It has been said that people are like stained glass windows; they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if and when there is a light from within.
This past week, I witnessed so much darkness deep inside the heart of so many struggling to find justifiable reasoning for taking the life of an unarmed juvenile. Perhaps what they were most successful in achieving is to reveal how painfully lacking they are in their respect for human life.
As a juvenile court worker for almost 30 years and a former juvenile probation officer, I can think of no reason ó short of having a gun at my head or a knife at my throat ó that would justify the use of deadly force on any juvenile. Unlike Trayvon Martin, the kids probation officers deal with are juveniles adjudicated to be criminal and given a court sanction. Without consulting with any of the current crop of officers, every single one would be opposed to the use of deadly force on an unarmed juvenile. It is apparent that George Zimmerman had no de-escalation skills or chose not to use them.
On local radio, I have heard all the reasons why Trayvon Martin may have brought on his own demise. Yes, he used marijuana and he was removed from school, but these are typical infractions that a juvenile probation officer would encounter. They do not write off kids because of that and often find themselves being the substitute parent, big brother or big sister. We fully understand and acknowledge that the adolescent mind is not fully developed yet and prone to make mistakes. But those mistakes should not result in a young man with a can of tea and a package of Skittles losing his life.
We hold them accountable while offering support at the same time, we listen when they cry and sometimes fight off tears ourselves when we hear the circumstances they may live in. Probation officers are good at letting their intuition guide them and willing to follow that guidance, without fear, if it is in the best interest of the child.
I have listened with great interest to those who argue that Martin was not a child because of his large size. Well despite being taller than the guy with the gun, he still weighed 50 pounds less and he is still a child. Iíve wondered if those same people would be OK with having a 28-year-old man come calling to see their 17-year-old daughter if she were physically beyond her years. There are absolute reasons why there are courts for adults and courts for juveniles, please understand that.
For those of you who know more about what it is like to be black despite never being black, I say to you, forgive me because I have not been given the extraordinary talent that you seem to possess. How many times have you been followed around in a store because you fit the idea of what a shoplifter might look like? How many times have you witnessed someone cross the street as they approach you because they perceive you to be a threat?
The depth of George Zimmermanís medical attention consisted of two Band Aids ó something that could be acquired in a sandlot football game. If this is the measure that we will be using to determine whether a youth lives or dies, killing our young will become commonplace. Even animals protect their young better than that.
Speaking for all current and former juvenile probation officers, we have all sustained, during the course of performing our job, injuries that required greater attention than two Band Aids. But we are trained to accept it. If your intent is to take a life, you will find a reason as George Zimmerman did. If your intent is to save a life or mold a life, then your first duty is to just listen. Stop the madness of placing more value on one life over another simply because of the outer shell.
Some of you will say I am a man of character if I acknowledge that O.J. Simpson got away with murder but if I say the same about George Zimmerman, suddenly my character is diminished greatly. It is the greatest hope of each probation officer that this mysterious meeting in life that he or she has thrust on them will turn out to be the catalyst that ignites the circuits for each child to reach their highest potential. That ignition will not take place if we do not give them a chance to live their life to the fullest despite their failures in life.