The Trayvon In Me

I must have been around 16 or 17 years old when I experienced my first overt racist encounter. This happens to be the same age that Trayvon Martin was when he met his tragic death. Unfortunately these types of racial encounters are something that most young black males will encounter.

My first encounter occurred when walking home from school with a group of friends in Riverside County, Ca. Our group consisted of black and Latino individuals, walking home as we normally did after school. This day would be vastly different from all the others and expose me the harsh realities of racism. It would also shape my disdain for racism in any form. I think my bi-racial background (a black father and a white mother) may have kept me from projecting my anger from this encounter to all white people.

As we walked home, a group of Skinhead teenagers/young adults exited a garage of one of the houses we passed.  Upon exiting the garage they hurled racial epithets at us such as “nigger” and “spic” with weapons in hand. I remember one carrying a shotgun, another had a machete, and another had a handgun. The one with the handgun opened fire on us. As we turned to run, my friend Bobby took a bullet to the back of his head, just behind his ear.

I and another friend picked Bobby up to carry him with us. I just remember my clothes being covered in his blood. I had never seen so much blood in my life. We managed to carry him to a fire station not too far from where we were in order to get him some help. Due to this being a gunshot wound, the police were called to fire station. We gave our statements to the officer and an already horrible day was about to get even worse. The next thing we knew we were in handcuffs sitting on the curb. I still do not know why we were arrested when we were the victims, but we spent 3 days in Riverside County Juvenile Detention Center before being released.

I do not know what became of those that attacked us. I do not even know if they were arrested. I do know that I was never called as a witness, so I assume that nothing ever came of this case. As for Bobby, he survived the attack but lost his hearing in his right ear.

I was keenly aware of the Civil Rights Movement as I grew up, yet I thought that we were so far beyond that. I knew that racists like this existed but I thought they were in the backwoods of Southern states. Never did I think that in the melting pot that is California, I would experience something so hateful due to the color of my skin. To add insult to injury I got arrested for being a victim!!!

Here we are 23 years after my first encounter with racism and we have a young man gunned down in Florida for the color of his skin. It was assumed that Trayvon was up to no good due to the fact that he was black and the clothes that he had on. His assailant, George Zimmerman, stated as much on the 911 call that he placed that evening. He referred to Trayvon as “These people” which those within the black community have come to know as a racial slur. Enhanced audio uncovered by CNN, shows the state of mind that Zimmerman was in. He can be heard uttering the words, “F-ing coons” under his breath. Zimmerman maintains that this was self-defense but these key facts show his racist slant. He was also told by the 911 operator to stand down, but proceeded to follow Trayvon.

As for his self-defense claim, it is usually the case that self-defense means only that you can meet force with force. For example, if someone walked up to me and hit me, I can’t pull out my gun and shoot them. I am allowed to defend myself by striking back, but I can’t justify taking someone’s life for hitting me, this is unjustifiable force.

It is time that the lives of black men mean something. We have seen way too many Emmett Tills, Amadou Diallos, Sean Bells, Rodney Kings, James Andersons, and Trayvon Martins. Let’s put an end to this devaluation of black male life.  My life means something as did Trayvon’s.

I am Trayvon Martin and I matter.


11 thoughts on “The Trayvon In Me

  1. I had no idea you went through that as a teen. Its so sad that you can’t even take a peaceful stroll through your own neighborhood. Its as if being black is a crime in itself. I pray for my son’s safety everyday.

    • Yeah. it is not something I talk about. I guess there isn’t much personal things that I talk about it. This one was particularity hurtful though. Hug your son tight every day and say a prayer of protection. It is rough out there for young men of color!

  2. Thank you for sharing this story. As a Latino woman, working around the prestige and non-minority, skin has played a huge role in the way I am looked at and thought of. It’s hurtful and infuriating to see the surprise and interest in their eyes and ears when I begin to speak. What is there to be surprised about? Can’t Latino’s be educated, polite and successful?

    • Thank you for your response Sandra. I know the feeling that you describe. Yes, people of color can be educated, polite, and successful! Keep fighting the fight and opening eyes of the uninformed!

  3. That’s powerfully written Cousin. I grew up in Los Angeles (it’s called South Central now but it was just “the hood” back then) and although white supremacists wouldn’t dare show up with a white sheet or a skinned head on Crenshaw they felt secure wearing a gun and a badge. So when I think of the justice for Trayvon I could care less about Zimmerman’s racial motivations. What really irks me is that a government entity designed to protect all citizens is so easily able to disregard the black community and get away with it! In 2012! If Zimmerman is innocent…so be it. But arrest him and let the jury decide. Just like I’ve heard 100 times by police in LA…let Zimmerman “tell it to the judge”

    Thanks the story Cousin.

    • Thanks for reading Cuzo Ken!! I agree that he should be telling it to the judge but I also care about the racial motivations as this should be charged as a hate crime. Unfortunately, Zimmerman seems to be protected by a retired state Supreme Court judge. I am hopeful that the right decision will be made to charge him and have him go on trial.

      • I feel you on the hate crime scenario. That may be the only way to get him in front of a judge. And you’re right…I do care about his racial intentions, I just really want that police department to do what’s right. Everyone involved with making such an idiotic decision as patting the murderer on the back and letting him walk away with the murder weapon and instead of doing a background check and testing him for drugs and alcohol they decide to do a background check and test the dead body for drugs and alcohol, they should all be fired and, if possible, criminally prosecuted.

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