The shooting of Trayvon Martin brings about a whirlwind of emotions in me, all of them profoundly negative. It’s to the point where I chase the very thought of the incident out of my mind the moment it creeps in. It’s both stomach turning and heartbreaking to know that a young, innocent Black life isn’t entitled to any measure of justice. A bright young man is dead, and his murderer walks the streets as free as a stray dog. That is exactly how I see George Zimmerman: A rabid animal that desperately needs to be put down. I’m no proponent of the death penalty, but Mr. Zimmerman is as good a candidate for the electric chair as I have ever seen.
There is another angle to this that also plays endlessly on my mind. I am the father of a beautiful Black male child, as well as a former gun owner. The Trayvon Martin shooting now has me rethinking the role of guns in American society. I am now beginning to question whether or not the second amendment is little more than a license for bigots to kill Black children with impunity. That it is so prized by our nation says a lot about the inherent racism that runs deep in our DNA. Having lived in New York as well as Georgia, and now Florida, I have seen differing attitudes toward gun ownership. I’ve also seen varying degrees of racism in certain people who considered themselves proponents of it. There are many Zimmermans in the world, sorry to say.
During my brief career as a New York State correction officer, I carried a firearm when I was out of uniform. New York’s gun laws are notoriously tough, so one of the only ways to obtain a gun legally is to become a civil servant. I knew plenty New Yorkers that despised the very sight of guns noting that the only people they knew growing up who had guns were either cops or criminals.
My son’s mother didn’t take too kindly to having a gun in our home, however, she knew the risks my job entailed. The way I saw it, a man with a family should have a gun in the house. That might’ve been due to my Georgian upbringing. Every household in my neighborhood had shotguns, pistols, and rifles. My house was one of the few that didn’t have a gun. My mom, a Bronx girl to the heart, hated them. She didn’t even like me playing with toy guns as a kid.
The second amendment was serious business in GA. I remember seeing a news story about a county where gun ownership is required by law. Guns were readily available at many pawn shops, stores, and the like. When the crack era jumped off in ATL, the proliferation of firearms that much worse. When I was 17, my homeboy Deezy copped a .25 semi-automatic pistol and carried it around. It got confiscated by police after he began waving it around in a drunken stupor. I even saw a cat selling a gun to his friend on the back of our school bus one day, a Black Beretta 9mm.
Dopeboys weren’t the only ones that the average law-abiding citizen in GA had to worry about. The good old boys were just as scary if not worse. These are the types that vehemently fought to keep the confederate battle flag as part of the Georgia State flag back in the 1990’s. Thanks to a program called M to M (Minority to Majority) I was able to go to school along-side them. They made their disdain known in some subtle (and not so subtle ways).
One day, in a social studies class, the subject of the flag came up. As the Black students protested it, some white students defended it. One, who knew of my beliefs regarding such things, took out a handkerchief adorned with the Dixie Flag and began holding it up in a show of defiance. He looked right at me as he did so. The teacher told the class to quiet down but didn’t say shit about that flag waving stunt. In just a few years, that kid would’ve been able to own a gun under Georgia State Law.
I learned that such types were not exclusive to the south. My corrections class was populated with white guys from Upstate New York, many of whom legally owned firearms well before becoming C.O.’s. Lots of them were generally cool. They mostly liked to swig beers and watch ESPN all day. Every once in a while, you’d see little signs of how certain ones felt. I heard stories from both officers and inmates about how some white officers at upstate prisons sported tattoos of dead Black babies hanging from nooses. I’m pretty sure that all of them owned more than few guns.
Now here I am, in South Florida, where the “Stand Your Ground” premise allows child killers to get off Scott-free. I think of my own son, so bright and full of happiness. I think of what may happen to his disposition the moment he realizes what he must face in this world. His beautiful brown skin will prevent the animals among us from seeing his wonderful qualities. There are heartless animals on both sides of the mason Dixon that would’ve done the exact same thing as George Zimmerman. Contrary to the old saying, guns kill people. That’s what they are designed for. When so many of these flag waving “patriots” on the right wing vehemently defend the right to bear arms, what is it they are actually defending?
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