The justifiable outrage over the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., should give all Americans reason for pause. How could an unarmed young man carrying a bag of Skittles threaten gun-carrying neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who was almost twice Martin’s weight?
Certainly the situation grows more complicated as emotions soar, but a look into the crime statistics in Sanford might help to answer this question. According to neighborhoodscout.com, Sanford has a crime index of 3 out of 100 (100 being safest), which is one of the highest crime rates in America “compared to all communities of all sizes — from the smallest towns to the very largest cities.”
With a population of just over 50,000, Sanford has 59 crimes per square mile, 69 crimes per 1,000 residents, and one in 15 for property crimes. The prospect of having your car stolen is one in 255, and the probability of someone becoming a victim of murder, rape, robbery and assault, is one in 150.
These crime statistics do not necessarily give license for vigilante justice, but they certainly help to paint a picture about the conditions of a place that most of us would not want to raise a family, if we had the choice.
There are always two sides to every story, and, according to the Sun Sentinel, there is much more about this story to be told. Police told the Sun Sentinel that eyewitnesses claim there was an altercation between the two men. Witnesses said Zimmerman “was punched to the ground by Martin, and his head [was] slammed into the sidewalk several times, leaving him bloody and battered.”
Was this alleged altercation grounds for shooting? The Sunshine State’s “Stand Your Ground’ law says it is. Because Zimmerman claimed, and initial evidence showed, he acted in self-defense, Zimmerman was not arrested. You can view the Sanford Police Department’s official statement on the city’s website that states Florida Statute prohibited the department from arresting Zimmerman based on facts and circumstances they had at the time.
Sadly, but to no surprise, the tragic death of this 6-foot-3 teenager has been turned into a political opportunity, a circus even, by those who prefer to paint the world in black and white. But it’s seldom that simple.
Had an adult been in residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, cooler heads would have certainly prevailed. President Obama’s public statement, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” did little to help matters because soon after, conditions deteriorated. This race-baiting rally cry granted us the opportunity to peer through the same monochromatic lenses Obama uses to see life. (Remember his Boston cop comments and the ensuing beer apology party?)
Not long after Obama’s statement, activists declared war against white people. Despite the fact that Zimmerman is Hispanic, the New Black Panther Party pegged the incident as a white man’s crime, and offered a $10,000 bounty for Zimmerman’s capture. Adding insult to injury, the Rev. Jesse Jackson told a large central Florida crowd, “If it’s a moment, we go home; if it’s a movement, we go to war.”
Yes, Reverend, we should all “go to war.” But, before we do, it would be beneficial to wisely choose our enemy. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2005, among one-on-one homicides, “93 percent of black victims were murdered by black offenders,” meaning the biggest enemy of African-Americans is African-Americans.
Trayvon’s death is an indication of a serious problem brewing beneath the surface. As the saying goes, “United we stand, divided we fall.” The first item on the agenda should be a commitment to stand against those who would attempt to divide us by playing the race card. The next order of business would be to double down against crime in communities like Sanford, so residents would not feel as compelled to take matters into their own hands and “stand their ground.”
Susan Stamper Brown is an opinion page columnist, motivational speaker and military advocate who writes about politics, the military, the economy and culture. Email Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org or her website at susanstamperbrown.com.