What makes the verdict all the more more painful is that the situation that led to Trayvon Martin’s death is one that is very familiar to me. I have walked in George Zimmerman’s shoes. I have been on block patrol in my Brooklyn neighborhood. I’ve escorted very tough kids off my block when they’ve come to cause trouble. I’ve run basketball leagues in tough neighborhoods where I’ve had to make peace with neighborhood drug dealers.
If that were me on patrol, nothing would have happened to Trayvon Martin. There would have been no reason for me to approach him because he was doing nothing wrong. However, let’s say that I decided to do so anyway. I would have approached him politely with an air of confidence and concern, as one physically confident person to another, showing him respect. And Trayvon, like the hundreds of the young people I have dealt with from comparable backgrounds, would have shown me respect back—because he was merely an innocent teenager walking home from the corner store with a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.