The news feed is flooded with stories on the shooting death of a teenaged black youth in Sanford, Florida named Trayvon Martin. As with all issues in this country, there are two competing camps with diametrically opposed views as to what happened. Truthfully, I don’t know what happened, though I have an opinion. I’ve listened to the 911 tapes, both the redacted one issued by police and another where you can hear a racial epithet uttered in a whisper. Each is equally disturbing. Most disturbing are the cries on the tape. The shooter claims those are his cries. Trayvon’s mother claims those are the cries of her son. I believe her. What mother does not know the pained cries of her own child?
It is impossible to ignore the racial angle of this case. A white, armed, self-appointed neighborhood watch captain clearly pursued and shot a black teen, carrying nothing more than a bag of candy, a cell phone and something to drink. The shooter has not been charged with a crime, claiming self-defense under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which does not require an individual to retreat before using deadly force against another person. Zimmerman claims the teen struck him, giving him permission, under Florida law to shoot to kill. The way the law is written, police claim they have no grounds to arrest the shooter, based on that claim of self-defense. Young Trayvon Martin is not alive to tell his side of the story. Another disturbing fact is that Zimmerman, the shooter, has a conceal-and-carry permit that has not been revoked and his gun has not been confiscated. This man is still legally free to roam the neighborhood with his gun. I find that chilling.
As I white American, it has been suggested that I have no right whatsoever to proffer an opinion on this case. It has been suggested that, as a childless, single woman, I cannot grasp what his mother is going through. I believe that as a woman, my skin color or failure to procreate transcends all that. Look at the photos of Trayvon. He could be anyone’s child. His mother has had to bury her son – every woman’s worst nightmare. She looks at his room, his video games, his clothes that still smell like him and she carries an unrealistic hope that any moment, this will all have been a sick joke and Trayvon will come walking through her door. At her core is the reality of the situation – that none of that will happen. As a woman, I have a deeper, more visceral reaction. As a woman, I feel her pain. As a woman, I share her unrealistic hopes. As a woman, I weep for her.
There is a reason why this story has struck such an emotional chord with Americans across the spectrum…
Trayvon Martin is everyone’s son.
Carol Baker is a political writer, satirist, and co-host with Vicki Childs of our Here Women Talk weekly internet talk radio show called BROADSIDED. You can hear their show every Thursday at 11 am Eastern/10 Central/8 Pacific.