Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Trayvon Martin Question...

Trayvon Martin was shot and killed.  My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.  Not only to him, but to all of the men and women who have been wounded or killed under similar circumstances that aren't and won't get press coverage.  The man that shot him, as of this writing, has not been charged, one of the reasons he hasn't is the existence of the "Stand Your Ground"

Some years ago, I was grocery shopping with my wife at night in Los Angeles.  She sent me to the ATM, which was across the street.  Not just any street, but I was crossing at 3rd and Vermont, at the time, one of the busiest intersections in L.A.  I got the money and ran back across the street on a green light, ran through the parking lot when I, fortunately, heard someone yell, "Freeze"! and I stopped running and put my hands behind my head.

As the police questioned me, no, that isn't correct.  After the police asked me for my ID and questioned me...


After the police asked me for my ID,  and then handcuffed me, they asked me to recite my driver's license number.  California was not a state that used one's Social Security number as your driver's license number, so they had me recite it.

Stop reading for a second.  Can you recite your license number from memory?

Call it the Lord's hand on me (I do), or what you will (you might), I told them: C1472291.

"Z as in zebra?", one of them asked.

"No, 'C' as in 'cop'" I replied.  Blessedly, one of them thought that was funny.  They removed my cuffs and let me go.  By the way, I haven't had a CDL since 1994 and I STILL remember that number.

It turns out that there was a robbery in the area, so the police in the area were looking for a Black guy in a grey sweater and guess who had on his sleeveless grey and black sweater that night?

If this was an isolated incident, I might be of a different mind today, but this was the second time that I had been stopped by police after running across the street on a green light, fifth time or so I had been stopped by police, one time for walking down the street with an attache' briefcase, so blessings were with me the night I stopped running when I heard the police.

Suppose I didn't hear them.  Would they have shot me?  What if I was some Black kid named Barry in Hawaii and the the police fired?

I don't begrudge being stopped in this case.  What I minded then and now was the 'cuff marks on my wrist.  Suppose I had an "attitude".  Suppose little Brian said, "Enough!  I'm tired of being stopped!  Remember that time that the cops stopped you and thought you were a six-foot rapist who stole a woman's stereo when you were a five-foot-five kid on a bike with a backpack?  Remember when the policeman said after questioning you, "Well, I don't think you did it.  After you got her in there, you probably wouldn't know what to do with her?"  Remember how you wondered what kind of monster would do such a thing to the young blonde woman chewing her nails in the squad car?  Remember thinking what kind of monster would imply that raping a woman would be "what to do" if you were alone with one AND thinking what kind of hell is she in for if that is the guy that is supposed to be on HER side?

Remember how you wished that you'd gotten that fellow's badge number?
Isn't it enough?  Haven't you had enough?


Little Brian might have gotten Big Brian injured or killed.  Fortunately, Little Brian was even more scared than Big Brian was that night.

My question isn't, why hasn't the shooter been arrested, because he should, nor is it why is this law on the books.

My question is this:

If I am old enough to remember thinking that a minor triumph watching a drama on TV or in the movies was the fact that the Black character lived until the end of the story and if I am old enough to have voted for and will vote again for Barack Obama for President and old enough to think that we are way behind for doing so...

Why is the Trayvon Martin story still a plausible one in 2012?

 - Brian Phillips


  1. I linked here from Old Enough to Know Better.
    I just want to congratulate you on a very well-written comment.

  2. What startled me is that the media seemed to think that only black people could speak to this. Granted, black people have the experiences and insights to understand the racism and indignity involved, but I think that others (white people) can and should be outraged as well. The media almost completely ignores that aspect. To portray it absolutely as a "black problem" without considering that others might equally (or as much as they can, based on their lack of experience in being victims of discrimination) be upset is not good reporting, in my opinion. Does this makes any sense? It's as if my opinion doesn't matter because I am white.

  3. Sadly true. When a person is shot because of an assumption, it's not just a racial problem, it's a problem of attitude, gun ownership, media portrayal, etc. When we all look at ourselves as human and cease branding each other, how much better will life become?