This past Saturday my husband and I went down to Los Angeles from our home in Santa Ynez to join others in protest of the acquittal of the killer of Trayvon Martin. We wanted, in part, to stand in solidarity with the black community, which is suffering great pain over the reality that an unarmed young man returning to his father’s house was assumed to be a bad person because of the color of his skin. Profiled, followed, frightened, and confronted by a stranger, and then shot through the heart when he defended himself against the armed predator.
But we are also motivated by outrage and sadness on our own behalf (we are white) and Americans of all colors, because laws in many states sanction a murder such as this. It is so far from the ideals we are taught by our history, our religions, and our innate morality. If this killing had occurred in California, or even in Florida before the stand your ground law, it would clearly have been seen as manslaughter at the very least.
As we stood in front of the federal court building, surrounded by peaceful voices of black, brown, Asian, white and Indian voices raised in objection, we felt some comfort that we are not alone in recoiling from a definition of self-defense expanded to the point where a child can be stalked, provoked, and killed because a cowardly man can claim that injuries requiring two Band-Aids caused him to fear for his life.
In many ways we enjoy a refuge of sorts here in our valley. Though we enjoy the beauty and the ease of our uncongested days, we must not remove ourselves from being engaged with questions of justice for all. I do not know if others from the Central Coast were present in that crowd on Saturday, but I do know that you are here, among my neighbors, in my community. If you are not white, you know that this could happen to your own child; but if you are white and if you are honest about it, you know that it wouldn’t have happened to your son. This is a privilege that is unacceptable, and I ask each of you to participate in resisting bad laws that lead to tragic results.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” —Martin Luther King