NEW YORK NEW YORK: Worried over the safety of our boys
Mary Gibbs, a Bajan mother, is worried about what can happen to “my two boys” both teenagers, when they walk New York City streets.
And for good reason.
“When you think about the recent deaths of Trayvon Martin, 17, . . . and of Ramarley Graham, an 18-year-old West Indian in the Bronx, by a New York City police officer, they force you to ask the question: are our kids safe on the streets? You are always thinking about it.”
Gibbs’ question concerns at least 75 million Americans, most of them wanting to know how an unarmed black youth with no history of criminal behaviour can end up in the morgue.
Both the Trayvon and Ramarley stories underscore a simple fact of everyday life: young black men are routinely made victims of gun violence at the hands of white male authority figures.
Take the case of Trayvon, a Miami high school student visiting a small town in Florida. He was confronted on the street by George Zimmerman, an armed 28-year-old man, who wanted to know what the youth was doing in the predominantly white community.
Ignoring the caution of a police dispatcher not to pursue the teenager, Zimmerman did anyway and confronted Trayvon.
An argument ensued and the teenager was killed.
What we also know is that Florida officials declined to arrest and charge Zimmerman on the grounds of self-defence, meaning that under a “stand your ground” Florida statute the shooter is claiming he felt threatened and used his gun.
Ramarley, a Jamaican, was killed under different but no less painful circumstances. He had just left a Bronx street and walked into the apartment he shared with relatives when a New York City police officer, thinking he was dealing drugs, kicked down the door and shot and killed him in a bathroom in the presence of his grandmother.
The Trayvon story has so unnerved Americans that more than 25 per cent of them followed news about it, a figure much more than the 16 per cent interested in the 2012 election campaign.
These kinds of killing underscore how vulnerable African Americans and West Indians feel most of the time, even in their homes. They speak to the false assumption that black youth are all up to no good, a view apparently held by Zimmerman before he shot Trayvon.
Interestingly, no women – white, black, Hispanic or Asian – have killed unarmed, innocent youth because they felt they were crooks seeking to get away from the law.
That perhaps tells a story about the difference between males and females. Perhaps, it’s because women generally exercise better judgement than men.
• New York New York comes to an end today after 20 years of publication.