There is saying in South Florida, you have to go north to south. I lived in both parts of Florida. I grew up in South Florida which is 1/3 Cuba, 1/3 New York City, and 1/3 Haiti. It was a melting pot and diversity was just the way it was. I moved to the greater Orlando area for college where it was another world.
Before February of 2012, I had good thoughts of Sanford, Florida. My old drummer and I would play in a trailer behind his parent’s house and my first gig as a musician was at Lake Mary’s Pub right outside of Sanford with a bunch of rednecks who thought we sucked. We would joke about the rednecks and about that show. It was special though, it was our first one and Sanford became a sentimental place for me.
Now, I think of those rednecks and the rest of them I saw in that part of Florida and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Now, I think of those times where I drove down the wrong road and ended up afraid. It wasn’t the wrong road you think of (It wasn’t a Martin Luther King Road) it was usually a dirt road that ended with a pick up truck and a white person with a gun. This was pre-GPS and I ended up in places where I got the dirty look that said ‘Jew’ or ‘SPIC get out of here’ and I would drive as fast as I could.
That is the culture I noticed in Northern Florida, it was another world 300 miles away for the home I grew up in Palm Beach County. I went to bad neighborhoods that were ‘black’ and I’m not going to lie I was there for bad reasons. I went to OBT in Orlando to do ‘illegal things’ but I felt safe as a caucasian. I was a customer. But, it was the white people in Northern Florida that freaked me out. There was this mentality they all had of ‘I’m The Law…Get On Out Boy’ that is legal to have because of ‘Stand Your Ground’ which has so tragically caused the loss of life of a boy without repercussions.
Leaving that shit hole of cultural deficiency called Central Florida (sorry Facebook friends of Orlando) felt like the best day of my life. I left and went to Washington, D.C. which is not a great place for a writer and musician but was a paradise compared to the greater area of Orlando. I could do things there, meet people there I couldn’t in Northern Florida. I was able to date black women in DC and not worry about it.
Race is different in different areas. But in Central Florida, though, if I would have taken any of these ‘colored’ girls out and drove them to IHOP I wouldn’t have felt as comfortable; I would have felt unsafe because there is still ‘stuff’ in the south that I don’t experience in the north in the United States or in South Florida.
There are different ‘lines’ when it comes to color in different parts of the country. Those lines are the ‘color lines’ some people want ‘blacks’ stay on their side and leave them alone, some people are okay with being friends with ‘blacks’ but won’t date one, and some people will date them but won’t marry them, and some people will see a black kid going into a store and think ‘good, a customer, I need some sales’ while others will think ‘shit a thief’. That is America, full of different degrees of ‘the color line’. Racism is very much alive and I have no solution for it; I don’t think you can make laws to change people’s hearts, I think culture and experience is the only thing that really changes things.
I noticed this because a lot of whites make race personal and judge entire races on their experience with the opposite race. Myself, I’ve had good experiences with African and Haitian-Americans; I’ve had jobs in black communities and they have been very good to me. My ‘heart’ is past the ‘color line’, not cause I’m enlightened or I’m some white saint who deserves a pat on the back, it is only because my experiences and the culture I grew up in. Culture and experience has made me see clear as day we are the same and I don’t fear a black person with a hoodie, I just think, ‘yeah it is cold outside’. We are equal and though I have no plans on getting married, if it is a black woman I decided to do the dirty deed with my mom would just have to deal with it, Jewish Mothers are a whole nother story and a whole nother blog topic.
I don’t usually write about serious subjects unless it is a pretentious film I love; I am a humor writer and I make many jokes about race: I acknowledge it, I’m not PC, I hate political correctness, I think it is a sham, as I was proudly part of the twitter trend #racialdraft, and had fun with it. It was a beautiful thing to see people laughing and coming together at a 7-year-old Dave Chappelle bit that was on trending like #Sharknado. Maybe I am biased but humor is best way to change hearts but minutes later when that ‘not guilty verdict’ spread everywhere the fun on twitter was over.
Myself along with many other people felt really upset. All for different and same reasons. Some other people rejoiced, and were happy for Zimmerman; I don’t see them as evil or bad, I think they have a different cultural view, lack of empathy, and a blind spot or just inexperience and ignorance with race. They are the convenience store owner who is afraid of the black kid in the hoodie. They have had experiences that led them to believe that Trayvon was probably up to no good and Zimmerman stopped him.
Worldviews and subconscious prejudice can cloud definitions of justice, looking at Zimmerman, I see him the same way I see these people on social media celebrating his innocence. Ignorant and picking battles, looking to start problems that shouldn’t even be there to begin with if we lived in a better world.
The tragedy of the whole act was Zimmerman could have just went back to his house and let the cops do their jobs…but he didn’t. And no, I wasn’t there, I have no idea what was said, but Zimmerman ‘Stood His Ground’ just like when I drove On wrong side of the road and Zimmerman saw himself as the protector but Trayvon didn’t have a car to escape in, he only had a phone and candy and was going to end up in altercation because Zimmerman chose to start one.
Racism aside, that is where Zimmerman was wrong and that was great error that cost a boy his life. The issue here is not just race but misuse of power and Zimmerman having a gun on him, he misused it. I don’t care if he thought he was doing the right thing and I know many people do, but to me I see it as a kid getting profiled, stalked, messed with, and then killed.
Our justice system decided that is okay but culturally I can’t say it is and I hope others change their mind because it is not okay. It is not okay to think you are Charles Bronson and this is Death Wish 8. This is real life and a real life was lost because of an ignorant man misused a gun. The only justice we can hope for now is Trayvon’s parent’s take Zimmerman to Civil Court, because what Zimmerman did was not justice to me, it was a mistake and in a civil society you pay for your mistakes especially when it is taking a life.