Where There Is No Justice… We Must Find Peace

EDITOR’S NOTE; After a hiatus from published writing, Author Ivan Sanchez returns with his latest opinion piece. Welcome back, Ivan.

Several months back I put the pen down and told myself I wasn’t going to write anymore freelance articles. The reasoning behind my decision was simple. Media, especially social media now moves so fast that before I finish writing this next sentence, the reader has already moved on to the next breaking news story.

There is no time for anyone to digest my words, no fruitful discussions leading to positive insight or progressive change.

So there was no reason to waste my energy or time trying to enlighten, educate or inspire anyone with my writings any longer.

My change of heart recently came in the form of watching the Zimmerman case over the last few weeks and coming to the realization that many of my respected peers on social networks had all but gone crazy prior to day one of testimony.

The black hoodies were everywhere, the hash tag #justicefortrayvon was used in every other posting and the calls for Zimmerman’s death if acquitted began to grow stronger and louder with each passing day.

It was as if I was witnessing a modern day call to the lynching of a man who hadn’t yet had his day in court. And as a minority myself who has often screamed, “Where is our innocent until proven guilty,” this wasn’t sitting well with me morally.

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Furthermore, it seemed like the same hypocritical behavior we’ve often cried foul about in our law enforcement, political and government officials.

So I refrained from snapping a photo wearing a black hoodie for a profile picture. Refrained from commenting on anyone’s status updates, though there were some that tested my patience. And most importantly I held any and all comments back for the past year.

I chose instead to wait for the day when I’d be able to draw my own educated conclusion. A conclusion as to what, in my opinion, transpired on that tragic night, once I’d actually heard, digested and processed all of the arguments and evidence being presented in the courtroom.

A conclusion I’ll share a little later in this article.

Over the last several weeks I’ve felt this profound internal desire to shake everyone and make an argument that regardless of this verdict, there can truly be no justice, if there is no peace in our hearts.

But where do you begin such an argument in writing about a tragic situation on a national scale that has pushed your people to the brink of rioting and even more tragedy and self-destruction?

For me, I went to the only place I’d go if given one opportunity to bring someone into the discussion. I went to the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And in doing so, I found a prophetic statement he’d made back in the summer of 1965.

In June of 65, while giving a sermon at the Temple Israel in Hollywood, Dr. King stated, “We’ve been in the mountain of war. We’ve been in the mountain of violence. We’ve been in the mountain of hatred long enough. It is necessary to move on now, but only by moving out of this mountain can we move to the promised land of justice and brotherhood and the Kingdom of God. It all boils down to the fact that we must never allow ourselves to become satisfied with unattained goals. We must always maintain a kind of divine discontent…”

“We must always maintain a kind of divine discontent…”

And in living in this place of discontent as Dr. King reminds us, our restless longing for better circumstance cannot co-exist in a place of hatred.

So why the calls for rioting, for violence and even for death in the same sentence as your calls for justice?

There can be no justice in that vain for Trayvon Martin or his family. There can only be more hatred and more death, prolonging this vicious cycle of ignorance, lack of compassion and a true lack of understanding what justice truly is.

And what is justice truly?

Well that’s something only we can answer, within ourselves. However, if your definition of justice is a good old fashioned lynching, then I implore you to seek help immediately.

Can there ever truly be justice over the tragic and untimely death of a child?

I’d say no. Because regardless of this verdict, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin will never get to hold their son again.

But there must be peace, if any of us are to live another day and learn from these tragedies in hopes of not repeating them.

I only pray that Trayvon’s parents will find peace within their hearts before they themselves leave this earth.

And for the record… I am Trayvon Martin…

Perhaps more so than the many of you who have taken to utilizing the tagline as a cliché and a way to earn cool social networking points?

I was exactly Trayvon Martin (R.I.P) back in 1989 as a sixteen-year-old minority who had just lost a friend to murder in the Bronx. I was Trayvon when I found myself in the beautiful landscape of Virginia Beach mourning my friend’s loss.

I remember one night as if it were only yesterday. I threw on my hoodie and my headphones, listening to a cassette-tape of reggae envisioning my boy Chippy (R.I.P) scatting along to his Jamaican homeland music as if he were still alive.

I was Trayvon as I walked very slowly through my mother’s plush community, with tears hidden behind the rain literally running down my face, while I contemplated what my next move in life should be.

It wasn’t just pouring outside; it was more like a monsoon with heavy rains soaking right through my clothing. And to the nervous eyes watching, and believe me some watched closely, I should’ve had no business being out there observing all the beautiful homes. Even if I was just wondering if I’d ever grow-up to acquire any of these things.

I was Trayvon as I thought about what I’d become when I grew up or fail to become if I didn’t change my ways.

The only difference is no one accosted me on that night or questioned me as to why I was there.

But if anyone had, I most certainly would’ve been ready to throw blows if I felt threatened, concerned, confused or disrespected in any way.

After all, this culture of ours teaches us nothing if not to be respected at all times.

And if someone had approached me that night and things took a deadly turn for the worst. Who is to say I wouldn’t have equally been responsible for any altercation, though I was simply minding my own business to begin with?

That’s the thing about circumstance. It just happens. No warning. No insight as to how it will play out.

With that said… Man years later I became George Zimmerman.

I moved out to Virginia Beach, became a professional and very much enjoyed raising a family in a community that looked out for itself.

On many occasions I’ve appointed myself the neighborhood watch guy. Involved myself in situations that were about to become worse, such as teenagers getting ready to fight in the neighborhood, stepping outside when I’ve heard domestic disputes hoping my presence would calm the situation, etc.

In my mind I was always simply being an engaged, invested and concerned citizen. Knowing firsthand what happens when a community stops looking out for itself after seeing my old Bronx neighborhood transition from community to crime-ridden.

And it is on that premise that I can very much relate to the actions of Zimmerman on the night of the unfortunate circumstance that ended in tragedy.

I can’t in good faith believe that a man heading out to Target decided that instead of checking for the red dot specials, he’d much rather choose to end the life of a teenager that night, forever altering the course of his own life.

And I can’t buy into this force-fed, neatly packaged theory that race had anything to do with the tragic circumstance that transpired that night.

From the circumstance of Zimmerman wanting to protect his neighborhood, to the circumstance of him spotting a hooded up Trayvon, to the circumstance of Trayvon deciding to walk through the neighborhood at that exact time, perhaps contemplating on his own future. To the circumstance of Trayvon feeling threatened enough to raise his fists, to those final tragic circumstances when both of their paths intersected, an altercation ensued and the final shooting that ended one young life and altered another life forever.

In my educated opinion tragic circumstance, not 2nd degree murder and certainly not a racial killing led to the untimely death of Trayvon Martin.

If there is any peace or justice to come of this tragic circumstance, it should be a lesson to us all about community, about educating our youth, about tolerance, about understanding and most importantly about communication.

Had Zimmerman and Martin simply been able to have a respectful conversation with one another, there would be no tragedy.

Had Martin not labeled Zimmerman a, “Creepy ass cracker,” and Zimmerman not labeled Martin as, “These assholes always get away,” perhaps they could’ve had a respectful dialogue that would’ve led to smiles as opposed to fisticuffs.

Perhaps Martin could’ve said, thanks for looking out for my father’s neighborhood instead of throwing that punch. And perhaps Zimmerman could’ve welcomed Martin to the neighborhood as opposed to shooting him to death.

Unfortunately as a society, we’re not yet ready to move from the mountain of war, the mountain of violence or the mountain of hatred.

And as Dr. King said, “only by moving out of this mountain can we move to the promised land of justice and brotherhood…”

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I pray that as this verdict is revealed, you’ll speak to your neighbors, your friends, your family and you’ll ask them to find the peace needed to bring about true justice and lasting change for Trayvon Martin.

Not a continuation of the destruction, violence and war we’ve all grown accustomed to.

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