The following is a presentation I made at the Trayvon Martin Vigil, in Salisbury, MD, on 7/13/13. The Vigil was organized locally by April Jackson, and was running concurrently with the nationwide Vigil.
Thank you, April Jackson, for allowing me to say a few words today, at a time when we are all mourning the senseless and unprovoked death of Trayvon Martin, and we cannot understand why there is no punishment for his killer. I have been a civil rights activist, attorney and community organizer, for over 40 years; yes, I am one of those “old white men” we hear so much about in the news media. But, I am also “an old white man” who stands in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in the African-American community, who are still the target of outrageous and unjust comments, actions and persecution, even in 2013!
“Get over it!”, says Harris.
“GET OVER IT!” The other morning, I was reading The Daily Times, when my jaw dropped, figuratively and literally, as I read these words…the response of our Congressman, Andy Harris, to the Zimmerman verdict. “Get over it!”
This was something I might have told my son when I was coaching Little League baseball and we lost a game: “Get over it, son; it’s just a game and you did your best, which is all you can do.”
Or, perhaps something the Nazis said, after gassing 8 million Jews, gypsies, blacks, gays, disabled and other “undesirables”…”sich aufrappeln” – German, for Get over it!
As I tried to digest that statement, along with Harris’ use of the word, “political”, in describing why the Justice Dept was considering Federal charges against Zimmerman, I became outraged by his insensitivity and his refusal to acknowledge the emotional pain of millions of Americans.
I, like you, was bewildered by the prosecution’s failure to secure a guilty verdict. As a retired trial attorney, it was clear to me that Zimmerman failed to follow standard “Neighborhood Watch” protocol, which is to report any suspicious activity to the police, so they can follow up, and then stand down.
Instead, Zimmerman followed his own idea of what a Neighborhood Watch volunteer should do (he was not a member of any official NW group): “identify, target, pursue and confront. When he reported “suspicious activity” of an African-American youth, he was asked whether he was following the youth, to which he answered, “Yes, I am” and was then told, “We don’t need you to do that”; his response was, “ok”, according to his 911 transcript, and he was told that officers were being dispatched.
Martin – killed, based on “suspicions.”
Zimmerman – “Not guilty!”
Zimmerman’s injuries, and Martin’s death, are directly linked to his failure to follow the dispatcher’s directive. Instead, without legal authority, and in the face of obvious danger, he followed, approached, confronted and killed a young man who was not armed (contrary to the prosecutor’s assertion that Martin was “armed with the sidewalk”) and who had committed no crime.
These weren’t the actions of a hero or even a moral person; they were the actions of a bully vigilante, intent on pure retaliation, with impunity, against “those punks who get away with everything.”
Young black men don’t deserve to be profiled, targeted and killed, while walking home, enjoying a bag of Skittles and a bottle of juice or because a vigilante’s preconceived “suspicions” were used to justify his adrenaline rush.
Mr. Harris needs to apologize for his insensitivity; this wasn’t a Little League game! And Trayvon’s family will never ‘Get over it!’