published Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Cook: I am not Trayvon Martin

Just listen. To a few sentences. Just … listen.

“It’s a whole different kind of universe for white folks as for black folks,” said Maxine Cousins. “It’s a whole different kind of reality with the police.”

It was Monday night, and Cousins, whose father died in police custody in a Chattanooga jail 30 years ago, was sitting on a Miller Park bench, in the middle of one of the largest rallies I’ve ever seen in Chattanooga. Marvin Gaye is singing from the loudspeakers.

“Our own son got stopped over on Lone Oak,” said Cousins. “He was 17. They threw him up against the car.”

Fifteen feet away sat Tyisha Brown and Shana Sanders, both 26.

“A situation like this could affect anyone,” said Brown. “The big issue here is about justice. How could you shoot someone and not serve a day in jail?”

“It's unfortunate,” said Sanders. “But this could affect any one of our families.”

Stop, here, with this one sentence. It’s this statement, this one, that does the work on me.

Because when I think about Trayvon Martin, the black 17-year-old shot by a Florida neighborhood watch volunteer and the focus of Monday’s rally in Chattanooga and untold others across the U.S., I do not think — immediately — about my own son or family.

I do not believe this could happen to my own son in the way that so many black Americans think it could happen to theirs.

And that is why the idea of a post-racist America is so hollow.

“For every black man in America, from the millionaire in the corner office to the mechanic in the local garage, the Trayvon Martin tragedy is personal,” wrote Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post. “It could have been me or one of my sons. It could have been any of us.”

Had Trayvon been white, no one would have written those words.

Monday evening was not an Ice-T/Body-Count type of rally against the police. Please hear me say that. The folks I spoke with talked about building community and stopping gun violence. There were hugs and tears, handshakes and prayers.

But it was not difficult for people I spoke with to bring up hard feelings about injustice. It was like thumbing to page 39 of a 1,000-page book.

In my book, injustice is on page 985. When I see the police come, I feel relieved. We sometimes wave.

So why the radical difference in experience? The alternative universe, as Cousins said?

So many of the signs being held Monday pointed to this: “Yours Could Be Next.” And “I Am Trayvon” And “Could Be Yours Tomorrow.”

It was as if there was some word bubble next to these signs, some different language in invisible ink, begging to be heard and translated by white America: This is our experience. What we see in Florida is not exclusive to Florida.

“I feel like it’s me against them,” said Terrance McClarty, 36.

McClarty lives at the intersection of 12th and Kelly Street, a block over from the spot where Keoshia Ford was shot on March 17. She’s 13 and had been dancing with friends in the yard when a drive-by bullet struck her skull.

She remains in a coma.

McClarty said that afternoon began with innocent cookout.

“Hot dogs. Hamburgers. Kids out there and music. An ordinary block party,” he said. “There was no trouble.”

“Then the police pulled up and said shut it down,” he said. “I could have been at your house with 200 people and the police would not have come. I could have been at your house on Signal Mountain and it would have been OK.”

Is that true? Does it make a difference in your hearing McClarty’s story to know that he’s been arrested three times in the last two years?

“Make sure you put this in there,” he said. “Not all the police are bad.”

Yes, and not all black 17-year-olds wearing hoodies are threats.

“Brother, brother, brother,” sang Gaye. “There’s far too many of you dying. You know we’ve got to find a way … to bring some lovin’ here today.”

For us to ever bury racism, we must begin to listen. Because even though I don’t think my son could be Trayvon Martin, that doesn’t mean yours may not be.

“Talk to me, so you can see, what’s going on … what’s going on … what’s going on.”

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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Welcome_2 said...

JonRoss, in how many of those African-American deaths at the hands of African-American men were no arrests made? The nation isn't at this critical point because of what Zimmerman did, but what the city of Sanford failed to do. That was, properly investigate a homicide. Not even police with years and years of training, and even when the criminal is caught red handed are police allowed such privilege as Zimmerma apparently was.

March 29, 2012 at 4:22 p.m.
riverman said...

Hey David, why dont you move from your white enclave on Signal Mountain to East Lake? Might change your perspective a little bit.

March 29, 2012 at 5:43 p.m.
SPQR said...

What a maudlin emotionally soaked piece of propaganda. Cook, you are the epitome of imbalance and the desire to be on the pc bandwagon. No you are NOT Trayvon Skittles. You are Mr. and Mrs. Bob Strait, a white elderly OK couple whose whom was invaded by a lone black thug: an 85-year-old woman who was sexually assaulted and battered to death by a black home invader who also shot her 90-year-old husband in the face with a BB gun.

Nancy and Bob Strait, who had celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in December, were discovered by their daughter at their home in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

For every white man in America, from the millionaire in the corner office to the mechanic in the local garage, the Bob and Nancy Strait tragedy should be personal. It could have been me or my parents. It could have been any of us. Unlike the Martin incident, this attack and others--black on white-- that happened in the same time period were strictly local news—and caused no national outrage. Of course, in the bandwagon minds of hyper sensitive "journalists" at all levels of the media leviathan you are ultimately a liar and certainly a coward, seeking to implicitly dehumanize the diverse young and old white Americans. Knock it off and grow a pair, chump.

March 30, 2012 at 2:30 a.m.
jjmez said...

SPQR said:........"Unlike the Martin incident, this attack and others--black on white-- that happened in the same time period were strictly local news—and caused no national outrage"


You forget, SPQR, the Martin case remained pretty much local too, and would have stayed that way until the Sanford police tried to close the case without following proper police procedure by carrying out an investigation into a homicide. Until it was discovered that police actually prepped witnesses into changing their story on what actually place. One witness states she heard what sounded like a child's cries for help. The officer told her "no that was Zimmerman calling out for help."

In your example the suspect has been arrested. Yours is a desperately weak comparison.

March 30, 2012 at 10:40 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

SPQR, you are the one who is the "epitome of imbalance." The case you mentioned is in no way similar to the Trayvon Martin case. Anyone in the sanctity and privacy of their home should and does have the right to defend themselves. No sane person would dispute that. If either of them had killed the thug who invaded and brutalized them, no one would have questioned their actions.

But in the case of Trayvon Martin, there are way too many loopholes in Zimmerman's story. We do not know all the facts yet, but based on the evidence we do have, from the recording of his 911 call, it's clear that Zimmerman had to literally track this young man down, after the cops had told him not to. And Martin was doing nothing more than walking along a community sidewalk.

All of you who are trying to make this a political issue and whining about how liberals are so quick to play the race card are way off base. This is simply a case where the cops should have at least arrested and questioned Zimmerman to get at the truth of what happened, because any clear-headed person can easily see that his story doesn't add up and that Trayvon Martin did not pose any kind of threat to anyone. But on account of this insane "Stand Your Ground" law, cops are giving too many people a license to kill. Of course, the gun fetishists love this because it's a great excuse for them to act out their wet dreams of packing heat everywhere they go and turning every minor confrontation into a shootout at the OK Corral. And with Zimmerman/Martin, there appears to have been no confrontation at all...until cowboy Zimmerman himself created one, and then shot and killed this young man who, by all appearances and evidence gathered so far, appears to have been completely innocent of any wrong-doing.

March 30, 2012 at 11:57 a.m.
chet123 said...

JON ROSS WOULD BE CRYING BLOODY MURDER HAD IT BEEN HIS GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GRANDSON KILLED IN COLDBLOOD

NOW THIS BOZO CALL HIMSELF PRO-LIFE!!!

March 30, 2012 at 12:30 p.m.
Lr103 said...

After watching that police surveillance video at the police station Zimmerman was taken to and seeing him, I can better understand why Trayvon Martin thought he was someone about to harm him. Zimmerman looks like one of those dangerous Ms-13 gangbangers without the tatoos we've heard so much about in the media. Those same MS-13 gangs we have been warned were infiltrating America. Sheesh! They say those gangs have been known to chop off people heads 'n stuff. {cold shiver up and down my spine}

March 30, 2012 at 3:06 p.m.
chet123 said...

JONROSS THAT MAY BE CORRECT....SO WHAT YOU HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT...Hmmmmm?....YOU ARE MAKING MY POINT.....

THAT WHAT I CALL TO SMART FOR YOUR OWN GOOD HA HA HA

THIS LIKE ME SAYING THAT MOST WIVES ARE KILLED BY A RIGHT-WING REPUBLICAN HUSBAND...WHO THINK SINCE HE CANT CONTROL HIS WIFE BECAUSE HE IS IMPOTENT DECIDES TO KILL HER......ITS WRONG...VERY WRONG...BUT IT DONT AFFECT ME!

YOU RIGHT-WING NUTS ARE REALLY FUNNY!

April 1, 2012 at 12:39 a.m.
chet123 said...

THIS WHOLE CASE IS A SAD COMMENTARY ON THE RIGHT-WING NUTS....THIS IS WHY EVERYONE CALL THEM NUTS....THEY ARE....THIS IS ALSO THE WAY THE WORLD SEES THEM

THANKS GOD FOR THE DEMOCRATS!!!!

April 1, 2012 at 12:43 a.m.

How about we wait until all the facts come out on this before we condemn George Zimmerman. Do all you libs want to eat crow again like you did with that local case where you all convicted that guy from signal mountain for killing his wife when she really just drove off the side of the mountain and killed herself? Chet123, what can I say? I love your posts. Keep up the good work.

April 2, 2012 at 11:13 a.m.
chet123 said...

DID SHE REALLY DRIVE OFF????...OR WAS THAT ANOTHER DOUBLE STANDARD WHERE THE GOOD OLE BOY GO FREE?Hmmmmm?

April 3, 2012 at 11:48 a.m.
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