Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

The Tragedy of Trayvon Martin

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Another young black youth has been gunned down in the streets of America. In a society that glorifies and is addicted to violence, the travesties of such killings tragically remind us that we still have a long way to go in finally eliminating the fear, hatred and social suspicions that drive us to demean, devalue and destroy one another.

The fear and loathing that incite such acts of violence existed long before slavery, became a shameful practice of that peculiar institution, extends to our present times and is so deeply ingrained in the social and psychological DNA of some Americans that it may take years if ever to eliminate.

This is indeed a sad time in our nation and whatever events led to the demise of Trayvon Martin, we know that his story of death by violence happens all too often in our land.

We have heard it on the nightly news of young black youths killing each other in genocidal splurges of anger, revenge and retribution. We have seen it in the history of racial attacks of whites against blacks through lynching and other destructive and incendiary acts of mob violence. Rodney King and Reginald Denny come to mind, public victims of racially motivated violence. We have too often witnessed it as the only celebrated tool for conflict resolution between adversaries in the media and in American popular culture and have poignantly observed ad nauseum violence against women, gay, lesbian and transgender people.

Moreover, the proliferation of violence in recent political discourse keeps rising to new heights with its inflammatory “hate speech”especially against President Obama and in the caricatures of Obama wearing an Adolf Hitler mustache. It exists in the war against the middle class and the working poor and is evidenced in the escalation of structural violence through poverty, hunger, unemployment and the lack of education and health care.  It is a story of which we are all too painfully familiar and is made possible in part by the ethos of violence deeply etched in the “wood grains”of our history.

George Zimmerman may have pulled the trigger that killed Trayvon Martin, but the climate of such violence has been historically fostered by a culture of fear and permissiveness that creates hatred and suspicion of black men in general and stigmatizes them as persons to be nearly always, feared, shunned, suspected, and if perceived as a threat, killed.

Long before the Stand Your Ground laws came into existence, the social pathologies of some aspects of American culture and society have made pulling the trigger on people that we fear or dislike acceptable. Such behavior has always raised the outrage and ire of caring citizens who value all human life and are sickened by any form of violence against innocent people, whatever their color or gender especially children and youths.

We all concur that the killings must stop. We all understand that the prejudices, ignorance and fear that cause Americans to destroy each other in fitful rages of violence do not come from the hands of God but are socially acquired and culturally conditioned.

No human being is born hating another human being. No person comes into this world with the bigotries and intolerance that drive men to kill and maim their fellow man. Those feelings and beliefs are taught to them or handed down to them or instilled within them over time. They are bred through the matrix of human experiences which stoke the fires of fear, drench us with feelings of dread and instigate those racial and cultural suspicions that keep us at perpetual war with each other.

When will we as Americans recognize the real enemy and stop the politics of resentment that undermine our nation and splinter us still into divided camps?

The tragedy of Trayvon Martin is that a young life has been terminated by someone reputed to be another gun toting vigilante, a neighborhood watchman of the night, who has now added Trayvon’s name to the death ledgers of those innocent youths who have perished by gun violence, creating more endless litanies of lament that have mired his parents and other parents whose children have also died prematurely by violence, in an endless trail of blood, pain and tears.

Every American should be moved to positively change the minds, hearts and souls of people who harbor such animus;  to change the culture and society which miscarries and denies justice and gives tacit consent to senseless and multiple acts of violence against people because they are different or other or because historically they have been our scapegoats of scorn .

We must finally fashion a society that banishes all ignorance, overrides all fear and challenges us to transcend those dogmas and mantras of prejudice and hatred that keep us perilously divided and prevent us from truly knowing one another.

We must all commit to building a world where our children can live freely so they can have and raise their own children and live to old age without fear of being gunned down or violated in any form because an unspoken bounty has been placed on their heads.

It also means creating a world where the victims and their families can finally find rest because their killers have been brought to justice and the families of the victimizers can also find rest from their deep pain and sorrow.

The tragedy is that if we do not address the root causes of the violence that continually engulf us, and begin instilling within our children at a young age a respect for all persons, such destructive acts will continue to haunt this nation for the rest of our days and more youths like Trayvon Martin will sadly meet their untimely ends from people like George Zimmerman.


7 responses to “The Tragedy of Trayvon Martin”

  1. Russell Dee Avatar
    Russell Dee

    I don’t understand why Trayvon Martin resorted to lethal force against Mr. Zimmerman just because Mr. Zimmerman was watching Mr. Martin. Mr. Martin was banging Mr. Zimmerman’s head into a concrete sidewalk repeatedly, which is about the same thing as taking a concrete bat to someone’s head repeatedly. Mr. Martin could have killed Mr. Zimmerman by banging Mr. Zimmerman’s head repeatedly into that concrete sidewalk in that manner. I do not think that Mr. Martin had the right to try to kill Mr. Zimmerman in that manner just because Mr. Zimmerman was watching Mr. Martin, and anyone who thinks it’s OK to bash another human being’s head into concrete just because a person is watching another person is a threat to decent civilized society. Mr. Martin’s nature was obviously too violent and that is why he is dead. He is not dead because someone (Mr. Zimmerman) was watching him. People don’t die from being watched. Mr. Martin is dead because he tried to kill Mr. Zimmerman but Mr. Zimmerman beat Mr. Martin to the draw.

    We have people in our society who watch people as part of their jobs. For example, private detectives, undercover cops, process-servers, marketers, and sociologists are some of the people who’s job it is to watch people. If we see these workers watching us do we have the right to use lethal force against them? Of course not. Banging a human being’s head into concrete is using lethal force against that person and it was totally inappropriate for Mr. Martin to bang Mr. Zimmerman’s head into concrete just because Mr. Zimmerman was watching Mr. Martin. Mr. Martin was too violent.

  2. Russell Dee Avatar
    Russell Dee

    I know you will delete my post because I have disagreed with you but that just shows how weak your argument is because you delete rather than debate opposing opinions. Admittedly, I’m Caucasian but I’m a liberal and I’m very sympathetic to the African American struggle in America but just because i sympathize with African Americans and I agree with African Americans on many issues does not mean I agree with African Americans about everything. I definitely think that the African American community is wrong on the Trayvon Martin issue.

    1. cfstewart Avatar


      Thanks for your comments. Many people feel very passionately about this issue and have staked their ground on them. The problem is that when things like this do occur, we have to try to understand them not only as isolated events, but also as events that open up old wounds; rooted in a deep and painful history. Given the history of racial violence in this country, and I am not saying that Zimmerman’s act was racially motivated, but we cannot understand what happened to Travon Martin without grasping how his violent death opens up old wounds and memories of how young black men in particular and black people in general have had such violence perpetrated against them historically through lynching and other forms of brutality from white people and violent crimes committed against them by other young blacks primarily in the inner cities. Read Ralph Ginzburgs 100 Years of Lynching. The Tragedy of Travon Martin is that it opens up these old wounds and memories and brings pain to two families: the Martins who have lost their son and the Zimmermans who may lose their son who was the shooter.

      Thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate them very much.


  3. Pattie Avatar

    Zimmerman was doing a service for the community where he lived. He was doing what neighborhood watchmen do..watching and that includes sometimes following. Zimmerman did not profile and was not harassing or stalking, all those terms are ludicrous at best. After Zimmerman made the 911 call, he thought the matter was taken care of and went back to his truck and Martin, instead of either calling 911 or going on to his fathers, chose to do the gangsta thing and go show Zimmerman a lesson..he ambushed Zimmerman, pure and simple..and he turned out the loser. Pure & simple..

    1. cfstewart Avatar

      Thanks for your thoughts. Were you there? Were you on the scene to see what actually happened? If you were there then I assume that you will be a material witness to this event. If you were not there then how can you be so sure what happened? The facts of this event will be revealed at the trial. Let’s wait and see from the preponderance of evidence and let the jury render a verdict.

      1. Russell Dee Avatar
        Russell Dee

        cfstewart, thanks for not deleting my post. I admit that I thought you were going to delete my post and I appreciate that you chose instead to discuss the issue. And the issue should be discussed.

        The issue is violence. Violence is unhealthy and unnecessary in many instances, and yet it continues to happen when it does not need to happen. And you’re right that African Americans have been subjected to violence…truly horrific and nightmarish violence. And I assure you that I want every last person who victimized any African American punished no matter how old the person is or how long ago the violence too place. I’m one of those Caucasian guys that is not satisfied with the idea that the old 1960’s murders of innocent young black men, AND THEIR WHITE SUPPORTERS, should go unpunished because it’s old stuff and the perpetrators are old dying men anyway. I don’t care if it’s 40, 50, 60 years old or even older. I want them punished. Every last one of them. But you have to know the difference between when to punish and when not to punish.

        It takes wisdom to figure out that the grieving parents of Trayvon Martin are scapegoating George Zimmerman. They don’t want to believe that their son may have been too violent. They are stirring up the rest of the African American community by screaming “RACISM” because they want someone punished because they lost their son and THEY LOVE THEIR SON. That’s parents. That’s how parents are.

        The entire confrontation between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman should have ended with a couple of guys talking and concluding that it was all a misunderstanding. Why didn’t it?????

        They’ve talked about injuries to Zimmerman but none of the injuries talked about being done to Zimmerman are to his knuckles. Not even one. However there were indications that Trayvon Martin had injuries to his knuckles. Also, there was no mention in the autopsy report that Martin had any injuries other than the injuries to his knuckles and the gunshot wound. So Martin did not have a black eye or a fat lip or a bruise anywhere on his body from being hit. In other words there is no evidence that Martin was hit even once. But everyone has seen the injuries to Zimmerman (his face and back of his head). So it’s clear that Martin Hit Zimmerman but there’s no evidence that Zimmerman hit Martin EVEN ONCE. How can Zimmerman possibly be the one who escalated the situation to violence if Zimmerman did not even hit Martin once?

        Hey if you say George Zimmerman can’t fight I’ll say OK. If you rib Zimmerman that he didn’t even get one punch in then I’ll say OK. If you call him a pushover I’ll say OK. But if you want to call him a murderer then you have to prove to me that George Zimmerman hit Martin at least once because this case gets down to one of these two guys turning a simple misunderstanding into a deadly confrontation, and the person who turned it into a deadly confrontation is the person who started the physical violence. Whoever swung first turned a misunderstanding into a physical brawl from which one of the participants was not going to walk away. The evidence is clear: Zimmerman was struck, Martin was not struck, and this means that Martin started the physical part of the situation.

        African Americans need to accept the truth about his. I’m very sorry but I can not support the African American position in this case because the African American position is wrong. A grieving mother/father are understandably upset because they’ve lost their son and they’re trying to get the rest of us to punish someone for no valid reason. Zimmerman was not out there looking for trouble. He was trying to do the right thing – keep his neighborhood safe.

        I admit that Martin was not looking for trouble either and I also admit that it was reasonable for Martin to be concerned about being followed. However, this was a misunderstanding between two people who both the “the other guy” was a bad guy. And since it was a misunderstanding it should have been able to be cleared up with words.
        And now this gets to the part wherein Martin’s violent nature is what turned this into a deadly event. And who’s to blame when kids are too violent? The parents!!!!!

        The parents are looking to blame Zimmerman for the failings of the parents.

        I used to have long hair in the 70s. I’ve been watched and followed because I had long hair. I asked people why they were following me. I was even impolite to them. But I didn’t hit them. I didn’t bang their heads into concrete. Martin was too violent and for that you blame Martin and his parents…not George Zimmerman.

        1. cfstewart Avatar


          Thanks again for your comments. This issue has evoked a great deal of emotion from many people from various communities across the nation. It is very difficult to know what actually happened that night and there is a great deal of speculation about it. We must wait until the facts come out in the trial and a verdict is rendered. And even when the facts are revealed, we can never know exactly what happened that night. Only George Zimmerman knows and Trayvon Martin is not here to say what happened because he is dead.

          I also want to say that there is no official African American position on this issue. Most people in this country notwithstanding race desire that justice be rendered in the criminal justice system. If you commit a crime, you do the time, or pay the penalty so to speak. On the other hand, it is highly unfortunate that all too often African Americans have been the victims of injustice; the victims of racial violence and too often this has been a sad reality in our nation’s history. These realities also enter our social conditioning and the way people see the world.

          The truth is this: If George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, he should be held accountable. If Trayvon Martin provoked the confrontation with George Zimmerman and the latter acted in self defense then George Zimmerman should pay his penalty or be exonerated.

          My point is let justice be done. So there is no official African American position. African Americans do not want George Zimmerman to pay the price simply because he is white- maybe some do-and they do not want Clayvon Martin or his family to pay the price and not receive justice because he was black.

          Remember, Clayvon Martin is not here to testify what happened. He is gone. His parents have lost their son and the pain of this loss will be with them for the rest of their lives.

          The problem in this country, Russell, is that we have been socially conditioned to see everything through the lenses of race. When trials like this come along where blacks and whites are involved, many people polarize their sentiments along racial lines where some white people will support a person only because he is white and some black persons will support a person only because he is black. The same feelings emerged during the O.J.Simpson trial. Remember?

          However, there are some people who are interested in justice. Whoever is wrong, black or white, should pay the penalty. This means that George Zimmerman should not be presumed guilty of premeditated murder because he is a white man who killed a black man. Trayvon Martin should not be considered guilty of provoking a confrontation with Zimmerman because he was a black man killed by a white man. The reverse is also true. George Zimmerman should not be presumed innocent because he is white and Trayvon Martin should not be presumed guilty because he was black. You get my point?

          The issue is justice, which should transcend race. The issue is how we come to an analysis of the facts without allowing the reality of race to influence our judgment. This may be difficult in a society that is already highly conditioned to see race as a primary lens through which to interpret peoples motives and intentions and the reality of it all. Race still “colors” our evaluation of virtually everything in this society.

          Let us pray that justice be done in this case wherever the facts lead. This is our prayer.

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