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Walking While Suspicious

March 21, 2012

On Thursday and Friday morning last week, instead of getting up for my workout, I went for my long walk down to escort. After escorting on Friday, I walked over to the store to pick up some supplies for a project I had been working on. It was a very long walk, much longer than I am used to. The walk home was even harder for me since I was burdened with the bag with my shopping.

On the long walk, I had lots of time to think about what it’s like for people whom these long walks are a way of life. I passed quite a few of them, since my neighborhood is a patchwork of lower and middle income housing. You can see the evidence of their long walks sometimes, abandoned by the side of the road. The grocery cart will usually stay there for a few weeks, empty now of the pile of groceries intended to get the purchaser through the next few weeks.  A mute testimony to a person who didn’t want to make the long walk any more often than they had to.

I pass a lot of people walking as I drive in my neighborhood. It’s something I’ve been noticing a lot more in the past few days. I used to get frustrated by the people walking in the street, but now I realize that our neighborhood is sloppily stitched with sidewalks. The people in the street aren’t obstacles in the way of my driving. They are people trying to get to work, people trying to get to school, people trying to get something to eat.  People who might just be going to get a bag of Skittles and some iced tea from the gas station.

I will never know what it is like to be automatically viewed as suspicious. On those mornings when I wear a hoodie on my walk, I am still too obviously female and my hands are very obviously white. Even the women I pass will still make eye contact and we will trade the wary tight smiles that you give to a stranger. I do not smile at the men. The men not are automatically suspicious, but they exist in that somewhat neutral space where most women I know put a strange man on the street. The one that weighs his size and age and considers whether or not you could escape in case of trouble.

I imagine that when George Zimmerman got out of his car, Trayvon Martin made a similar judgement. He saw a man who had been following him in his car. He saw that Zimmerman was 10 years older, and 100 pounds heavier. And I cannot help but think that young Martin saw the look in Zimmerman’s eyes. The look that says “You are suspicious. You do not belong here. You are out of place here.” It is a look that is unmistakably hostile. And it breaks my heart that it was probably not the first time that Martin had seen that look in someone’s eyes.

Martins was a young man just walking down the street. A young man who wasn’t able to or didn’t want to take a car on a simple trip to the gas station. Zimmerman was a man in a large vehicle with the advantage of age and weight. And he had a gun. In all ways, Zimmerman was the person in control. He chose to get out of his car. He chose to ignore the instructions of the police dispatcher. He chose to bring that gun out there with him.

There is some discussion that Zimmerman might not be found guilty because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground self defense law. But even if it is eventually declared that Zimmerman didn’t break the law, what he did it is still a crime.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2012 7:06 am

    Quite frankly I think you worded the whole situation perfectly.

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  1. “I Think I’m Being Followed” « Crossed Wires

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