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At What Age does a Black Male Become a Threat?

My hope is that my grandson will never encounter a George Zimmerman but the question of when does a black male become a threat is one I have to learn the answer to.

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Most observers have lost perspective of the human elements involved in the case – it is a tragedy for all involved. Did George Zimmerman pursue Trayvon Martin setting off the chain of events that led to the shooting? Absolutely, there’s little doubt of that. Is it possible that in the heat of a physical altercation, he legitimately feared for his safety and reached for and used his gun? Quite possibly. Did he have some racial animus? Most likely. But I don’t think he set out that night to hunt down and kill a black man and I don’t think he’s a racial supremacist. The problem is he lives in a country that empowered him to walk the streets with a loaded gun and know that if he used it against a minority male, he could rely on local police to believe his claim of self-defense.

This case is about so much more than the unfortunate killing of a black teenager by a Hispanic wanna be cop. It’s about the way people’s attachment to their right to own guns has become more important than others right to live without getting shot. It’s about a political culture where hatred of your enemy (Obama) would cause one to be dismissive and hostile to grieving parents and suggest their innocent child was responsible for his own death. It’s about a society that accepts without question white fear of blacks and is blind to black fears of whites despite centuries of whippings, lynchings, beatings, jailings and state executions. And despite all the talk of a “national conversation about race” I don’t think too many people are ready and willing to talk openly, honestly and listen to the other side.

I think the best outcome we can expect from this particular case is to use it as a barometer of how hot racial tensions in the country have become and a road map of the institutional changes we must make to avoid similar outcomes in the future.

My hope is that my grandson will never encounter a George Zimmerman but the question of when does a black male become a threat is one I have to learn the answer to. Why? So I can prepare him in advance for the day he walks up and says hello to someone and they look away in fear……..

Deborah Small is the founder of Break the Chains: Communities of Color and the War on Drugs. Follow her on Twitter: @oshun125.

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