by Tonyaa Weathersbee, BlackAmericaWeb.com
Trayvon Martin probably figured it was no problem – him being black, and it being 2012 and all – to walk to the store in a gated community in Sanford, Florida.
But that didn’t stop the teenager from being shot to death recently by a white man who apparently thinks it’s the late 1940s.
It was a time when, not far from Sanford in the town of Groveland, World War II soldiers Sammy Shepherd and Walter Irvin incurred the wrath of Lake County Sheriff Willis McCall, Florida’s counterpart to Bull Connor, for wearing their Army uniforms and refusing to work in the white-owned orange groves.
Shepherd and Irvin didn’t fit McCall’s notions of subservience. In fact, they made him downright uncomfortable.
So he killed them.
According to the documentary, “Freedom Never Dies: The Legacy of Harry T. Moore,” after the Supreme Court overturned the convictions of Shepherd and Irvin on trumped-up rape charges – years after white mobs trashed and burned the property of blacks in Groveland during the trial – McCall shot the two men while driving them back from prison to the town of Tavares for a retrial.
Shepherd died, but Irvin survived to tell the tale.
“I got rid of them, killed the sons of bitches,” Irvin said he heard McCall tell the police dispatcher.
Judging from what’s been reported so far in Martin’s slaying, there’s shades of Groveland throughout this tragedy.
It sounds like Groveland because like McCall, who detested black men who wore clothing that he found to be intimidating, George Zimmerman, the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain who killed Martin, detested black boys who wore clothing that he found threatening.
According to ABC News, Zimmerman told police he thought Martin looked suspicious because he had on a hooded sweatshirt and was walking slowly in the rain.
It sounds like Groveland all over again because like McCall, who felt no hesitancy in further dehumanizing his black victims as “sons of bitches,” Zimmerman also didn’t hide his contempt for Martin.
Before he went running after the unarmed teenager, Zimmerman told the police dispatcher, “these a–holes always get away.”
And it sounds like Groveland of the late 1940s and early 1950s because then, the authorities had no problems covering up McCall’s brutality against black people. Today, the Sanford Police Department seems to be doing more to protect Zimmerman than to get justice for Martin.
According to ABC, a police officer who arrived at the scene told a witness who said she heard Martin cry for help that she didn’t hear what she heard; that it was Zimmerman who called for help.
As if he was there.
The Sanford Police Department has also refused to release tapes of the emergency calls by witnesses. And – get this – they accepted Zimmerman at his word when he said he had no police record.
As it turns out, he lied. In 2005, Zimmerman was charged with battery against a police officer and resisting arrest.
I’ll bet they wouldn’t have taken Martin at his word if he had lived. He had no record, of course, but from the way things are looking right now, they’d probably try to concoct one.
The details of what led to Martin’s slaying are still unfolding. But the police need to come clean – fast.
That’s because what happened to this black teenager is profoundly troubling.
Among other things, it says that the idea of vigilantism, whether it’s done by the border-patrolling members of the Minuteman Project or by neighborhood watch wackos like Zimmerman, is getting tacit support from law enforcement in some places as the U.S. gets browner and blacker.
It also feeds notions of white privilege; that thing that says that black boys like Martin shouldn’t be in or near certain communities.
And it takes Florida back to the days of the Groveland slayings. The days when black men could wind up being killed for being somewhere that a white person didn’t want them to be.
Or for daring to wear something that a white person didn’t like.