In response to the New Black Panther Party’s bounty offer, the Sanford Police offered, “The city of Sanford does not condone the actions and recommendations of the New Black Panther Party,” in a statement. “Attempts by civilians to take any person into custody may result in criminal charges or unnecessary violence.”
Williams claims that this statement “offers insight into the death of Martin, the response of the police at the scene and an antiquated, discriminatory mindset that requires addressing now. If the Sanford police had exercised an equally balanced reaction to Zimmerman, as expressed in the statement to the New Black Panthers, Zimmerman would be behind bars today.”
Williams wonders “How can police sanction vigilante justice in the name of self-defense by Zimmerman against an unarmed child but condemn a response of “perceived” vigilante justice by the New Black Panthers? The double standard inherent in this inequitable response is solely defined by race.”
Williams is not alone. Most African-Americans would say that in American society, the very potential for black aggression is immediately met with force and an admonishment to use caution and temperance. How is it they wonder, that Zimmerman is somehow excused for being rash, unreasonable and violent and that he and his family are deserving of more protection than a child walking home with Skittles and an iced tea?
Williams says Martin, as described by Zimmerman in the 911 tapes, was “suspicious.” Why? Because, as Zimmerman claimed, he was “a black male.” Despite the suggestion of the lead investigator on the scene to charge Zimmerman with homicide and unintentional manslaughter, the police officers at the station chose to overrule that decision and let Zimmerman walk. In what universe does this happen?
Sanford issued a press release “requesting calm heads and no vigilante justice” in response to the Panthers. But vigilante activity has already occurred, the most direct result being the death of Martin, who, according to his English teacher was an “A and B student who majored in cheerfulness.”
The double standards around race in general and black masculinity in particular are deeply entrenched in old racial codes that have been reinforced by Hollywood, media images and false metanarratives for decades. And, anyone can understand how it must make Williams and all black men and women feel to know that they are still chained to the racial slavery of opinion that surrounds our culture today, just as it did 60, 200 and 400 years ago. That every time they step out of their homes, African-Americans are in some way a target for fearful and prejudiced whites, who may or may not be carrying guns.
But, it is equally true that by an order of magnitude, more black males commit violent crime than that of their white peers, so it may not be unwarranted that black males should arouse greater suspicion when, walking while black. Not reasonable, but maybe understandable.