POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Trayvon Martin’s death raises several complex questions

By Dr. Ed Holliday and Rev. James Hull

Was Trayvon Martin the victim or was he the aggressor? The official investigation has been joined by state and federal officials and the fact is that no one knows yet. But that has not stopped people from voicing their opinions as the question about the tragic death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., continues to divide our nation using misinformation and distortions admitted by both NBC news and ABC news. Last week a rally for Trayvon and his family was held in Tupelo at Ballard Park as rallies have been held in locations across the country. What the Trayvon Martin case is doing now is showing that even with the election of the first black president, this nation’s racially sensitive wounds have not been healed. Racially charged rhetoric has been flowing from many mouths and where is the voice that heals? The old saying that we cannot see the forest because of the trees has a significant meaning in the Trayvon Martin case.
Out of almost 17,000 yearly violent deaths, Trayvon Martin’s tragic death has become a rallying cry for some as others ask why not justice for the other thousands of cases?
The fact that a young American is dead is a tragedy. But the use of Trayvon’s tragedy to spur vigilante justice and cause the New Black Panther Party to issue an award for the shooter of Trayvon dead or alive has gone too far. African-American pastor C.L. Bryant from Louisiana has challenged leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to not come out and march for just Trayvon, but justice for the thousands of young black men who die every year – 93 percent of them killed by other young black men.
Whether it is the death of Trayvon Martin or a student at Mississippi State or Jackson State, we as a nation are failing our young people. On this Easter weekend when Christians call the day that Christ died Good Friday, because we had to have a tragic Good Friday before victory on Resurrection Sunday was possible, I pray that the Trayvon Martin case can bring America something good from such a tragedy.
I pray that we as a people can rally for all the tragic deaths and speak to one another in ways that heal, build and, like my friend Dr. Alveda King says, “Let’s take the stumbling blocks and make building blocks.”
No right, no reason. That has been my mantra and rallying cry from the very beginning of this public outrage.
George Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, had absolutely no right and no reason to follow, confront or make contact with Trayvon Martin. Period. Here are three indisputable facts:
1. Neighborhood Watch volunteers have no right/no reason to carry weapons – of any kind. And they don’t carry weapons for the very reason that unnecessary deaths like this one can occur, either accidentally or otherwise.
2. Neighborhood Watch volunteers have no right/no reason to make contact with anyone or any activity they feel is suspicious. That’s not what they are supposed to do.
They are supposed to observe a situation, report it to the police and wait for the police to respond. Period. To do otherwise is going beyond what Neighborhood Watch volunteers do.
3. Neighborhood Watch volunteers have no right/no reason to deem anyone suspicious simply because of their clothing, their race, their body language or their whereabouts. Today’s world is too diverse. We live in a world where the CEO of Apple dresses like a hippie; the CEO of the local bank rides a Harley to work draped in leather; the neighborhood church has praise services that feature head-banging music. We live in a world where people of all races live in gated communities and are prone to cover their heads when it rains.
The question in my mind, and the one that has spurred so much outrage in me and millions of others, is not what happened to Trayvon Martin, it’s why. Because there is also indisputable fact No. 4 in all of this: George Zimmerman shot and killed a young man that he, George Zimmerman – based on facts one through three had no right/no reason to kill. Period.
Dr. Ed Holliday is a Tupelo dentist who has written two successful books. Contact him at ed@teaparty.ms. James Hull is an award-wining journalist and a political consultant. You may contact him at hullmultimediams@aol.com.