Gun or Skittles

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Now, I get being frustrated. I get loving your brother. I get believing in him, defending him, and truly knowing for yourself that he was correct in his actions.

But a gun and a bag of candy are not the same thing.

This morning on my drive to work, I was greeted by the harsh, saddening news of George Zimmerman’s acquittal. I’m honestly not sure how they found the jury of six women in Florida who were not influenced or had not heard of the Trayvon Martin killing.

I hope in my heart of hearts that they actually weighed the evidence in the trail and made the decision based on their honest interpretation of the facts (and FL’s effed “Stand Your Ground” law). But something tugs at my heart saying that’s not true.

As I listened to Zimmerman’s brother on NPR, he argued that Trayvon was armed because he “used the sidewalk” and that “the rage inside him was arms enough.”

I got so sad and uncomfortable that I had to take a two-second classic rock break, just to breathe. I quickly switched back to hear the end of the interview and was astounded. Robert Zimmerman, Jr. said that what was in their pockets: “a gun or a bag of skittles” did not matter.

The interviewer cut him off to transition the coverage but I could not believe what I just heard.

My dad is a black-powder gun enthusiast. He is an NRA-certified rifle instructor. I think the .22 when I first shot it was taller than me.

But I respect guns. I have a healthy fear of guns. I feel that a gun’s place is nowhere in the home, but locked nine ways from Sunday in the garage; to be used for sport shooting or responsible hunting. There is no reason for me to keep a handgun in my purse, in my bag or in my car. God knows, I’d shoot my own foot. Or worse, be involved in a gun-related accident.

Beyond what you think about gun laws, Zimmerman is playing on the all-too-common “black rage” stereotype and the notion that Trayvon inherently would have killed someone – anyone – that he encountered.

This blatant racism negates what he earlier states: that civil rights advocates used this case inappropriately and that Zimmerman was improperly profiled by the media. Well, sir, you might be right but…pot, kettle, you get it.

Living in a 98% white state after the urban centers of the Bay Area, New Orleans and Boston, I hear a lot more of this bullshit than I care to reflect on. However, I do know how long-term and intentional my own internal anti-racism work is, and that this is not easy for anyone.

I hope that this ruling doesn’t cause people to turn away, or write off what happened to Trayvon. I hope that we instead take it as hard-won inspiration to examine how we view and treat others; how we interpret each other’s actions, cultures, races and ethnicities; and how we can work productively together to make us all truly safer.

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