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The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Same Injustice, Different Victim

steffanie rivers

By Steffanie Rivers

*I called a friend the other day to wish him a Happy Birthday when we got on the subject of the same issue that has millions of people talking and protesting in the streets: Why has George Zimmerman not been locked up for killing Trayvon Martin? Zimmerman is the neighborhood watch wannabe cop who shot an unarmed Martin for no more than looking “suspicious” to Zimmerman as the teenager walked to the store on a rainy night.

The more we talked about it the angrier I got. My friend, we’ll call him Sam, tried to reassure me that justice would prevail in the end. But his words had the same effect of a man telling a woman to calm down in the heat of an argument, especially because Sam knows more than I that most times – especially in cases like these – justice never shows up. Not when men with debatable intentions are in charge of it. Sam, a retired Baltimore police officer who is at least 70, is no stranger to these scenarios. As much as I respect Sam’s point of view, let’s just say “A Time To Kill” is one of my favorite movies. Here’s why:

Before the killing of Trayvon Martin there was Oscar Grant. In 2009 Grant was shot in his back and killed by a BART police officer in San Francisco as he lay face down on a commuter train platform. The police officer only served 11 months of a two year involuntary manslaughter sentence before he was released in 2011.

Before the killing of Grant there was Robbie Tolan. In 2008 Tolan was shot by a police officer as he lay face down in his driveway in a suburb of Houston, Texas. Tolan survived the shooting but doctors couldn’t remove the bullet from his lung. The officer was acquitted of aggravated assault charges.

And earlier this month there was the killing of Wendell Allen. The 20-year old was unarmed when he was shot and killed by a New Orleans police officer. Allen’s family said the police department is stonewalling their inquiries.

Some people say the black community should be more concerned about the high number of black on black crimes. But every time I read about innocent unarmed people killed by a police officer (or a wannabe cop in Trayvon’s case) 100 percent of the time the victims are black. That’s not a coincidence.That’s indicative of a blatant disregard for the value of life of an entire race of people. And I, for one, refuse to ignore it.

The fact that Zimmerman has not been arrested and charged with (at the very least) manslaughter – in light of all the evidence – proves that local law enforcement didn’t value Trayvon’s life. In his case it’s Sanford, FL, in Grant’s case it was San Francisco, in Tolan’s case it was Bellaire, Texas and in Allen’s case it’s New Orleans. It happens in different cities across the country, but the constant is that local police are slow to seek justice for these obviously innocent victims.

And if state or federal law enforcement eventually arrests Zimmerman it probably will be just to pacify the masses. If they convict him it probably will be for something a step above a misdemeanor. Then he’ll spend a few months in jail and be released early for good behavior. Where’s the justice in that?

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send comments, questions and speaking requests to

The Journal of Steffanie Rivers: Same Injustice, Different Victim  



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