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Self Defense vs. Self Defense

The Trayvon Martin case in Florida has serious implications for teens of all races. If we as adults do not adjust the way we interact with our youth, the future will be unbearable.

As a parent of an African American teenager, the Trayvon Martin story makes me ill with sadness. As someone who has made a career working with young people, it makes me fearful of what our young people think of us adults.

If you have not heard the story of Travyon Martin, look it up.

Most of you have heard about it via various outlets at this point. As I read the details of the story that were released, I can't help but think of the instructions I give my own child as he walks through the neighborhood.

Don't talk to strangers. If you notice someone following you, run. If you find yourself in the position where you feel threatened enough by the stranger to fight, then by all means do so. Do what you need to extricate yourself from the danger.

Trayvon Martin followed these same steps, and as he wrestled his pursuer was shot and killed. His attacker claimed self defense, and has yet to be arrested. I have been puzzled as to how to frame this situation with my sons -- African American boys, who have a fondness for hooded sweatshirts -- as do many of their White friends.

Do I change their dress code? Do I escort them as they walk through the neighborhood? Do I tell them to stop and chat with anyone who asks where they are going and what their business is? My answer to all of these is "no."

How do I explain to them, that as African American males, they can never assume that they are above suspicion -- regardless of where they are, and when they are doing absolutely nothing.

Consider the state of teens throughout the country, and think of the state fair incident last summer, the school shootings, and the bullying. Our young people are telling us something. The world we are giving them is unacceptable, and they know it.

When one of their own gets killed essentially for walking while dressed like most of the teenagers in the country dressed, with no repurcussions, how do we tell them that the world has any sense of order? Life isn't fair. I tell my sons this as a first tenet of manhood. I never imagine that the degree unfairness could be fatal.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

235301 March 30, 2012 at 03:44 PM
@Taoist: What a load of cr*p. The parents are the greatest single influence on a child. If you don't want your children to see the advertising message then turn off the TV, control their internet and keep the cell phones out of their hands. And if they do see messages you don't want them to see then it's your responsibility to sit down with them and discuss it(again, here's your chance to influence, get in the game). Your BS is just more excuse making and absolving yourself from the responsibility. "My kids are fat because of the evil food suppliers". Wrong. It's because you refused to take control of their diet and feed them nutritious foods, thereby making it a habit for them. "My kid got busted for smoking pot the other night. Evil cops should have let them party in peace." A no, you should be setting a good example for your kids and talking to them about avoiding drug and alcohol use and why. No, you shouldn't be firing up a blunt in the house in front of your kids like it's no big deal. Your kids are a representation of you. If they are mess, it follows that you are a mess.
Randy1949 March 30, 2012 at 05:34 PM
@25301 -- I actually agree with you, except I prefer to lead by example rather than control. I would no more limit my child's access to TV or the internet than I would limit his access to the library simply because he might check out a lame YA book. There is quality to be found anywhere, which my son proved in his teen years when he chose to watch Discovery, TLC, and the History Channel on cable rather than MTV, Interestingly, that's what is usually on when I visit him now that he's grown.
Stormy Weather March 30, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Heather A. - Zimmerman did call the police and if you listen to the phone call, the only thing Zimmerman did wrong at this point was to get out of his vehicle and follow Trayvon. And quite honestly we don't know how far he followed Trayvon. We don't know if he was walking fast and following him, or if he was running after Trayvon. All we know is that the dispatcher says, "Are you following him?" Zimmerman says, "Yeah". The dispatcher says, "OK. We don’t need you to do that". Zimmerman then says, "OK". None of us know what happened that night because we weren't there. If Zimmerman shot Trayvon for no reason, then he should be held accountable. If on the other hand, Trayvon was beating Zimmerman to the point that Zimmerman feared for his life, then he had every right to protect himself. People need to step back and let the system work. Trayvon's family has a right to raise all the questions that are necessary to bring out the truth. On the other hand George Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty and he has been unfairly crucified in the court of public opinion. Eventually, all the evidence will be gathered and at that time law enforcement and the court system will determine whether or not this was a justified shooting.
Stormy Weather March 30, 2012 at 06:02 PM
And another thing... It really bothers me when people say that, Trayvon Martin was armed with candy. Zimmerman had a gun." Yes, Zimmerman had a gun that he was licensed to carry. But on the other hand, if Trayvon used the can to hit Zimmerman, it then becomes a weapon. If it's true that Trayvon was was beating Zimmerman, then his hands have now become enough of a weapon that George Zimmerman may have feared for his life. Again... We don't know what happened. It may turn out that Zimmerman shot an unarmed 17 year old and should be held accountable. Or it may turn out that Zimmerman feared for his life, and this is just another unfortunate, tragic death of a 17 year old.
Taoist Crocodile March 30, 2012 at 06:03 PM
@235301; Respectfully, you need to learn how to read. I'm not making excuses for anyone; I'm saying that parents need to open their eyes and realize that the only bias that exists in the media is a commercial bias. Kids need to be taught, from an early age, to be skeptical of all media. They need to learn that, sadly, the right of corporations to go after their wallets and their identities is sacrosanct in our society. DJ's question is, "what is happening to young people?" He also made it clear that he was applying the question to young people of all races. The answer is not only that American consumer culture takes no responsibility for their minds, other then to make every effort to warp them into stupid, pliable consumers; the answer is also that American consumer culture is now very effective at doing that, and that the youth realize this is going on, while many of their elders do not. As, clearly, you do not.

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