Monday, July 15, 2013

I Was George Zimmerman

Let me go through the similarities:
  • White or passing as White: Check
  • In my 30's: Check
  • Lived in a gated community: Check
  • Condo complex effected by economic downturn: Check
  • Uptick in crime with little resolution: Check
Lot's of similarities, the difference is I never shot and killed anyone.

I lived in a condo complex for 13 years, the housing crash put the nail in the coffin of a condo complex that was slowing deteriorating. My building of 10 units emptied out until there were 5 occupied units, none of which were on my floor. My storage bins on the property were broken into. We had assaults in the laundry room and vagrants caught sleeping in the basement. My car was broken into.

As a single woman, I was concerned for my safety so I took what I thought were reasonable measures. I had the door jambs in my front and side doors reinforced. I had a monitored security system installed. I bought a safe to keep my valuables in. I did not buy a gun.

On a rainy night in November 2011, I left my home to go to the grocery store. I pulled up to the light a quarter mile from my house when a car pulled up behind me, it's lights shining in my eyes. I saw movement and looked around to see a man approaching my driver's side window. It was pure instinct, my foot was on the gas and I was already rolling towards the intersection when I saw him. He ran back to his car and took off around me as soon as the light changed. By the time I got to the store, my adrenaline wore off and I was scared and shaky so I called a friend of mine to confirm yes, that really was an attempted car-jacking. Taking my friend's advice, I removed the bumpers tickers from my car, made sure my personal items were locked up and out of view and I changed how I carried my purse and my actions at intersections. No more playing with my cell phone at red lights! I did not buy a gun.

Last summer, I finally decided it was time to leave my home. There were too many issues to deal with living there, safety being one of them. I borrowed my boyfriend's truck one afternoon to drop off boxes and I pulled into a parking space in front of my building. I was just debating on whether or not to lug my backpack up the stairs when I saw a man weaving his way around the corner of my building. My first thought was he looked like some of the old beach bums I see in the Florida Keys, probably pickled from drinking. My second thought was what was he doing here? The man made a beeline for the truck and next thing I knew, he was asking for money and he opened the driver's side door of the truck. Luckily I still had my hand on the door so I pulled it shut and yelled at him to leave me alone. He turned around and left, wandering up the hill. I wasn't going to call the police, I figured there was nothing to be done about him, but when I saw him trying to get through the gate to the pool to harass some teenage girls, I decided to make a call. The police came and took a statement, apparently he was well known to them and he lived in the building next to mine. He was taken to jail on assault charges, I dropped off my boxes and I made sure I was never alone in that condo again. I did not buy a gun.

So what was the difference between George Zimmerman and me? For one thing, I didn't racially profile anyone. I never looked at people in my neighborhood and decided they didn't belong based on the color of their skin. Did I decide a man was a threat? In both cases, looking at their behavior, yes I did and I took appropriate action. When my neighbor speculated on who was breaking into cars and that speculation centered around two black boys in our complex, I asked if his suspicion was based on any sort of facts or just because they were black teens. As far as I know the culprits were never caught and the family of those kids left our complex and rented elsewhere. I also never got a good answer to my question. Sure, the demographics of my neighborhood changed so I got used to looking at different faces. Life goes on. That's the difference between George Zimmerman and me, the ability to adapt to a changing world.

For another thing, I wasn't able to shoot anyone because I made the decision not to buy and carry a gun. Georgia is a Stand Your Ground state and I have the right to shoot if I feel threatened but that's not a responsibility I wanted. I don't want to take someone else's life, it's not "him or me", this is not the Wild West. Nor would carrying a gun give me some awesome ability to judge at a split second whether someone deserves to live or die. The only thing a gun does is escalate the situation until someone is dead on the ground in the pouring rain. I have since inherited a gun that belonged to a family member and I still have no plans to carry. I don't live in Baghdad or Belfast, I have no compelling reason to walk around armed. That's the difference between George Zimmerman and me, the ability to see that a gun only adds to the problem, it doesn't resolve it.

I wish to god Zimmerman wasn't found not guilty because he is guilty, he has blood on his hands. He set himself as a cowboy looking to save a world that didn't need to be saved and a poor teenage boy is dead. He may have gone out to Target to shop like any other person on other night but when he came back, he found a Scary Black Man, one of those who "always got away", and not a kid walking back home from a trip to the store chatting on the phone with a friend. Unfortunately the child died but the "Scary Black Man" lives on.

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