Let me explain. I was in eighth grade when the LAPD officers who rained down living hell on Rodney King were acquitted. The black and white video images of white officers seemingly trying to beat the black off King had been playing over and over in my head for months, practically branding itself into my memory. I didn’t get how anyone could see that video and arrive at any different conclusion. When the officers walked, the message that was sent to me was: Black people don’t matter.
I remember the figurative heaviness descending upon my shoulders. I have to actively not think about the countless injustices against Black people in order not to have that feeling; or worse, the one every Black person has at the end of Roots. And that’s hard, because the names of harassed, brutalized and murdered Black men racks up quickly in America. I can run off a quick list of familiar names you might know without heading to Google: Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell and Abner Louima.
Martin is the latest addition to list of Black lives perceived not to matter, and unfortunately, he won’t be the last. These are the facts: he was walking back to his father’s fiancee’s house in a gated Central Florida neighborhood on February 26. Twenty-eight year old George Zimmerman (not black), a community resident, was on Neighborhood Watch duty in his car when he spotted a person Living While Black. The child in question was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and walking slowly in the rain. Zimmerman called the police to report a suspicious man. When they arrived twenty minutes later, Zimmerman was bleeding from the back of his head and Martin lay dead, a bullet in his chest.
When questioned by the police, Zimmerman said the pair had gotten into a scuffle and claimed he shot Martin in self-defense, a story that sounds suspicious, as three witnesses told the Miami Herald yesterday that it was Martin whom they each heard crying for help before the fatal shooting. At this time, Zimmerman has not been arrested.
Legal experts speculate that Zimmerman remains free because of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law,” which allows citizens to act in self-defense if they feel that someone is a threat to their personal safety. It’s often-referred to as the “license to murder statute.”
At a press conference on Monday, local Police Chief Bill Lee explained, “Until we can establish probable cause to dispute [Zimmerman’s claim of self defense], we don’t have the grounds to arrest him.”
So now there’s another Black body in the ground, another mother wailing on the evening news, and a police department seemingly turning a blind-eye to BS. Again.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk