veronica hendrix

Veronica Hendrix

Let’s be clear.

Trayvon Martin, 17, was struck down in cold blood in Sanford, Florida armed with nothing but a bag of Skittles and a bottle of ice tea. This makes you sink your head in your hands and moan “Lord, God what’s the world coming to?”

It doesn’t matter where he was; he’s free to move about the country.

Last time I checked, Jim Crow laws hadn’t been reinstituted and movement among African Americans is no longer legally restricted.

But sadly for African American males, it remains a hostile America.

In his Washington Post commentary entitled “Under ‘suspicion’: The killing of Trayvon Martin,” editorial board member Jonathan Capehart said it best:

“One of the burdens of being a black male is carrying the heavy weight of other people’s suspicions. One minute you’re going about your life, the next you could be pleading for it, if you’re lucky. And far too many aren’t. That’s why the Feb. 26 killing of Trayvon Martin has black parents around the country clutching their sons a little closer.”

If they [black males] look “out of context” they must be up to criminal activity. This is more often than not the prevailing assumption; hence they get stopped, questioned, searched and yes shot to death because something is wrong with the picture they are discovered in – against a landscape they’ve been deemed not to fit in because of the color of their skin.

That was the perception and belief of 28-year-old George Zimmerman – the lone, self appointed, neighborhood watch captain who took the life of young Trayvon.

He literally zeroed in on the young man on that ill-fated evening. Trayvon happened to be on his way to a relative’s home in the gated community Zimmerman was patrolling after leaving the neighborhood 7-Eleven to purchase candy and an ice tea drink.  Accounts of Zimmerman’s laser-like pursuit of Trayvon seemed rabid, as if he were hunting the child like prey.  He honed in on the child with the precision of a heat-seeking missile because he felted Trayvon looked   suspicious wearing his hoodie, “like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something,” according to the 911 transcript of Zimmerman’s account.

When the 911 officer asked Zimmerman if he was following the youth he said yes and he was implicitly told, “We don’t need you to do that.”

Yet he persisted, making the child more anxious, nervous and scared.  We know what happened next, Zimmerman approached the youth, exchanged insolent words and accusations.  What happens next appears to be a shuffle of some sort, then Zimmerman discharged a fatal shot from his concealed Kel -Tek 9mm semi-automatic pistol striking Trayvon in the chest leaving a family, community and nation to morn. Yes a semi-automatic pistol – unbelievable.

It seemed like a clear cut case of murder that warranted the immediate arrest and subsequent prosecution of Zimmerman. But it turns out it wasn’t that clear cut and an arrest didn’t happen.

He remains free shielded by an obscure Florida law passed by their legislature in 2005 which enacts a principle called “Stand your ground.”

The statute states that a “person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” The statue also provides “immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action” when a person uses deadly force under these conditions.

Zimmerman immediately claimed he discharged his weapon in self defense because he felt threatened even though he aggressively pursued Trayvon and blatantly ignored the directive of law enforcement.  And Trayvon is not here to defend himself so it’s essential Zimmerman’s word against, well no one.

You think Zimmerman knew the bounds law? You betcha. Under the “Stand your ground” defense he acted as law enforcement officer, judge, jury and executioner – actions all protected under the Florida law. Others have too in the sunshine state. And it shouldn’t be surprising that since the law was enacted justifiable homicides have tripled. Vigilante justice seems to have found a haven.

God willing, not for long. Public outrage about the killing of Trayvon fueled by a frenetic social media campaign has underscored the abuse of this law so much so that Florida legislators are calling for the law to either be appealed or amended because of the tragic consequences it has wrought.  Now a Florida Grand Jury will be called into session on April 10, 2012 to investigate the murder and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI will conduct an investigation too. But it took nearly a month after the murder for any further action to be taken.

This delay has been reprehensible as is the fact that Zimmerman remains free to move about the country. The overall consensus is that this entire case has been a gross misinterpretation of the law and someone needs to be held accountable.  The bottom line is that Florida’s “shoot now and sort it all out later” statute simply can’t continue be a cloak to shield non-law-abiding citizens and lone ranger vigilantes.

The story of Trayvon Martin will unarguably be one of the greatest tragedies of this year. The journey to justice in this case is fraught with inexplicable injustices that defy all logic and reasoning.

I’d like to share a tweet from @ PEACUVMIND of Dallas Texas that was actually retweeted by CNN Contributor Roland Martin:

PEACUVMIND@rolandsmartin I am joining my neighborhood watch assoc. I never considered it before, but if my diversity helps save a kid, I’m in.#Trayvon

Well said PEACUVMIND. We should all be in.

Veronica Hendrix is a syndicated columnist and feature writer whose work has covered the span of the human continuum – from clinical trials of male contraceptives, to the gang violence. She is the owner of Bromont Avenue Foods. She is the author of “Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning Heart Healthy Recipes.” Visit http://bromontavefoods.com for more information.  For comments, interviews, speaking engagements or moderator requests please send an email to [email protected].