for Trayvon Martin

8 Comments 15 July 2013

I didn’t follow the George Zimmerman trial closely. I’ve been traveling and I hardly ever watch TV even when I’m home. But I didn’t have to– it was all over my Facebook and Twitter feed and featured on every news site I read. So my apologies in advance if I’m not up on every little nuance of the case. Here’s the thing, though: going in to the trial, we already had two of our three verdicts.

1) Trayvon Martin is dead. Back in the day, we used to have a word for people like Trayvon Martin, skulking around in the rain in a hooded sweatshirt, up to who-knows-what. We called them “kids.” A paranoid, angry wanna-be with a pistol made a snap judgement against another human being because he was a young black man and erased him from this plane forever. This is a tragedy, a tragedy at once both horrifyingly epic and chillingly banal.

2) George Zimmerman is guilty of iniating a prejudicial, premeditated confrontation with a vengeful agenda and escalating it to murder. These are the facts.

I had to interrogate myself yesterday about why I had zero sympathy for George Zimmerman. That I’ve always had tons of sympathy for Trayvon Martin needs little explanation– I’ve spent probably hundreds of nights wandering around after dark in the rain in a hoodie from age fifteen on, usually pursuing something less vanilla than junk food, but meaning little or no harm. I’ve gotten yelled at a bunch of times by protective or overprotective neighbors, but that’s kind of the point: they yelled at me and I left.

At first glance, though, I now appear to have more in common with George Zimmerman. We’re both old (I’m older). We’re both light-skinned (I am much whiter). We both have a chip on our shoulders (do I really need to clarify this?) And we’ve both engaged in vigilantism (in the last couple of years, I broke up a fight on a subway platform and I’ve run down two muggers). Then why do I feel justified in hating Zimmerman to death?

Here’s one difference between us: each time that I’ve interfered, a law has already been broken. On the subway platform, one guy was kicking the shit out of the other guy. In each of the two muggings, a woman was yelling because she’d had a black iPhone stolen. There were victims. Here’s another difference: I don’t carry a gun.

3) The third verdict is, of course, the big one. No, I’m not talking about Zimmerman being found innocent. Didn’t we all see that coming? Disgusting as it is, its a tenuous argument that the verdict is incorrect. In fact, if I was a juror and I was doing my job, I think I’d have a very hard time coming up with a guilty verdict. After all, Zimmerman executed the only other witness to the shooting and somehow wasn’t compelled by the court to testify.

Here’s the final verdict: In the United States, it’s not just legal to pursue with a concealed handgun a child innocent of any crime, provoke him, and then murder him, there is a law protecting your right to do so. The overriding tragedy of the Trayvon Martin murder is not that a guilty man was found innocent, it’s that, under current Florida law, murder of children is legal.

Do you care? I mean, really, do you care? No amount of ‘liking’ shit on Facebook is going to change things. If the United States had meaningful, uniform gun control laws, George Zimmerman would have gotten the broken nose he was looking for and so richly deserved; Trayvon Martin would have a crazy story about a racist shithead who got served to tell his friends. If Florida didn’t have a ridiculous, dick-swinging “Stand Your Ground” law, George Zimmerman would at least be in jail for his murder. If we– as a nation and as individual people– didn’t build our communities around fear like it was a fucking war monument, well, George would have watched some TV, Travyon would have gone home, played some Playstation with his stepbrother-to-be. At some point, both of them would have gotten tired, brushed their teeth, gotten undressed and crawled in to bed to go to sleep. George and Trayvon, each in their own bed in The Retreat at Twin Lakes, falling asleep. Think about that for a second. A man and a boy, the ages of a father and his son, sleeping innocently in their beds, their eyelids fluttering, dreaming.


I’m not going to give you a link to a petition or a specific cause. I’m not a spokesman and I’m not a politician. I don’t have answers, but to say that there is no way forward is pathetically weak. And to just sit back and do nothing is insane.


Your Comments

8 Comments so far

  1. Lisa says:

    I’m like you Mishka I didn’t know Travvon and will never get to hear exactly what happened, but with tears in my eyes I read this beautiful piece. I remember my friends “lurking” and running around wearing a sweatshirt hoodie and just being long haired teenagers or trouble making kids who were actually not trouble makers or even long haired but just kids.. This is heartbreaking as a mom to realize that there are people who pretend that they are police or other authority taking the law in to their own hands.. The fact is Travyon did NOTHING and George Zimmerman the coward did EVERYTHING.. Wake up America is this the justice you want on our streets..

    Mishka I love and respect your views and am tired of waiting to read your new book. I am forced to retread a all your others and if I wait any longer I may have to read Kathie Lee Giffords book… xoxoxoxo

  2. André says:

    Here’s a real tragedy: A Bureau of Justice Statistics report showed that 8,000 blacks are murdered each year in the U.S. It also revealed that 93% of those murdered are by other blacks. More blacks are killed by other blacks every year than the total number of U.S. servicemen & women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

    • Shubalyrocks says:

      Interesting statistic. But what point are you trying to make? Should I assume that you’re trying to say that black Americans are born into a racist system that provides them with little opportunity to advance, puts barriers in the way of those determined to advance, characterizes them as ‘criminal’ from day one and keeps them (largely) poor with little education and THAT is where the violence comes from?

      • André says:

        My point is there is such outrage by the media and special interest groups over the tragedy of Martin/Zimmerman, but not so much over an exponentially greater tragedy. I believe people like Sharpton, Jackson, Jealous et al. are conniving opportunists, and we give them a platform instead of addressing the real tragedies. Why don’t I hear people waxing eloquently over the 4 black teens gunned down this weekend? Maybe if they would have be “gunned down” by “gun packing” “white Hispanics” the media would get all worked into a frenzy.

        • Mishka says:

          We can agree that Sharpton is a shithead. But I keep hearing this sentiment over and over again: why are people outraged about Trayvon Martin but not Example A? My response is we are outraged about Trayvon’s death because it is a real tragedy. If there are other tragic deaths you want to draw our attention to, by all means you should do so. I’m not the official bard of injustice, I’m just a guy on the Internet. Like you. I welcome your contribution to the discussion.

          • André says:

            All of these deaths are tragic, that much is true. We need to look at the causes of these deaths, and ask ourselves why is such an inordinate number – 93% – black on black murder. It makes me sad to see this, yet all that people seem upset about is this one very isolated incident that is a statistical anomaly. I believe we are all in agreement that this whole affair is a gut wrenching tragedy, now let’s move on and address the bigger issues before we lose dozens more young people to needless violence. Maybe our president can say to all the black teens slaughtered every week – “if I had sons, then would be _____”.

  3. Luis says:

    My heart goes to the Martin family. Zimmerman had no right to unlawfully proceed with pulling that trigger. As Alex Fraser said on Facebook, Zimmerman will, “for the rest of his life will feel what it’s like to be a black man in America.”

    I have lived in Florida for nearly seven months, relocated from Jersey…where wearing hoodies is very normal…regardless of race or ethnicity. I love wearing hoodies when I have an opportunity. It’s unfortunate that I too was “profiled” in Feb. of 2013 while wearing a hoodie in an Orlando 7-Eleven while shopping for a 6-Pack of Sam Adams and two packs of cookies. To make a long story short, the cashier and I verbally communicated how he felt because I had my hoodie on and I explained why I donned it in the first place. He felt threatened because of the recent developments of the Martin vs. Zimmerman case.

    @Beth: I live in Florida and watched EVERY moment of the trial and understand all the facts presented by the Defense and Prosecution. Question for you Beth. Based on the facts that your claim that no one heard, do you agree with the “Stand Your Ground” law? If so, this 7-Eleven cashier would have believed he had the right to shoot me that night instead of expressing himself like he did…

    In my opinion, this case set the precedence for any other human being to justify their actions if they kill ANYONE because they feel threatened.

    Please explain why Zimmerman had a right to be where he was AFTER ordered not to pursue Mr. Martin. He walks free because of this unnecessary law…

    The Florida Statute 776.013 clearly states: “(3) 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.”

  4. André says:


    Please post the rest of the statute that defines the right of someone who is attacked to defend themselves. Unfortunately you weren’t there, I wasn’t there, no one was there besides Martin and Zimmerman. One of the only two witness is dead. We will never know the truth, will we? The jury was presented the facts of the case, and under the rule of law resolved it the best they could.

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