Trayvon Martin was an ordinary 17-year-old boy, living an ordinary life. He was not a criminal. The only thing he did was leave the house where he was staying in Sanford, Fla., to go to the store.
I’m a 16-year-old black boy. I live in New York now. But when I heard the news of Trayvon’s death I thought to myself, “Hey, I lived in Florida for such a long time and it seemed like a fair place to me.” With that thought in mind I had a really strong feeling that George Zimmerman would be convicted of second-degree murder. I was sure that Zimmerman was going to jail, especially when the manslaughter charge was introduced in the case.
I was watching TV and waiting for the verdict to be announced last Saturday. When I heard the words “not guilty,” my heart sank. I was sad not only for the fact that he was found not guilty, but for a possible domino effect that I fear might happen. If a man can follow a kid that he was told not to follow, kill him and then be not-guilty in the eyes of the law, just how worthless is a black man or kid’s life in this country, or this world?
After the verdict, Zimmerman’s lawyers talked about how pleased they were with the verdict. They were bathing in their own happiness while showing zero heart for the dead young man who just received no justice. One of the lawyers was defending his joke from the beginning of the trial, which was completely unnecessary and uncalled for. The insensitive nature of the defense and those who support them just makes me wonder where I stand in the world.
The night of the verdict, my mother came home and immediately hugged my brother and me, and told us that being black, we have to keep an eye over our shoulder, even more so now than before the case. She has said that as a young girl she was told to always walk home with her keys in hand, and with one key between her knuckles for protection. If she was ever being followed she should swallow her fear, turn, and fight, because if you run they might catch you and grab you from behind. In the worst possible scenario, you could be shot or stabbed in the back.
What I take from that conversation, and the Zimmerman trial, is that if we fight we might be hurt. If not, the same result might happen. What choice am I left with then? Does the “fight or flight” idea work for me?
This case was more than just a killing. It was a key to unlocking an entire conversation, a conversation about the importance of race. The point is not to say that everyone is against black people, because that’s not true. In fact my best friend who I trust with my life is white. I believe that it’s just a portion of people who are unfair to black people, and that attitude should change.
In my opinion Zimmerman should be in jail. Not only did he kill a young man but also he went against a police order not to follow Trayvon.
The moral of it all is that Trayvon’s life should be worth more than this case allowed it to. To me, this case means that we black people are still fighting for equality and justice. In 2013, I feel that this equality is long overdue.
Jmar Reid is a rising high school junior in New York and the son of msnbc contributor Joy-Ann Reid.