Tuesday, September 10, 2013

George Zimmerman: How Many Breaks Can You Get?

When I was a young kid I was constantly getting busted in elementary school.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't a bad kid (at least not by today's standards).  In fact I was a nerd in school.  I studied hard, got good grades, always did my homework, etc.  But for some strange reason, whenever I made a joke in class or goofed off with the class clown(s), invariably my teachers would make it a point to hold me accountable while letting my peers go Scott free.  In fact, 9 times out of 10, whenever I would get reprimanded for doing something wrong it was because I was doing the exact same thing that the other kids were doing.  This, of course, led to many speeches from my folks as to whether or not I would jump off a bridge if all of my friends jumped off a bridge.  Bridge speeches notwithstanding, something still seemed odd to me, even then, about my detention record versus the detention records of my respective peers.  It was as if they could do no wrong, and I was the convenient scapegoat.  25 kids could have all laughed at the same classroom prank but my name was the only one that would end up being written on the board.  To this day, I honestly can't say why I was singled out more than my peers.  Perhaps it was because I was the new kid.  Maybe it was because all my teachers saw "so much potential" in me that they didn't see in my classmates.  Or maybe, just maybe, it was because I was the only black student in my entire class all throughout elementary school.

This last proposition that I've mentioned is an unpopular proposition but it is one that many black folks can relate to when circumstances arise that tend to only be explainable by our race.  We don't want to see the disparity in treatment, but sometimes it's there all the same whether we want to see it or not.  One of the most challenging aspects of being black in America is that it is quite often difficult for black people to tell if they're receiving a particular adverse treatment because they are black or because of some other race-neutral reason.  If I'm doing 100 mph in a 20 mph school zone and a cop pulls me over, obviously that's a case where anybody in my shoes would expect to get pulled over.  But, on the other hand, if I'm driving the speed limit and observing all applicable traffic laws and a cop pulls me over anyway, then those kind of circumstances beg the question of whether race played a roll. 

It was precisely this latter scenario that caused the George Zimmerman trial to make its way onto the national stage. 

A young black boy had been shot dead and his white Hispanic shooter had not even been arrested or charged with any crime.  Normally when you shoot somebody in America, you can pretty much expect to get arrested and go to jail - at least for a little while until your lawyer shows up.  But that didn't happen here, which made this case instantly attractive to national news media. The fact that Zimmerman was shown so much deference by the police at the onset of the case was something that was very noticeable to many black people because, quite frankly, we know based on first hand experience with the police that had Zimmerman been black it is extremely unlikely that any deference would have been given at all.

It is simply unfathomable to me to think that if I had shot a 17 year-old kid of any race that my local police department would have allowed me to walk freely for 45 days before getting around to charging me with a crime.  Based on my interactions with the police throughout my life, I just don't see that as being at all possible.  Zimmerman, on the other hand, not only enjoyed a healthy dose of deference prior to his arrest but post-trial interviews with jury members revealed to us that the jury gave him the benefit of every possible doubt as well.

So I guess I should not be surprised in the least that Zimmerman was not arrested or charged with any crime whatsoever after 911 operators received an emergency call yesterday from his soon-to-be ex-wife who claimed that Zimmerman struck her father in the face, destroyed her personal property with a pocket knife, and allegedly threatened her and her father while placing his hand on his gun:

Per CBS:
George Zimmerman has been taken into custody following an incident that may have involved a gun, CBS News has confirmed.
In a telephone interview the Lake Mary, Florida police chief said George Zimmerman was in "investigative detention" after his estranged wife, Shellie, called authorities to say he was threatening her and her parents with a gun. She later backed off from that statement, saying she never saw a gun despite what she told the 911 dispatcher.
Lake Mary police say they were called to the Sprucewood Road home of Shellie Zimmerman's parents Monday afternoon. Lake Mary Police Chief Steve Bracknell told CBS News officers did not see a gun when they arrived on scene.
As of 3:45 p.m., George Zimmerman was no longer in custody, reports CBS affiliate WKMG. Police said they assumed a gun was in Zimmerman's car, but they don't plan on getting a warrant to look or retrieve it.
"He's in his car and he continually has his hand on his gun and he keeps saying 'step closer' and he's just threatening all of us," Shellie Zimmerman said in a 911 call, reports the station, adding that George Zimmerman was "trying to shut the garage door" on her.
"He punched my dad in the nose my dad has a mark on the nose. I saw his glasses were on the floor," Shellie Zimmerman said in the call. "He then accosted my father then took my iPad out of my hands. He then smashed it and cut it with a pocketknife, and there is a Lake Mary city worker across the street that I believe saw all of it."
Shellie Zimmerman tells her father on the call to get behind a car. "I don't know if he's going to start shooting at us or something," she says in the call.
She said her father "feels like he's going to have a heart attack." She requested medical attention for her father, saying it looked as though his nose may be broken.

"I don't know what he's capable of," Shellie Zimmerman said in the call. "I'm really scared."
Lake Mary police spokesman Zach Hudson tells the station police are "trying to determine what exactly happened."
No arrests have been made.
Before anybody tries to point out that Zimmerman's wife walked back the gun part of her story, let me just say this: IT DOES NOT MATTER!!  If Zimmerman's wife had called the police on me making these exact same claims, it would not matter if she walked back the entire story afterwards or not - the police would have placed me under arrest and had me down at the station waiting in a processing cell somewhere while they sorted things out.  Zimmerman?  Temporarily detained on the scene by police and then let go.  Generally speaking, that kind of thing just doesn't happen to black people.

And so, today, this leaves me wondering the same thing that I was wondering back in elementary school after watching my white classmates continuously get away with goofing off in class: how many breaks can you get?
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