Not good enough

It's not good enough that Chief of Police for Sanford, FL Bill Lee has "temporarily" stepped down. The way he and his police department have handled the shooting of Trayvon Martin has been nothing less than scandalous. They had the 911 tapes. They heard the utter fear in Trayvon's voice as he was gunned down in cold blood. Just based on the taped evidence it was clear that the shooting had nothing to do with self-defense. It was vigilante "justice" meted out by a man who had already had run-ins with the police and should not have had any access to a weapon, and certainly not the right to carry it on his person concealed.

It's not good enough that now, in the wake of the murder, politicians like Gov. Rick Scott are "open" to revisiting the law. According to Gov. Scott:
"If there’s something wrong with the law that’s in place, I think it’s important we address it," Scott said Tuesday. "If what’s happening is it’s being abused, that’s not right."
No, Mr. Scott. The time to have addressed this law was when it was introduced in the Florida Legislature, handed to it in a pretty bow by ALEC and the NRA. The time to have addressed it was when it was being debated and sped through, to sit on Jeb Bush's desk. The time to have addressed it was when Jeb Bush signed the bill into law. The time to have addressed it was before it became law, when it was obvious to anyone with an ounce of reason that it was a bill to legalize vigilantism. The time to have addressed it was when conservative lawmakers ceded their responsibility of crafting legislation that does the most good for the most people to outside groups like ALEC, whose agenda has nothing to do with helping people and all to do with stoking resentment and maintaining control.

It's not good enough that George Zimmerman still walks free. First, he wasn't arrested on the spot by the Sanford police, as he should have been if there was any question about the facts of the shooting; certainly the 911 tapes offer a counter-story to Zimmerman's. Even this law, pernicious as it is, shouldn't be carte blanche to shoot up the streets of the suburbs. The role of the police is to arrest; prosecutors determine if there's a case to be made against the suspect. But the Sanford Police Department in effect said that it was okay to gun down an unarmed, 140 lb. child simply because he was "suspicious". Secondly, not until yesterday did the state of Florida open a grand jury investigation into the shooting, almost a full month after the event. And the jury won't convene until April 10. But, he was "suspicious", so it took a while to figure out that maybe he shouldn't have been murdered on a public street, on his way back to the safety of his father's girlfriend's house.

It's not good enough that now conservative lawmakers are running from the limelight, or trying to protect the law which they were handed by lobbyists to rubber stamp. It's too late for this statement from one of the law's sponsors:
“They got the goods on him. They need to prosecute whoever shot the kid,” said Peaden, a Crestview Republican who sponsored the deadly force law in 2005. “He has no protection under my law.”
No, Mr. Peaden.  It's too late to hide behind sophistry and claims that "my law never intended this". Laws create a climate, and a dangerous man was fed by that climate, of "Others" running rampant and ready to destroy his way of life. It was a short step from the passage of a law of "self-defense"—as if someone needs more permission to legitimately defend his life—to a climate that anything goes, it's time to go hunting the "bad guys". Just ignore the fact that people like George Zimmerman would never have the courage to go after real criminals; they'd shoot back, and probably kill him. Much easier to stalk and kill a teenaged boy so as to feel manly.

It's not good enough that young black men are never good enough—unless they're swinging a bat, dribbling a basketball, or running down the field to catch the Hail Mary pass to win the game. It's not good enough that their elders have to drill into their heads how to act around police—don't make eye contact, acquiesce, don't talk back. It's not good enough that they have to be out of certain areas by certain times, or face the risk of running into George Zimmerman's brethren. It's not good enough that schools with predominantly minority students, rather than being conduits for upward advancement, are becoming freeways for moving from the schoolhouse to the jailhouse—something students in predominantly white schools don't even have to think about. It's not good enough that the election of the country's first black President—decades before anyone thought it would be possible—rather than calming racial waters, has instead pulled the festering scab off of America's racial wound. Yes, Barack Obama has to be twice as good as the best of our previous white Presidents just to be judged adequate. What chance did Trayvon Martin have, in the dark, confronted by a man like George Zimmerman who had already decided he was not good enough?

No rosy ending today. Sometimes the Hollywood ending doesn't apply. Just renewed determination to make sure that "not good enough" is tossed into the trashbin of history.

(This essay was inspired in large part by Black Snob's brilliant post on Trayvon Martin. I can only hope that I did it justice. Read it. It will do you good.) 


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