ARTICLE

Unintended consequence of verdict

By Chad Simmons

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Yesterday, I was looking in my closet and saw my hoodie. I purchased the hoodie because I was the Master of Ceremonies at the Iowa City Million Hoodie March, one of the many gatherings held (last year) across the country.

Though the hoodie brings back memories of a community coming together, it also brings the devastating reality of how I feel about last week’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial and its unintended consequences.

Dad taught me about a fictional character called “Stranger Danger.” He told me that if I am approached by a person that I do not know, that I should run and scream for help if possible. If escaping is not a possibility, then I should stand my ground and fight. Please remember that I was not always 6-foot-4 and 280-plus pounds.

Trayvon Martin was walking home, with candy and ice tea and was unarmed. He was a teenager who was followed by a strange man and, after battling in a fist fight, was killed with a gun. I accept the verdict, but I don’t know what to do about the way I feel about the consequences of the decision.

African-American men have always needed to be careful about their surroundings. I teach young men never to walk directly behind women. To always show respect to law enforcement, and remember, “How you say it” is just as important as “what you say.” An elevated voice can be mistaken for a sign of aggression.

We have come a long way from the Rodney King incident and have learned to just get along. But Trayvon wasn’t drunk, did not have a criminal record and was simply walking home when he encountered Stranger Danger. Trayvon was doing nothing wrong and he died.

I feel hopeless because I don’t know how to prevent this from happening again. I don’t know what to teach my nephews and protégés.

I don’t know how to keep them safe. Should I teach them how to use their Second Amendment remedies? That doesn’t seem to be working in Chicago. Should we lock them in their homes and allow them to go outside only for visits?

The judicial system has proved that incarceration continues to have a devastating impact on our communities. Is this as good as it gets? If we can’t protect our family, what does that say about our role and us as providers? What if Stranger Danger was following our spouse or daughter and the exact same scenario happened to them?

One day soon, I will have answers, but today I will leave you with this incomplete blog. It is the only way that I can express the emptiness that I feel at this moment.Chad Simmons is executive director of Diversity Focus, Cedar Rapids. This article was excerpted from his blog post at www.diversityfocus.org. Comments; csimmons@diversityfocus.org

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