When my hand wasn’t being shook or my body hugged by old friends I stood with my mind tripping as I looked down at the multitude of people who had gathered to march in the name of Trayvon Martin who had been slain by George Zimmerman, a man who remains free from imprisonment under Florida’s “Standing Your Ground” law, aka the right to kill.
In between speakers, and as we walked, my mind kept on tripping and I let my imagination flow and from that there rose a scenario featuring a powerfully built African American man named Cleavon Manson and a six foot plus skinny white teenage boy who responds to Gabe. Last name, Zabielski.
Cleavon is known and respected for being kind and good and dedicated to protecting his diverse middle class neighborhood. Gabe likes to dress up in tight jeans and Doc Marten boots with white laces and he sports a haircut that comes within a hair of making him bald and on this particular night in my mind he’s returning from a convenience store munching on Skittles and nursing an iced tea, walking like a Nazi.
As Gabe walks in the direction of where his father’s girlfriend lives, Cleavon is cruising in an incredibly clean 74 Chevy Malibu Chevelle, entertaining his dream of someday becoming a police officer, his eyes scanning ahead, behind, and to both sides, seemingly at the same time, as a good law enforcement officer would do. His thoughts are fixed on the words “white power” that had been written on the sidewalk in front of a couple of homes owned by black residents on his block. In addition to the graffiti there had been a rash of incidents in the city where a couple of tall white toughs stomped around shooting menacing looks towards black teachers at Seminole State College, warning them with: “You smart-ass jigaboos better watch your step.”
“Boy, if I ever see one of those freaks they’ll have to answer to me, let me tell ya,” he said aloud to himself as R Kelly sang “I believe I can fly” over a sound system on his dashboard that could only be described as fly. He didn’t like Kelly, particularly, thinking of him as a pedophile, but he couldn’t help but listen “Because the man can sang” he liked to say when he was out with his golf buddies in the local chapter of the United States African American Golf Association.
Just as R launched into “If I can see it then I can be it, if I just believe…” Cleavon couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Mr. Zabielski. Talking about a day being made. He snatched his cell phone off the front passenger seat with the deftness of a pickpocket on a Manhattan Street, punched in three numbers and a dispatcher answered immediately:
“Emergency center, Mary McElroy speaking. What are you reporting?”
“There’s a real suspicious guy… the guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something…it’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about… he’s caucasian.”
“What is he wearing?”
“A skinhead outfit… Now he’s staring at me… now he’s coming toward me… he’s got his hands in his waist band… something’s wrong with him… he’s coming to check me out… I don’t know what his deal is…”
“We’ve got him on the wire… let me know if the guy does anything else.”
“These assholes. They always get away… he’s running.” Then Cleavon mutters something under his breath that sounded like “F-ing honkies.”
“Are you following him?” the dispatcher asks. “Yeah,” Cleavon replies, knowing that as a volunteer of Neighborhood Watch he is to act as the eyes and ears for the police and is not to follow anyone, just call 911. The dispatcher tells Cleavon “We don’t need you to do that,” and he acknowledges having heard with “OK.”
Both parties hang up. Cleavon, armed with a handgun follows Gabe in spite of being instructed not to and allegedly an encounter takes place, leaving Cleavon with non-life threatening injuries, if any, and Gabe lying dead on the pavement from a gunshot wound and no one knows what happened other than the world knows that the young man was stalked having pretty much just walked down the street looking skinheadish. Nothing more than that.
“Well, I showed that m.f.” Cleavon said to himself but when he looked up it seems like every cop in Florida had showed up on the scene: “Put your hands on your head and get down on your knees, nigger!” they yelled. “He attacked me!” Cleavon screamed back but he might as well have been talking to dogs at the pound for the sympathy he got. “I was ‘standing my ground!’” he claimed and the cops looked at him like he was insane and said “If you move your black ass an inch off the ground you’ll find yourself buried six feet under the ground! – and, furthermore: You have the right to remain silent…”
Ernie McCray is a retired Principal for San Diego Unified School District. His writings can be found on obrag.org, www.utsandiego.com and, tucsoncitizen.com.