At 7:30 tonight myself and my two girls, Ever and Lola, were in Balboa Park by the fountain, holding candles and listening to speakers at a vigil for Trayvon Martin. There were maybe 200 give or take, a small gathering and a peaceful gathering, where the voices of the speakers, standing above us on the edge of the raised fountain, were alternatively furious and deeply sad, but always moving toward the cry for change.
My own opinion of the George Zimmerman trial has already been said in this piece here: The Tragedy Of Trayvon Martin, said very succinctly. After the vigil, on the car ride home, Lola and I talked the entire drive home about Trayvon's murder, about the history of slavery and racism, about how it affects the decisions that people in power make- lawyers, judges, legislators- about gun control. And although I've heard black people say 'this case isn't about gun control, it's about racism', and I respect the obvious reasons they would say that, I also believe that changing the gun laws changes the power of that racism. The ability to legally carry a concealed weapon and then intimidate someone who is doing no wrong and start a confrontation in which you end up killing someone to save your own life is a tool for racism to insert itself into our society in its most vile form: murder. Look at these statistics from Stop Concealed Carry Illinois:
- Crime has increased in states that allow people to carry concealed weapons.6
- In the past five years in 32 states that allow people to carry concealed weapons, people who were legally permitted to carry weapons shot more than 508 people. Fourteen of the victims were law enforcement officers, and 109 were killed in 23 mass-shooting incidents.
When the line between what is legal and what is just is so clearly drawn, we must take action. While Trayvon's murder may have been legalized by the state of Florida, it is wrong. I ask anyone who believes that justice has been carried out to imagine their child- let's say white- their white child has been murdered, unarmed, by a much larger, older and armed man who followed your son through the darkness at night as your son made his way home with some Skittles in his pocket. Let's even take a step farther and say that your child was the first to start a physical confrontation with this man, and was shot to death. When I- and I have, so many times- put Dakota in Trayvon's place, I can easily imagine Dakota turning to a man who has been scaring the shit out of him by following him in the dark and attacking that man. In fact, I'd call it standing his ground. I can imagine Dakota, full of terror- cortisol, testosterone, racing heart out of control- attacking this man as if his life depended on it, because I can imagine Dakota thinking that his life did. Do you think George Zimmerman pulled out a badge and said: ' Halt, I am the head of my Neighborhood Watch! '
My rage when I imagine my son shot through the heart because a fully grown man took it on himself to carry a gun and walk through the neighborhood and target my innocent son and scare him to the point where he attacks this man- my rage is huge. Not only does this scenario bring me, if I fully inhabit it, to tears, it fills me with fury. Of course this analogy falls apart here, because as a white person I don't have the cellular, historical experience of racism, and cannot truly understand what it's like to have my black son murdered and then a trial in which not a single juror is black. The final insult, to have no true legal recourse; because the state has legalized this man's behavior, this man who stalked and shot my terrified teenage kid. The only recourse I have is to sit through a trial that puts my son on trial more so than this man who shot him- my son, the kid who is like hundreds of thousands of other kids, and has smoked pot, bragged about fighting, gotten bad grades, my son who still had the entire future ahead of him to move into adulthood and one day look back and say half affectionately, half embarrassed, ' Man, I was such a dumb kid, ' a twinkle in his eye, because look at the man he is now. Trayvon will never have the chance to become more than seventeen years of life.
So I took my girls to this vigil, and we listened to the speeches, and we lit our candles, and bowed our heads and blew the candles out. Ever immediately sourced out the closest two year old child, and they played easily and happily together while the leaders spoke. That is the image I wish to hold onto, as I- we- move to create change.
Of note: National Sheriff's Association released this statement on Florida Neighborhood Watch