Mr. President, I am not George Zimmerman
On Friday, March 23, the President made this comment, “All of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how something like this has happened.” And he’s right. Probably one of the few times that I’ll find myself agreeing with Barack Obama.
The Trayvon Martin shooting brings back a memory that is still with me to this day. My father had his own manufacturing business with a number of employees of all races and ethnicities. One of these employees was, let’s use the name, Bob Smith. Bob was my father’s first employee, and when dad retired and sold his business 20+ years later, Bob was still with him. Bob was an African-American, mid-30’s, married, two children. Bob resided on the notorious West side of Chicago. He worked days, his wife nights, just to make sure that one of them was home to watch their children.
Dad was a very hands-on owner. He was in the factory every day, knew all his employees on a first name basis. One day he posted on the employee bulletin board a sale notice for our family room furniture. Bob was interested, and he made arrangements with dad to come to our home and pick up the furniture. I was home at the time when Bob, his brother and a family friend arrived with their truck.
While they were in the house, the doorbell rang. Mom went to answer the door and then called to dad. Two squad cars were parked out front, with the police at the door. One of the officers was talking to Bob’s friend who had remained outside, while the others talked to Dad. After a few minutes, they left.
Bob took the furniture, paid Dad, and departed. After he’d gone, Dad told mom and I, that the officers had said one of our neighbors called the police after seeing three black men in front of our home. The officers came by to make sure everything was all right. I remember looking at dad and saying, “but dad, that was Bob, he wasn’t doing anything,” to which dad replied, “I know” as he looked me in the eye. I learned a lesson that day about race, and how people make assumptions, how they jump to conclusions.
When my father passed away 15 years ago at 87, toward the end of the wake, in walked Bob and his family. They shook my hand, mom’s, and told us they had to come because my father was a good man.
And that’s my anecdote and how I was raised, but this may not be indicative of others. If we’re going to begin a national dialogue because of the Trayvon Martin shooting, then the dialogue has to be honest on both sides.
The shooting of Trayvon Martin was tragic, but despite the scale of attention that the national media awards to it, it cannot equal the national tragedy of the number of African American youth being gunned down regularly in urban centers across the United States.
I’ve lived in the Chicago area most of my life. You can’t turn on the nightly news without either hearing about a child being gunned down by a stray bullet from some gang-banger, or other young adults caught up in violent crimes. The weekend before the Illinois primary, there were 49 shootings in Chicago. Forty-nine.
The Chicago Police Department 2010 Annual Report (most recent) breaks down crime by type and by race. According to this Report, the African-American community suffers the most violent crimes committed, (62.8%). Of these violent crimes city-wide, for murders, 26.5% of victims are between the ages of 11-20; 40.2% between 21-30. For the offenders, 31.6% are between the ages of 11-20; 46.1% between 21-30 (Exhibit 8b and 8C of the Report.) Where is Al Sharpton and others when it comes to demanding justice for these murdered children and young adults?
More disturbing is the racial breakdown of total crime city-wide as shown in Exhibit 12b “Arrests by Offense Classification, Race and Gender, 2010.” Of the 165,541 recorded arrests, 120,189 (almost 71.7%) were African-American.
When one looks at these statistics, there should be a realization of why and how George Zimmermans get created. George Zimmerman was an accident waiting to happen, a policeman wannabe, part-time vigilante who let his own delusionary fears overtake his reason. If any good is to come out of this tragedy, then yes, let’s have a dialogue, with both sides taking some responsibility.
“All of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how something like this has happened.” Yes, you are right, Mr. President. And I am not, George Zimmerman.