I would like every adult reader out there who is old enough to have a 17-year-old boy imagine him walking in the dark on the way to your house, after going to the grocery store. Or to the snack shop at the nearby gas station. Or returning home after hanging out with a friend.
I want you to go into his head as he minds his own business, thinking about boy things. About how his little brother is at home probably where he left him, playing video games in front of the flat screen. How he now remembers what he was going to ask his dad about something or another. How he wants to get out of this rain that's falling in gentle sprinkles. How he's going to pop open his bag of Skittles once he gets inside, where it's dry, and down his ice tea.
Your son knows the neighborhood because you live there, and this is where he visits you. You chose it specifically because it is safe. It has a locked gate at the entrance, which is the ultimate in keeping others out while you enjoy peace at home, away from those you think will do you and your family harm. It has a neighborhood watch.
I want every kid out there now to imagine yourself being followed in that dark by a strange man. A man who questions your presence on a street you've walked before. On the street where your dad lives, and where you and your dad — just minutes before — were watching a football game and where your little brother is in another room playing video games. Why is this man behind you? What could he possibly want, as you head home, minding your own business? Does he want to fight, does he want sex, does he want to get in your face to show he's "the man"? Why did he get out of his car?
You don't call 911 because, whatever is going on, you think you can handle it. After all, home is just up the street. Instead, you call a friend on your cell and tell her that some doofus is following you, but you're thinking that everything will be all right because you're really close to home. But who is this dude, and what the bleep does he want with you?
You're a kid, which means you're not quite cooked. What you recognize in the stranger is that he's also not cooked, and he has invaded your personal space. He's a lot closer to you than he was before. You don't know that this man has called 911 five times within the past year to report what he calls "suspicious" black men in the neighborhood. You don't know that over the past eight years, since he was 22 years old, he has called police 48 times to report such things as an open garage and people — all of whom are black males — he deemed to be strangers in the neighborhood, the Seminole County Sheriff's Dept. in Florida would later tell the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. You do not know that he has a gun because neighborhood watch volunteers are not allowed to carry them, says the Tampa Times. Their role is to observe and report to police, that paper says.
A fight ensues between the neighborhood watcher George Zimmerman and the unarmed kid, Trayvon Martin, who is killed with Zimmerman's shot to the chest. Although Martin is 70 yards from his dad's townhouse, his body was taken to the morgue as a John Doe. His mother found him there three days after she reported him missing, according to the Sanford Examiner.
Trayvon Martin was not guilty. George Zimmerman is not innocent. If Zimmerman had stayed in his car, no one would be writing about this.