By Christopher Paslay
There is a valuable lesson to be learned from the death of Trayvon Martin. It is not about profiling or racial bias, which the Martin family attorney has stated had nothing to do with the case. The lesson to be learned from the needless death of the unarmed 17-year-old African American male is one of communication, a lesson I hope to instill into the minds of my 10th-grade students this coming school year.
If George Zimmerman or Martin made more of an effort to communicate with one another on that rainy winter night, there's a good chance Martin would be alive today. From the evidence presented during the three-week trial, we can conclude the following: Zimmerman spotted Martin walking around in a hoodie in the rain. Because there had been numerous burglaries in the neighborhood by people fitting the description of Martin, Zimmerman got out of his truck to observe the teen and locate a street address.
According to the account of Rachel Jeantel, it was at this point that Zimmerman may have said, "What are you doing around here?"
We know now that Martin was simply returning to the house of his father's fiancée, where he was living. It was at this point, if you believe the testimony, that Martin may have struck Zimmerman and knocked him onto his back. Martin then apparently straddled Zimmerman, beating him and pounding his head on the ground.
Many people believe that the tragedy - or the crime - was that Zimmerman profiled Martin as a criminal, which is what Martin supporters insist led to the boy's death. But legally speaking, this was not the case, which is why Zimmerman was acquitted. According to the law, it is not illegal to watch someone from your car, or to get out and follow them.
It is also not illegal to approach someone and ask them a question, perhaps, "What are you doing around here?" According to the law (and the jury's verdict), following Martin and asking him a question was not reckless or irresponsible enough to set in motion the events that eventually led to his death, which is why Zimmerman was found not guilty.
The act that led to Martin's death was when Martin allegedly decided to strike and attack Zimmerman, and to put the Hispanic neighborhood watch captain in a position where he feared for his life.
Which is why this case is about communication, not profiling. Human beings, with all of their imperfections and frailties, are going to observe, investigate, follow, question, and yes - profile - one another. To think otherwise is fantasy.
If we want to spare our young people, especially young African American men, Martin's fate, we need to teach them to talk to one another. Remember, when Zimmerman approached, Martin could have done any one of the following: walked or run away; gone into his house; or kept a safe distance and tried to communicate.
According to the evidence and the verdict of the jury, he did none of them. He apparently chose to attack Zimmerman, an act that directly led to his own death.
If Zimmerman or Martin would have taken the time to communicate with one another, this terrible tragedy could have been avoided.