Trayvon Martin was the victim of rhetoric. We all know what George Zimmerman was thinking when he spotted a 17-year-old hooded boy walking through his fair neighborhood after dark; we know what compelled him to tail Trayvon and confront him. The wannabe Avenger had a perception of blacks that convinced him the boy was a threat to his immaculate community.
We know what made Zimmerman think the way he did. What? You don’t listen to talk radio?
(Lesson One: Don’t wear a hoodie while drinking iced tea.)
And Trayvon isn’t the only Florida teen affected by a so-called community protector.
In the pre-dawn hours of May 28, 16-year-old Sebastian Gregory was shot four times in the back by a Miami-Dade police officer. Sebastian, a Latino, was walking through his neighborhood sometime after 3 a.m. – family members said he liked to take walks in the middle of the night to think. He carried a metal baseball bat for protection. As a spokeswoman for the police department explained, the officer stopped Sebastian because it was “3:30 in the morning, it was a residential area and he had a shiny object.”
(Lesson Two: Don’t carry keys or any metallic objects while walking through your neighborhood at night.)
Now, I haven’t seen a photo of Sebastian (officially none have been released), so I don’t know if the officer thought he looked Latino. I can only assume Sebastian appeared non-white, because I’ve never heard of a police officer shooting a Bieber look-alike in the back four times.
Still not convinced that gun violence has spiked due to racially-charged rhetoric?
Look what happened in South Texas on the very next day. In the border town of San Juan, a suburb of McAllen, a man was shot from someone in a passing car as he stood outside a polling center holding a campaign sign for Hector “JoJo” Mendez, who is running for Hidalgo County constable.
Maybe the shooter was black or Latino; in a completely twisted way, I hope he was black or Latino. But something makes me believe otherwise
(Lesson Three: Don’t carry a sign displaying the names “Hector” or “Mendez.”)
The three incidents mentioned above may have absolutely nothing in common, and yet, they may have everything in common.
The one possible element at play in all three shootings is fear. There is a brand of hate speech in America – just subtle enough to be tolerated – that looks to label blacks and Latinos (and anyone who looks like them) as a domestic threat. Latinos are painted as an invading horde of squat brutes, and blacks are deprecated as a fungus corroding America from within.
Simply put, some Americans are being told that the country is under attack by destructive agents posing as Americans. The messages’ aim to create mass hysteria, and so far, they’re successful.
Everyone needs to tone down the “us versus them” frame of thinking. Out of all the domestic issues troubling America at the moment – an economic recession, a failing immigration system, troubled schools, a growing national debt – no solution is bound to emerge from the barrel of a gun.