As I mentioned a few days ago, I think Geraldo Rivera did the people a America a big favor when he went on FOX News and said that Trayvon Martin deserved some of the blame for having been murdered, seeing as how he chose to wear a hooded sweatshirt, “like a gangster.” In doing that, Gerlado gave us all a way in which we could, without much effort, and without putting ourselves in danger, show our support for Trayvon Martin’s family, and illustrate our desire to see justice served in this horrific case. He provided us with a symbol to rally around. No matter who we were, all we had to do was wear a hoodie, and the meaning would be immediately known. And, this weekend, social media sites were bursting with images of harmless old people, adorable kids, sports teams, and college students in hoodies, asking if they, like the unarmed, 17 year old Trayvon, also deserved to be shot. Well, it looks as though the movement has finally reached Ypsilanti. I just received the following invitation from a friend, and it looks as though people will be lining Michigan Avenue tomorrow at 6:00 PM, wearing their hoodies in memory of Trayvon. If you should happen to be driving by, please honk. Or, better yet, join us.
I should add that I’m not suggesting, in any way, that walking around in a hoodie is, in and of itself, a sufficient response to what what happened in Florida. I’m not suggesting that people should walk around for a few minutes, then go back home to watch reality television, feeling as though they’d just taken part in the modern equivalent of the Montgomery bus boycott. This is admittedly a small thing, but, if I can speak for the organizers, it isn’t meant to trivialize the important issues at stake. This is simply neighbors getting together to demonstrate to those driving by that we care, that we’re paying attention, and that there’s a growing community of like-minded people out there, even in small towns like Ypsilanti, Michigan. And, in my opinion, anything that get strangers out of their houses and apartments, talking about human rights, and the future of our country, is a good thing. And, while it’s true that this may be a small gesture, as least it’s something. At least it’s better than going home, flopping down on the couch, and turning on the television.
I’d also like to say something about the story coming out of Orlando today that Martin was the aggressor, attacking Zimmerman. (The police claim to have a witness that says Martin, at some point during the altercation, was on top of Zimmerman, beating him.) In the minds of some, this changes everything. From my perspective, it doesn’t change a thing. We still have a young man, who, to my knowledge, had not broken any laws, when an overzealous want-to-be cop, armed with a gun, headed after him, against the explicit instructions of a police dispatcher, saying, “These guys always get away.” Granted, we still don’t know everything that transpired, but, judging from what we do know, I’d be hard pressed to assign blame to Martin for attempting to defend himself against the armed man that was stocking him. (Wasn’t Martin simply defending himself under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law?) And, whatever the facts were, I think there’s a broader discussion to be had, and I think that’s why this case is resonating so strongly with people. Not only does it touch on race, but it also brings into sharp focus the fact that we now live in a low-tax world where more and more of us are getting guns to protect ourselves, and those with the means to do so are moving into gated communities, policed by poorly-trained private security forces. This isn’t just about race, this is about fear, taxes, and the kind of world that we want to live in.