There is a lot to be upset about in the Trayvon Martin case, none of them more upsetting than the loss of that young man’s life. There have been plenty of people condemning the act so I will let them vizierate george zimmerman. But, I was challenged by a close friend to find purpose in this act. We had an interesting conversation, in which I was asked to basically make him care. Give him a reason to get up in arms about another injustice making national headlines but not cultural headway. I was stumped, initially. I didn’t know how to find the good in this case. Most of the time, when things like this happen, nothing is going to change except Facebook statuses and twitter pictures. Already we got vids of people getting KO’d at PV, our people starting riots at another school because they are drunk and high and forgetting they are on a college campus. Oh and Twerk teams are still growing in popularity. Nothing changes from stuff like this. Do you remember Troy…what’s his name? So I ask, what is Trayvon’s case teaching us?
The overwhelming answer has nothing to do with racism or injustice. The lesson we need to learn from this incident is THE LAW is the most POWERFUL Tool in America!! We need to know and understand our basic rights and freedoms in this country and how they are protected on a local, state, and federal level. We need to know the Bill of Rights like our favorite song. If we are ignorant of the law and our protections under it, we voluntarily put ourselves in a position of weakness and vulnerability. We intentionally put ourselves in harms way. I don’t expect every one to go to law school and have streets filled with Perry Mason’s and Johnny Cochran’s. But I do expect for all of us to click on the link about the Bill of Rights and learn them. Learn what they mean and the protections they provide. I watched several videos on YouTube about knowledgeable citizens vs. a law enforcement officer or even another citizen. The person that knew the law won every time. It was amazing to see how confident and authoritative people were when they knew the law and their rights. Normal citizens rebuffed police officers and neighbors alike when they stepped outside the law and articulately and efficiently put them in check!
We need to know more than the law that Hov teaches us in 99 Problems. It is paramount that we, people of color, know our basic legal rights as citizens of the U.S. I am not suggesting that this would have saved Trayvon, but it would not have hurt. Things may have played out differently if he was able to combat zimmerman with that fact that he was well within his rights as a Florida citizen to walk in a public space and inform him that it was in fact zimmerman that was required by law to identify himself as he was improperly acting in the capacity of a peace officer and was risking charges of impersonating police, false imprisonment, kidnapping, or wrongful arrest and violating Trayvon’s civil rights. I’m not excusing zimmerman for what he did, nor am I suggesting that Trayvon did anything wrong. I am putting a hypothetical scenario out there that may have lead to a different ending. I am suggesting that the confidence of knowing your rights and basic laws governing public access and identification is powerful and empowering. It’s not about being a jerk and giving people a hard time because you can, but when we encounter injustice it would be nice if we new our way around the “system” from a more informed perspective instead of an incarcerated one.
I do a lot of talking on this blog. I post about what we need to do to change our community and what needs to be done to uplift urban communities and the minority youth, blah, blah blah. Today, I’m done talking. I pledge that I will understand my basic rights as a U.S. Citizen, Texan, and Houstonian. I will understand my protections under the Bill of Rights as completely as my mind allows. And I will not keep this information to myself. I know enough lawyers and clerks to fill a table and enough young people to fill a room. Put them together and you have young men and women gaining an understanding and knowledge that empowers them in a way few other things can. You have a group of people that GET IT, and possession is 9/10 of the law.
No measure of justice will ever make what happened to Trayvon ok. I can’t help but compare his mom to Mamie Till Bradley, crying out for justice until she resolved that if there would be no justice, that the whole world would see her son, “BoBo” and what they did to young Emmett. We have no control over this case, but we do have control over the justice in our communities and in our personal lives. We can commit to learn our rights and protections under the law. At least enough to know when our rights are being violated and corrective measures.
What do you think we need to learn from Trayvon’s case? Do you think learning the law can prevent things like this from happening in the future? Why do you care about what happened to Trayvon?