shoot and kill?
Stand Your Ground is an evil law and must be repealed. More than half the states in the United States have adopted the Castle Doctrine which is a predecessor to Stand Your Ground law. The Castle Doctrine states that a person has no duty to retreat when defending their homes. The Stand Your Ground law requires no duty to retreat and takes the Castle Doctrine one step further and states that a person has no duty to retreat regardless of their location - even outside of their home.
Roy Wilkins, former Executive director of the NAACP once said…”Let us use every tool at our disposal, and every hand on deck. Black and white, young and old.” Or in the words of the Kimberly Elise character from the movie “John Q” as she pleaded with the Denzel Washington character, “DO SOMETHING!”
We all need to DO SOMETHING! We are in a state of emergency. Open season has been proclaimed on the lives of young Black males. Stand Your Ground laws are frequently criticized and are referred to as “Shoot First” laws by critics including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence according to MSNBC news. Other groups, including the Families Against Mandatory Minimums, have expressed concern that self-defense laws are applied unevenly implying a racist element to the application of this law. My mind tends towards the extreme and I see a modern-day Eugenics society being borne out of this law. If the powers that be think you aren’t good enough for this society – perhaps the chronically unemployed, felons, drug addicts, homeless, chronically ill, disabled, elderly or whomever society deems dispensable – an excuse for a perceived threat may be invented and then load, lock, shoot and kill. Yes, it could happen – eventually.
Another law that our government has passed that I find troublesome because of the unforeseen consequences when the law was passed – with all good intentions, I’m sure - are the No Child Left Behind laws that are currently in place in our school systems. No Child Left Behind is supposed to improve the educational system by measuring teacher effectiveness; however teachers and schools receive a financial incentive when students pass standardized tests. When little Jaheim is falling behind in the classroom academically and needs a bit more attention and/or if Little Jaheim is misbehaving in the classroom and needs more attention and is possibly distracting other students, Little Jaheim is eventually expelled from school because Little Jaheim is going to jeopardize the teacher’s pay or the school’s funding because student scores are tied to teachers’ pay. No one saw this potential deleterious side effect of No Child Left Behind on the horizon when this law was passed. No one saw the school-to-prison pipeline that has been created in urban schools. One only has to look at school suspension/expulsion rates to see whom this law is negatively affecting.
Community activists, drug counselors and the like sounded the trumpets years ago when crack cocaine began to decimate the Black community. Few people heard the rallying cry because crack only affected the poor Black communities years ago. Today, crack cocaine has permeated almost every community and ruined the lives of people from all areas of the socio-economic spectrum.
Gay rights groups sounded the trumpets in the early eighties pleading for help with that “disease” that was mysteriously killing young, white homosexual men. Again, we all turned our heads, closed our eyes and ears because that was “their” problem – a homosexual problem and now middle-aged, Black, heterosexual females have the highest rates of contracting HIV/AIDS and are dying from HIV/AIDS at a rate faster than any other demographic.
We can no longer continue to close our eyes, ears and hearts to “their” problems. History has time and time again turned “their” problem into “our” problem. This time we have the opportunity to “nip it in the bud” as Barney Fife would say. Actually, the bud has already sprouted and is vegetating. Too many innocent victims are losing lives. We need modifications of gun control laws including more thorough background checks and psychological testing. I am one of those chronically unemployed persons who trudges around to libraries to complete job applications. Many of these applications require a psychological assessment that takes up to an hour to complete in addition to completing the online application, submitting a resume and coverletters. These applications are designed by psychologists. Similar questions worded differently are asked several times throughout the assessment. This is done to ensure consistency of answers and to detect any psychological deficiencies. Could similar tests not be implemented universally throughout the states to determine mental suitability of one who intends to purchase a firearm?
We need to have Stand Your Gun Laws repealed in those states where this law is included in state statues. We all need to DO SOMETHING to support. DO SOMETHING!
Sponsor fundraisers in your community and donate proceeds to The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence or the Justice for Trayvon Martin Foundation. Car washes, plate sales, dances, parties, skating, bowling, golfing, basketball games, yard sales, bake sales, auction bachelors/bachelorettes, etc. There are a myriad of ideas we can implement to raise money for a good cause to support the families of these slain teens and to support those organizations working to repeal this irresponsible law.
Currently Stand Your Ground Law is bad for young, Black males and eventually Stand Your Ground Law will prove to be bad for humanity. DO SOMETHING!
The Trayvon Martin Foundation website is: http://justicetm.org/
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence website is: http://www.bradycampaign.org/.
*Alan Shore is a fictional attorney played by James Spader in the legal drama, Boston Legal which aired on ABC network from 2004 to 2008 and now airs on TV Land.