When I started this blog I wanted it to be about bikes, my frame building, bike racing, and my involvement with all three. Being a political person it was a real line in the sand to keep politics off a place I share opinions, and I’m opinionated. Something has happened recently that I feel strongly enough about to cross that line and share what I believe in, even if it alienates a future client. I’m going to share my thoughts on Treyvon Martin because he’s local, and I don’t mind associating my brand with my opinion if it can maybe do some good.
I’d first like to share some thoughts about one of the towns I call home, Sanford FL. I’ve spent 36 of my 41 years in Seminole county, a small very homogenous county of which Sanford is the county seat. Of those 36 years I’ve only had a Sanford address for 6 months, but I’ve had an office in Sanford, I have clients in Sanford, and I participate in civic events as well as shop and dine there. It’s a lovely town on a beautiful lake. It’s a great small town in many ways. Sanford is also like many Southern towns with its small commercial district struggling with revitalization and gentrification while its outer perimeter keeps growing with strip malls and big box stores. The old timers struggle with how to manage growth and maintain the status quo while outsiders move in and dilute their power and threaten what they see as their way of life. Sanford doesn’t like to change much. Sanford also has a not so unique Southern history of Racism. In 1985 I picked up Peter Golenbock’s book “Bums” about the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers. This is where I first learned of a story I didn’t know about where I live. When Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branche Rickey sent Jackie Robinson to play in the Florida Minor leagues he thought it would be a safe place for Robinson to play before he entered the Majors. FL was not the deep South. Nope. While many communities forbade Robinson from eating at restaurants and staying at motels because of his color, Sanford went as far to refuse him the ability to play at the Municiple stadium when a group of local resident went to the stadium and put a stop to Robinson’s game. That’s really not that surprising here in the south. My current home town of Oviedo filled in it’s community pool with dirt in the 70’s rather than let African-American kids swim in the “white pool”. The law couldn’t desegregate a pool that didn’t exist. By the time I was in school things had changed. Racism wasn’t blatant and certainly It’s not like that today. Laws have been passed, generations have changed, and we’ve learned that color is really only skin deep. While it wasn’t uncommon for me to hear the N word as a child, it was still considered a bad word. The good news is that I don’t believe my children even see color. I’ve watched how they approach other kids at parks and playgrounds for those subconscious reactions and I’m grateful they’ve grown up the way they have. Kids seem to be just kids to them.
And then comes Treyvon Martin who’s death exposed what’s always been under the surface the whole time. There isn’t a bone in my body that doesn’t believe Treyvon wasn’t hunted down and murdered. He was judged and executed by one man without a badge or gavel who had his own version of justice. A black kid walking alone with a cell phone was reason enough for Treyvon to be considered suspicious. Because of his color he was obviously about to commit a crime and “they always get away with it” according to George Zimmerman. He had to be a drug dealer or theif, he was wearing a hoodie, right? Maybe George Zimmerman is part Hispanic, maybe he doesn’t hate blacks, but Martin’s skin color and relative age led to a presumption of guilt and that’s the most sinister form of racism. Martin’s skin color was also the reason Sanford police took Zimmerman’s word on self-defense and didn’t start any kind of investigation. Could there be any other reason why they didn’t consider the 911 calls or testimony of people who lived at the crime scene. They blamed it on our gun laws, but the law does not let you track another person down and kill. The state attorney reviewd the evidence and determined he couldn’t convict. Is that because a jury would think it’s reasonable for a black kid wearing a hoodie was up to no good? It’s been that way in Sanford and with with the Sanford PD; they didn’t stand up for Jackie Robinson when white resident took matters into their own hands and they didn’t for this kid. Martin’s skin color is also why the old-time residents of Sanford want this to just go away. This kid was not important enough. I’m hearing some say this is a travesty and they want justice, but only as they also say that most residents of Sanford are good folks and the city doesn’t deserve this and the police chief is a scape goat. They ARE good folks and the city as a whole DOES NOT deserve this but I can’t get past the relative severity of a murder vs. some media attention. The Police chief is not a scape goat, he’s the Chief. I too cringed when I heard that Rev Sharpton was coming to town. I think his visit held more potential for trouble than it could help, and especially now that the justice department and FDLE are involved and the Governor has appointed a new prosecutor. I can also say that if Martin was my kid and he was murdered, and it took 3 weeks to get the authorities to listen I’d welcome anyone speaking for me that could help. What’s so threatening about a rally in the aftermath of murder? The Sanford police, city officials and state prosecutor are responsible for the media attention, not the press and Rev Sharpton. They thought this was business as usual and it could get swept under the rug.
It’s clear I feel strongly about this. When I heard the president say the other day that if he had a son he’d look like Treyvon Martin I said to myself I do have sons and I’m outraged because they could be in Treyvon’s shoes too, but it’s a simple fact that my kids look as white as wonder bread and that gives them certain advantages like selling school items door to door, applying for certain jobs and walking down the sidewalk without looking suspicious. I may not like to admit it but racism is alive and well where I live and it took the life of Treyvon Martin and it kept him from recieving his due justice. I don’t feel much sympathy for Sanford on this. Sanford has always been a place where the connected got special treatment and it’s wrong. It’s a good lesson to learn for other communities that if you don’t change from the inside, you’re susceptible to drastic change from the outside and it can rip your town apart. The other problems through the years with the Sanford police never got this kind of attention and change never came. Because of Treyvon Martin, I don’t think Sanford will ever be the same, and that’s a good thing even if there are no winners.