There is a difference between being a concerned citizen and profiling someone based on your own prejudices. There is also a difference between having to defend yourself and putting yourself in harms way. To be honest, I have been on every side of these differences at one point or another. I’ve been a concerned citizen and the victim of profiling. I’ve had to defend myself, and I’ve gotten into some scrapes I could’ve avoided if I’d used some better discretion. Last year, I was involved in an assault at the post office, where I came to defense of a postal employee who had been attacked. (You can read all about it here). When it was all said and done, no one was seriously hurt—especially me—and people touted me as a hero. But things could have gone differently.
Imagine for a minute I had been hurt or killed by the crazy guy I helped subdue at the post office. What if he claimed I had attacked him and he acted in self defense? Or what if the cops came along a few minutes earlier and found me wrestling on the floor with a white man, assumed I was the criminal, and used a taser on me, or a choke-hold, or shot me? What would people say about me if I had been killed, and my killers claimed it was in self defense? Would the fact that I had smoked pot or skipped school have been a factor in justifying my killing? Would these factors make me more of a threat and deserving of being killed, even though at the time no one at the post office knew a thing about me?
The point I’m getting at is this…George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, after the 911 operator told Zimmerman to not follow Martin. Zimmerman went looking for a confrontation. He knew nothing about Martin other than what he assumed based on his prejudices. He defied an order from a representative of local law enforcement, and he killed an unarmed teenager. And now there are those that want to use information completely irrelevant to the case to make Martin look more criminal. This is an easy and cowardly thing to do, and it makes a criminal of the victim. But make no mistake, Martin is not the criminal. Even if he did fight back against Zimmerman, it was after the 911 operator told Zimmerman to not follow Martin.
Part of me actually gets where Zimmerman was coming from. Don’t get me wrong—because I’m not condoning anything he did, or his thought process. But I’ve been in situations where I stepped in and got involved when common sense would have said to do otherwise. I thought I was doing the right thing, when others might argue I was doing the wrong thing. But I never killed anyone. And despite what may seem to be to the contrary, I’ve never rushed into a situation that was life-threatening. I did what I felt to be the right thing, and NO ONE WAS EVER HURT. And more important, I wasn’t hurt. But the truth is that I could’ve been hurt or killed, and the story could’ve been manipulated to make me out to be the bad guy. All it would take is someone believing my killer that he was acting in self defense, and then finding enough information about my character to make it seem like I was the sort of person that needed to be defended against. “Oh, that David Walker once got detention for fighting in the sixth grade, and he smoked pot in the tenth grade, clearly he’s a criminal.” That’s all it takes to turn the victim into the criminal, and Trayvon Martin deserves better than that.