Austin was standing less than 20 yards away from Martin when he was shot on the night of February 26. He didn't see much that night, but says he can't shake the screams for help that he heard or the thunderclap of gunfire that nearly shook him from his shoes.
The screams rattle around in his daydreams, so loud at night that sleep hasn't come easily. And he can't stop asking himself a thousand what-ifs: What if he could have stopped it? What if he had looked "suspicious" that night, and not Martin?
"...it's really hard to walk the dog by where it happened," he said. He wondered aloud what could have happened if he had been walking the dog just a little later, or behind the house instead of in front. But most of all he wondered what if he had been the one who piqued Zimmerman's interest. What if he looked suspicious?
What if, indeed. Being a black male is perhaps one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States of America, to date. If it isn't being lured into the world of violent gangs, criminal activity and induction into the Prison-Industrial Complex, it's having your life extinguished for little to no reason, or because someone thought you represented a far-fetched "threat" to them.
This is what happened to Trayvon Martin, and it could have happened to Austin McLendon. Hell, it could still happen to Austin if he finds himself confronting someone the likes of George Zimmerman. Life is fleeting, but more so for black American males.
Now this young man has to live with bearing witness to someone having his life forfeit for no reason. And he has to live with the fact that his life could be forfeit at any given moment by anyone who sees him as a "threat." He can't even walk outside of his home without worrying if he'll face Trayvon's fate, too.
Parents all over the U.S. live with the fear of seeing their child walk out the front door, only to never come back. The extent of that fear for black parents is ten-fold when you combine gang violence, racial bigotry and an militarized police culture that sees nearly all people, but blacks especially, as "threats."
People have wondered if Trayvon Martin was white or if George Zimmerman was black, would we see the lackadaisical response from the Sanford P.D. or our mainstream media outlets. Chances are Trayvon Martin would still be alive and George Zimmerman would be so far under the jail, the judge wouldn't even bother with sentencing. But a black kid callously shot by a
We could talk about how racial stereotypes and preconceived notions about black American have allowed mainstream America to ignore a serious crisis that's under the country's noses. We could talk about how America in general tends to not see these things as problems, at least not until it touches mainstream white Americans. But this also transcends ethnic boundaries, in a way. The "Stand Your Ground" laws allow anyone with a bad temper and a firearm to boldly confront just about anyone they see as a "threat." Without any duty to retreat or resolve the situation another way, just about anyone can be killed, with the killing justified as self-defense. If this isn't America's problem, it will be soon enough.
If George Zimmerman isn't brought to justice, scores of people like him will know that all it takes to end the life of someone they don't like, find offensive or merely just pisses them off is to deem them a "threat" to themselves. After all, you're just "protecting yourself," right?