Like millions across the nation, I’ve been intently following the story of Trayvon Martin, the teenager shot by George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012. With the trial now underway, I’m eager to know: why did George Zimmerman ignore the 911 operator’s advice and pursue Martin? And if Trayvon threw the first punch, will jurors conclude that Zimmerman acted in self defense? Digging deeper into this tragedy, what I didn’t expect to discover are all of the curious circumstances surrounding Trayvon Martin’s family, particularly as they relate to Alicia Stanley, his former stepmother.
Before you read on, I ask that you to keep in mind the same question I have: Does what you’re about to learn even matter in the case against George Zimmerman? Please also remember that the alleged facts you see here are all culled from numerous online sources. I cannot confirm their veracity.
I first learned about Trayvon’s stepmother Alicia Stanley during her recent interview with Anderson Cooper. Apparently, Alicia Stanley married Travyon’s father, Tracy Martin, when Trayvon was about three. Along with Stanley’s two daughters from her previous marriage, Tracy, Trayvon and Alicia Stanley became a family. Says Stanley, “I’m the one at all the football games; I’m the one who took care of him when he was sick.” In tears, she tells Anderson that she’s come forward now to “let people know that I exist, that I'm the one who raised him."”
Tracy Martin and Alicia Stanley were married for about 14 years. When he ended his relationship with Stanley and began seeing his girlfriend (now fiancé), Brandy Green, is unclear. Regardless, sources report that upon the disintegration of his marriage to Stanley, he relocated Trayvon to his mom’s, Sybrina Fulton’s, home.
What was life like for Trayvon with his mother and father? At least one source says that it was when Trayvon left Stanley’s home that he started to get in trouble and perhaps even experiment with drugs (his school found trace amounts of marijuana in his backpack). Stanley claims that, before she and Tracy separated, Trayvon was with her 90% of the time. This paints a picture of mom Sybrina Fulton that's far different than the one depicted by journalists like Charles M. Blow.
Many question why Alicia Stanley is coming forward now. Some believe she’s doing it out of spite, a fact reinforced by her description of not being allowed to sit in the front row at Trayvon’s funeral. Others claim she’s looking for her 15 minutes of fame. Regardless, it’s pretty clear that no one wants her around, especially the army of political, legal and media experts surrounding Martin’s parents. What I wonder is this: why is the woman who claims to have raised Trayvon Martin being pushed aside? Is it because, for justice to be served, the American public needs to believe that Trayvon comes from a seemingly intact and loving family?
As I learn more about Trayvon’s family and observe what the people involved in this case will likely gain when it’s over, I can’t help but think about Tom Wolfe’s 1987 book, Bonfire of the Vanities. If you haven’t read it and you’re following the Zimmerman trial, you definitely should (and skip the movie). The plot focuses on a wealthy and married New York City bond trader named Sherman McCoy. One night, he and his mistress Maria Ruskin make a wrong turn on the highway and – with her at the wheel – strike and kill a young black man named Henry Lamb. McCoy is blamed for the death and Ruskin flees the country.
What happens next is a sad example of how politicians, religious leaders, and the media exploit the death of a young black man for their own professional and personal gain. Amidst the chaos, back door deals, and finger-pointing Wolfe weaves into the plot, the reader starts to realize the exasperating truth, which is that no one seems to care that much about the actual victim. But what’s abundantly clear, as the the book comes to a close, is that everyone involved in the case – the journalist who got the scoop, the Assistant District attorney and even Maria Ruskin – emerge as winners. Everyone that is, except Harry Lamb and Sherman McCoy.
Will justice be served in the killing of Trayvon Martin, even if we learn his family is far from perfect? As the judge presiding over the case of Henry Lamb declares, “Let me tell you what justice is. Justice is the law. And the law is man's feeble attempt to lay down the principles of decency. Decency! And decency isn't a deal, it's not a contract or a hustle or an angle! Decency... decency is what your grandmother taught you.” Justice and decency for everyone, especially Trayvon Martin.
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