Remember the Alamo & Trayvon Martin
By Audrey Peterman
When I woke up Sunday morning to the news that the defendant in the murder of Trayvon Martin had been exonerated, I felt hollow. It took considerable time in meditation and in conversation with Frank before I regained equilibrium. That a child walking home from the store could be stalked, hunted, and killed like an animal by someone who perceived him as a “punk” and inherently criminal brought back memories of Bill O’Reilly’s observation in 2007:
Discussing his recent dinner with Rev. Al Sharpton at the Harlem restaurant Sylvia’s, Bill O’Reilly reported that he “couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by Blacks, primarily Black patronship.” O’Reilly added: “There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming, ‘M-Fer, I want more iced tea.’ “
The conscious and sub-conscious prejudices that some Americans hold about Americans of color is so far off base and so maliciously demeaning that it is downright deadly, as proven in this case. I can’t help wondering whose purpose is served by holding on to these ideas that have never had any basis in fact. Since we know that a house divided against it-self cannot stand, it doesn’t augur well for the future of our country to continue in this manner. Unfortunately, it’s playing out from the halls of Congress to the street where Trayvon Martin was shot down.
The facts that there are no consequences for the killer makes me feel embarrassed to face my grandsons, seven of whom are 18 and younger. Not only does this incident tell them that they are vulnerable in ways we may never have considered before, but now the outcome tells them there is no re-dress. I wonder how much this emboldens one side and dis-empowers another. I hope this case mobilizes people of goodwill across the spectrum to step up the conversation about race and prejudice and seek ways to cut out this disease from the body politic.
It took people of all ethnic groups working together to end the abomination of slavery, and we owe our country no less. People who share the value of our common humanity must re-solve to strive for change until we become that “Beloved Com-munity” envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and others. As Dr. King said at the funeral of three of the four young girls killed when racist men bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., Sept. 15, 1963, ‘We must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. . .” On July 15, 2013, 50 years later, our society has the same charge.
With these thoughts spiraling through my mind, my trip to the Alamo in February of this year hurtled back to me. The rallying cry “Remember the Alamo!” — seems a fitting model for a cry to achieve justice for Trayvon Martin.
My first thought upon arriving at the Alamo was how small it is to occupy such a large space in the American consciousness and American mythology. According to the Park Service website, the Alamo is categorized as a National Historic Landmark and:
“The most enduring symbol of independence in Texas, the Alamo’s 1744 church is part of the remains of the mission complex established by the Franciscans as Mission San Antonio de Valero in 1718. The mission was named Alamo, meaning “cottonwood tree,” by Spanish troops garrisoned there during the Mexican struggle for independence from Spain.
“Because of Zimmerman’s unjustified actions, Martin, who was returning from a trip to a local convenience store when he was profiled by Zimmerman, will never get the chance to celebrate another birthday or experience the joy of earning a high school or college diploma or to even be hugged or kissed by his loving parents. His young life was taken away by a neighborhood watch captain who kept a close watch on African-Americans who had as much right as he had to be in that Sanford, Fla. Neighborhood”.
“Zimmerman ended Trayvon’s life, but he will not and cannot terminate our unceasing quest to be respected as human beings. We join with the NAACP and other civil rights groups in requesting the United States Department of Justice to continue its investigation into whether Zimmerman violated Trayvon’s civil rights when he spewed profanity, followed Trayvon after being told by a police dispatcher not to do so, and fired the fatal shot that killed Trayvon’s dreams and those of his family.”
Writing on his blog, Sharpton said, “Closely observing the Zimmerman trial, one fact served as a glaring reminder of the insanity of the entire fiasco: Zimmerman never was a cop. He was a citizen who was told by 911 dispatchers not to follow Trayvon; he was told, “We don’t need you to do that.” He, a self-professed community watchman, made assumptions such as, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something.” Zimmerman even had the audacity to say “f__king punks. These a__holes, they always get away.” Well, who are ‘they?’ The bottom line is, if Zimmerman had not defied the orders of the 911 dispatcher and acted on his own assumptions, Trayvon would be in the loving arms of his parents today.”
Zimmerman’s parents, Robert and Gladys Zimmerman, granted an interview to ABC News. When asked if his son were a racist, Robert Zimmerman replied: “Absolutely not. He’s never been taught to be a racist.”
In that same joint interview, from which excerpts were aired on television Monday, Gladys Zimmerman said that if given the opportunity to speak with Trayvon’s parents, she would say: “We are deeply sorry for this tragedy.”
Many Trayvon Martin supporters expressed disappointment with President Obama’s statement on the verdict.
In his statement, Obama said: “The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher”.
“But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son”.
“And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis.
“We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.”
Many Americans, ranging from the well-known and the unknown, have found different ways to honor the memory of the slain youth.
During a concert Sunday in Quebec City, Stevie Wonder said, ”I decided today that until the “Stand Your Ground law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again. As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world.”
Pop star Beyonce’s concert started in Nashville Saturday night about 30 minutes after the Zimmerman verdict. Before beginning her performance she said, “I’d like to have a moment of silence for Trayvon.” The stage was darkened for the silent tribute. Beyonce then sang the chorus of “I Will Always Love You.”