When I sat down to write this column, I was going to initially write about the potential liability that the association may or may not be facing as a result of George Zimmerman shooting and killing an unarmed Treyvon Martin. If you listened to the Condo Craze show yesterday, you know that I’m not yet convinced that the association faces liability and that if Zimmerman is found to have acted in self-defense, (even if he was the initial aggressor) he is immune from civil liability and that immunity would also protect the association. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about something a lot more important than dollars and cents.
What I have seen on TV, read in the papers and listened to on the radio about the Treyvon Martin case the last few weeks, concerns me perhaps more than the tragedy itself. When I left New York City in 1989 to come to South Florida, race relations were horrific. So many cases in New York during the 80s came down to black vs. white, like the Bernard Goetz case or the Tawana Brawley case and truly divided a city. These cases occurred nearly 30 years ago and surely race relations have gotten better. Haven’t they? Until a few weeks ago, I certainly thought so, but now I’m not as certain as I thought I was.
Despite the fact that the Florida Stand Your Ground law absolutely forbade the Sanford Police from making an arrest, especially after the State Attorney’s Office said not to make an arrest, the police department was accused of racism. Despite the fact that Treyvon Martin wasn’t armed with anything other than Skittles, there were suggestions that he wouldn’t have gotten shot had he not “dressed black.” The family supporters of Treyvon’s family went on record as saying Treyvon was racially profiled with absolutely no evidence of same. In fact, based upon the number of calls Zimmerman made to the police in the past, I think if he saw anyone wearing a hoodie that he didn’t recognize, he would have called the cops on him and followed him too, and it certainly could have been a white kid or Hispanic kid who unfortunately gets the bullet instead of Treyvon.
Even this week leading up to the Condo Craze radio show, I received e-mails telling me that they were “sick and tired of hearing about Treyvon Martin.” People even insinuated that Sharpton’s involvement in the case automatically makes the tragedy all about racism, even though Sharpton had nothing to do with the incident itself and in fact, has repeatedly called for peaceful demonstrations. On the flip side though, the new Black Panthers Party put a bounty on Zimmerman’s capture.
I have had the honor of representing community associations throughout this state for 2 decades now. As time has gone on, it becomes more and more evident that our communities are more integrated than ever. Statistics also tell us they are also safer than ever. We are all benefitting from peaceful relations between different races, nationalities and religions in our communities. Let’s not let the rant of people on either of the extreme sides of this case ruin the progress our communities have made in learning to live with each other, for the most part in peace and harmony. Let’s let the facts of the case play out, see where the evidence takes us, and no matter what a judge or jury may ultimately rule, respect their decision and immediately get back to being neighbors and friends despite the fact that there are people out there whose words have the potential ability to divide us rather than unite us.