I still remember the flashing blue lights in my rearview mirror as I pulled to the side of the road. I remember the officer’s attitude with me when I simply asked why I was being pulled over. I still remember his hands sweeping up and down my body as he “checked me for weapons” during a traffic stop that turned out to be anything but routine.
I was 16 years old, driving home from McDonald’s, when I was stopped by the police for a traffic violation. However, the nature of the traffic violation still remains a mystery to me. When I asked the officer why I was being stopped, he responded, “Shut the f*** up, and get out of the car.” The officer called for back-up.
For the next hour, I was at the mercy of 12 officers. Yes, 12 officers, and no answer as to why I was pulled over. I was searched, my car was searched, and I stood humiliated on the side of the road on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I was a young, Hispanic male driving through a wealthy, white neighborhood. The officers made it abundantly clear that I didn’t belong and I wasn’t welcome.
I was Trayvon Martin that day. I was stereotyped, and it was assumed I was up to no good. I look back and consider myself fortunate to walk away from the situation to resume the life I was just beginning; Trayvon wasn’t so lucky. It is undisputed that if George Zimmerman had minded his own business, Trayvon would be alive today. Instead, he decided to follow after Trayvon because of the way he looked; he was a young, black teenager who had to be up to no good. After all, in Zimmerman’s words,“These guys always get away.”
Stereotypes, racism, and idiocy will always be part of our world. Trayvon Martin wasn’t the first person to pay for our world’s shortcomings and unfortunately won’t be the last. My disgust with George Zimmerman will last forever. The 16-year-old me wouldn’t have been satisfied with a guilty verdict; he would have wanted equal retribution – an eye for an eye. However, I have changed a lot since then.
My heart felt heavy as I heard the verdict blasted across the media outlets, but my mind knew it was the right decision. After 16 months of piecemeal information explaining what might have happened that night, one thing became crystal clear – there was no evidence to disprove that Zimmerman acted in self-defense at the time of the shooting.
A guilty verdict would satisfy our inherent craving for revenge; it would punish George Zimmerman for putting himself in the situation that day. A guilty verdict would mean that the jury didn’t care if Zimmerman ultimately acted in self-defense after the confrontation escalated.
Convicting Zimmerman would have been a crushing blow to the American judicial system – ignoring the concept of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” and transforming the courtroom into a gathering place for people with metaphorical torches and pitchforks. Only Zimmerman knows if he feared for his life during the altercation, so we simply can’t send him to prison. We are all innocent until proven guilty, and, in this case, the prosecution did not prove that Zimmerman was guilty.
Do I think that George Zimmerman is guilty of profiling Trayvon Martin? Yes. Do I think that George Zimmerman was proven guilty in a court of law? No.