Role Reversal


            In his historic letter from a Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. stated “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  Those words can also be paraphrased to state injustice to anyone is a threat to justice for everyone.

            Black America, and some in mainstream America, have been justifiably up in arms over the senseless murder of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in February.  Many have blamed racial profiling and Florida’s self defense laws as the culprits along with George Zimmerman.

            Although many non-Blacks have participated in the rallies for justice, just like during the Civil Rights Movement, the sea of people in these marches against similar self defense laws have been predominately chocolate. 

            However, what if the roles were reversed and the killer was Black and the victim was White or Hispanic, would African Americans be as vocal about injustice and these asinine self defense laws?

I asked Houston community activist Quannel X why we do not see more diversity at these protests and he stated that many people do not care about injustice if it does not affect them.   His assessment is probably the truth whether we admit it or not.

According to USA Today, on April 3 in a Taco Bell parking lot in Phoenix, Daniel Adkins, Jr. got into a verbal altercation with Cordell June.  After the altercation ended Adkins was dead from a gunshot wound and two months later June is still a free man.  June stated that Adkins swung an object at the passenger side door of his car where his pregnant girlfriend sat.  June invoked Arizona’s self defense laws and has avoided prosecution.

The only difference from the Martin tragedy is that the victim is Hispanic and the killer is African American.

USA Today writer Marisol Bello wrote, “Unlike the Trayvon Martin case, in which civil rights leaders pounded their pulpits in protest and signed petitions calling for an arrest, the death of Daniel Adkins, Jr. has gotten little national attention

“As in the Martin case in Florida, in which police did not arrest George Zimmerman for 45 days, a stand-your-ground law is influencing action in the Phoenix shooting.”

            Although Adkins’ parents do not believe race was a factor in their son’s death, they understand how stereotypes or misinterpretation can lead to tragic consequences.  Their 29-year-old son was mentally disabled and could have come across wrong to June.  Likewise, a hoodie worn by a Black teenager could have come across as threatening to a person that is steeped in stereotypes.

            Nevertheless, wrong is wrong and right is right no matter what color the victim and the perpetrator might be and it is imperative that the Black community stand up for justice not only when it affects us but when it affects others as well.

            Like Martin’s parents, the Adkins family will never see their son again because of an avoidable situation.  And like Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin they deserve justice for their son, despite the self defense laws that make it more difficult to punish killers.

Smith is publisher of Regal Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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