Mind Tripping About “Standing Your Ground”

by on March 31, 2012 · 23 comments

in Civil Rights, From the Soul, San Diego

Marching for Trayvon Martin in San Diego. Photo courtesy of Yvette Porter

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…”

Cleavon Manson now sits in a jail awaiting trial. Someone mentioned the three suspensions on Gabe Zabielski’s school records for being in possession of bags of weed but that was countered with: “My goodness, that is irrelevant to this case. A man and woman’s son is dead. Can you show a little sympathy for their grief?”

Thing is: Cleavon is exactly where he should be. And I hold out hope after feeling the energy from so many loving folks who marched in behalf of Trayvon Martin the other day that George Zimmerman will get his due for taking the law in his own hands – when no law had been broken. My favorite chant at the rally was:

Being black is not a crime.
George Zimmerman do your time.

It’s way past time.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

judi Curry March 31, 2012 at 11:57 am

Again, Ernie, an eloquent piece. Zimmerman is, in my opinion, guilty of murder, and the longer that he walks the streets as a free man the greater the chance of this happening again – by Zimmerman himself, or by someone who thinks that the “Z” man will be free.
What a sad state of affairs that we live in.


jim grant April 2, 2012 at 7:21 am

Guilty of murder? …evidence must presented first. He might be. He might not be. That is what the police and investigators do. As of now there is no evidence or even a constant of story.
It is interesting to me how the media has tried him already. I also find it interesting how the family has not released any current photos of Trayvon . Apparently the photo released is 2 years old.
Time will tell no doubt.
Zimmerman might be guilty of a lot of things probably stupidity at the top of the list .


Ernie McCray April 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Now, with your logic as to there needs to be evidence before we can say Zimmerman is guilty or not guilty of murder, the same would apply to whether or not he is guilty of “stupidity.” If he truly wasn’t meddling into a boy’s life and that boy came up to him and started beating the life out of him would he be stupid for shooting the boy? We can all speculate on this situation based on our points-of-view but a step has been left out – Zimmerman took a life and he bypassed “Going to jail.” Does the “Stand Your Ground” law allow such in its wording? The courts don’t play a role?


jim grant April 2, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Absolutely not Mr. McCray you are not comparing apples to apples. We all are guilty of being stupid from time to time right? Being accused of murder and being accused of being stupid the penalties and incarnation times are vastly different. If every time in my life I was stupid I faced life prison or worse I would be hurtin by now trust me …
Everybody speculates you included, Nobody knows what happened and no body ever will. Nobody has all the facts because they have not been disclosed. You seem to have a lot of emotional investment in this with out a lot of actual facts and that is your right. But don’t get upset when your challenged.
I just heard the video of Mr. Zimmerman being taken into custody was ” photographically enhanced” and it in fact shows a large gash on his head. So slowly but surely facts will come into the light of day ….It actually might be that the 17 year old 6’2″ strapping young man did instigate the fight ….time will tell.


Anna Daniels April 2, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Jim- “I was stupid” defense? When you have a gun? When you kill an unarmed person in cold blood? Wow.


Paula July 17, 2013 at 7:30 pm

I am guilty of occasional stupidity but not once has my stupidity ended up in my shooting someone. Stupid is no excuse for murder.


Ernie McCray April 2, 2012 at 8:12 pm

What I have trouble with is it is not against the law for an American to walk on any American street. There have many times based on my prejudices that I’ve seen someone walk in front of my house looking “suspicious” as hell and I’ve followed a few with my eyes – my eyes only. If I had walked out there and questioned them with a gun, which I don’t own as I don’t live in fear – but who’s instigating?
And if a person has a gun, can’t they say “Back off, ___, or I’ll blow you away?” Hey, “time will tell” as you say, but aren’t there tons of people in jail this very moment who are innocent and will have an opportunity to prove their innocence? My only complaint is that this dude is not behind bars. We don’t know what happened as so many like to say and in not knowing we don’t know if he’s a danger to anyone else. He walks free while you and I are arguing. Isn’t there something grossly wrong with the picture?


jim grant April 2, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Well the authorities I think have to have a substantial reason to put him in jail that’s how our system works.
And I am not arguing simply stating the other side of the issue. I think its terrible anybody dies that way…But he was a 17 years old 6’2″ and in good health and strength and raised in a tuff part of town I am sure you are not so naive to think he was not capable of violence…
You can bet the Police have Mr. Zimmerman under the microscope right now they are tracking every move , every call, every internet click and everywhere he goes …..Time will tell , but you cant string him up cause you ” think” he murdered the young man.


Ernie McCray April 3, 2012 at 9:48 am

We’re just going around and around. I have not suggested stringing him up. And of course I’m not so naive to think that Trayvon wasn’t capable of violence; are you kidding me, with the black on black crime, with all the times I’ve taken part in conferences regarding gang problems and the like – I recently wrote about such a conference.
Maybe I’ve missed something but in my life experiences, based on what I’ve seen, killing somebody has very much been a substantial reason to put somebody in jail. I’ve known of people who had the charges dropped or were proven innocent in a court of law – but they went to jail first if only for a night or two. I thought that was how our SYSTEM works but apparently you know something that I know very little about. And to stick with the system, and to go to the question posed in my essay, do you think if I, a black man, shot a white boy in the same kind of scenario as happened in Florida – do you think I would have spent the night in my own bed, even under Stand Your Ground. Is that how the system works? Let me answer for you: HELL NO! There would be all kinds of “substantial reasons” for me to be locked up. Now leave me alone and stop trying to put me in some vigilante category or paint me as somebody who hates white people. I’ve spent a lifetime pursuing justice for ALL, like in this very moment.


Charlie April 2, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Finally a breathe of fresh air. They are acting like vigilantes without any proof. Thank you.


Ernie McCray March 31, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Sad state of affairs, indeed.


Anna Daniels April 1, 2012 at 10:31 am

Ernie- this is the article that screamed out to be written. Thank you.


Ernie McCray April 1, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Yeah, it screamed out to me very loud.


john April 2, 2012 at 4:41 am

And Cleavon was convicted, and sent to the gas chamber and executed. Four strong oxen were brought in, and the body was drawn, and quartered. Those pieces were also drawn, and quartered, and the pieces again, drawn and quartered… The head was placed on a pike (NOT the fish) to be publicly displayed for one week’s time, and slowly pecked at and taken away by carrion.
And after all this, racial inequality and tensions in America are retroactively righted and erased, and they lived happily ever after, the end, with teenagers everywhere free to wander in strange neighborhoods they don’t live in on missions for the desperate need of Skittles and Iced Tea while watching NBA all star games on active suspension from school, and fully prepared to open a can of whoopass on any adult who actually lives in that neighborhood having the audacity to question their right to go trippin’ on private property.
That IS progress! When I was 17 and in similar trouble I wasn’t allowed to leave the house without direct adult supervision.


Ernie McCray April 2, 2012 at 10:08 am

I think I understand why you weren’t allowed to leave the house without direct adult supervision.


john April 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Belittling someone’s person usually comes after you do the same to his talking points. Perhaps mine were unclear, I was attempting to mirror the style of the article by being humorously obtuse.
Ernie, it seems the black community and many of its left leaning sympathizers wish to penalize George Zimmerman for all the injustices suffered by blacks in America, which is an injustice itself. (look at the way an article here in the rag describes people saying Trayvor Martin is our Emmit Till.) The word lynching comes to mind when you look at the trial by public opinion going on, how will one more injustice right or prevent others?
More than anything it’s bothersome to think that so many black people will only consider the theory that communities across America are filled with whites who wish to kill them for no other reason than the color of their skin. I believe it takes a level of hate to promote the idea itself. While Emmit Till proves this has been the case before and maybe there are still a few isolated holdouts, I’ve never met such a person in my life and Zimmerman has shown no history of behavior to conclude this was his motivation.
In conclusion it’s a mistake to think you’re going to see progress on race relations in America by making Zimmerman a poster child for all the white devils dancing in your head, but perhaps someone’s forgotten that progress will only come when all sides respect each other- other sentiments such as pity, contempt, patronizing, loathing, etc, are not going to get us there.


Anna Daniels April 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm

John- I am not seeing the respect you request in your own comment.


Ernie McCray April 2, 2012 at 2:19 pm

My intent was not to belittle you, John. And I’ve made no reference to theories that there are a bunch of white people out there wishing to kill people like me just because of my color. I’m not saying anything, John, except that Zimmerman should either be in jail or out on bail, awaiting his moment in court as I most likely would be if I killed somebody -especially a white boy. And how many more of my young black brothers have to die for walking or driving down the street? What do you want from us? How come the term “fairness” seemingly only comes up when it applies to the misfortunes of a white person? Affirmative Action came along and a few people of color and women scored a job and people started talking about how unfair that is. Remember Alan Bakke? A black person or two got into medical school ahead of him and he fought it all the way to the Supreme Court when, historically, “qualified” blacks had been overlooked for centuries. A man kills a black boy who’s walking and talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone and now I’m supposed to not rush to judgment; I’m supposed to be fair; I’m supposed to not be so quick to claim “racism” as the cause. That’s a heavy burden on a brother, dude! If the man gets his day in court and he’s proven innocent by FACTS – I can live with that. But don’t tell me I can’t speculate and wonder and speak my mind. That’s telling me to “stay in my place” and I don’t play that. “When all sides respect each other?” Lord, I hope to see that day. I’ve played a role in that. Have you?


john April 2, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Well first we should understand that the way the law in Florida is written, they don’t automatically lock you up for killing a person in self defense and sort out the facts later. A reliable witness told police that night that Zimmerman was on the ground on his back screaming and Martin was striking him. They could not ascertain from Zimmerman’s 911 call nor from any other witness or evidence that Zimmerman had done anything unlawful to put him in such a situation, so uncomfortable as it may be when police arrive at the scene Zimmerman is considered the crime victim because of that eyewitness testimony (as reiterated here: )

Sentiments he should be jailed or on bail are based on belief he committed first or second degree murder motivated by racial bigotry, which is sheer speculation even now, let alone the night of the killing. Z immerman called police 46 times in the last year, if he was profiling blacks with made up stories about their actions, wouldn’t we have a record of that? Wouldn’t we have dozens of young black males who’d been described in those calls stepping forward now or even back then?

It seems the only evidence being used to convict George of a racist killing in the court of public opinion is the previous injustices done to blacks, you offer an exhibit yourself by discussing affirmative action. That program could be called just as it seeks to improve the fortunes of blacks as a whole because of systemic discrimination over generations. If it had randomly selected white individuals to be fired from their jobs to do so then it would be wrong. I grew up in the SF bay area, where racism has long been very uncool, if the whole nation were like that I’d be against AA. However knowing the social fabric o f America also includes the deplorable situation in places like the deep south and inner cities of the east coast, I can’t with clear conscience oppose it.

All I’m saying is for justice to be served you’ve got to separate sentiments about all the other injustices from the equation and look at this event on its own merits, and there is no evidence or rationality to conclude this is a racist killing. Promoting it is leads to a “boy who cried wolf” situation, which only hurts things. It makes no sense that Zimmerman calls the police and gives a description of a man he’s about to murder, and asks them to come out and see him do it. Thus first degree murder is out the window. It makes no sense that Martin was cornered by Zimmerman, could not get away, lawfully defended himself and then Zimmerman shot him (second degree murder) simply because Martin, whose jersey number denotes a running back or end, could easily run circles around Zimmerman. You know how competition is to make the team at a large urban high school, there is no doubt in my mind Martin was not a superb athlete.

All rational analysis leads us to conclude Martin shared your feelings:
“That’s telling me to “stay in my place” and I don’t play that.” that night and felt the reason he was being followed was because he was black, not realizing Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch in an area with a string of break ins, or understanding he was on private property and Zimmerman was within his rights to scrutinize strangers. Being young he also doesn’t understand the perception of being followed or profiled does not justify assault and battery, and the only thing that’s able to be confirmed by eyewitness is that Martin did commit assault and battery on Zimmerman.

So just stop and think about whether fanning flames of anger are productive. If you and I are driving down the freeway tomorrow and I don’t see you in my blind spot and cut you off, will you assume I did so because I’m white and you’re black? Isn’t that only going to lead to an ugly confrontation if we pull over? Aren’t we just setting up a self fulfilling prophecy of doom by telling young black males if they are followed in a strange neighborhood it’s a white man who wants to kill you because you’re black?

Strangely, Judi Curry seems to imply above that if I take the opposing stance in the Zimmerman story that means I’m prone to go out and murder blacks. How about that I’m sick of racism but take a different tack on solving it?


Ernie McCray April 2, 2012 at 5:13 pm

I’m done. You’ve got a thesaurus that I have no privy to.


john April 2, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I use neither thesaurus nor spell check, but you needn’t feel as if I expect all my statements to be addressed. I hope only that some talking point I introduce be appealing enough to accept, or have you show me the errors within.
Being proven wrong doesn’t change my ideologies, but is an opportunity to learn something I did not yet know.


David Dean July 17, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Bless you Ernie.. I know you, love you, support you, and really do not have the time or interest in arguments like John’s however literate they may be.


Ernie McCray July 18, 2013 at 11:20 am

He’s a doozy.


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