Another black kid in another southern state was shot because someone thought he was a threat.
A kid was shot in New Orleans. That’s not news. A fourteen-year old kid was shot in New Orleans. Still not news, but closer. A fourteen-year old black kid was shot in New Orleans. Eh, still not newsworthy. A fourteen year old black kid was shot by a white guy in New Orleans. There’s the story.
Marshall Coulter was shot once in the head by Merritt Landry at 2 a.m. after Coulter jumped the fence into Landry’s yard. Louisiana has a law similar to the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law made so infamous by the George Zimmerman trial. The trial will hinge on whether or not a grand jury believes that Merritt Landry rightfully perceived Marshall Coulter as an ‘imminent threat’.
Assuming Coulter survives and the charge remains attempted second-degree murder, Louisiana’s expansive “Castle” laws protect people’s right to use force to defend themselves inside a residence, a car or a business, but that the force used has to be considered “reasonable and necessary,” said Dane Ciolino, a Loyola University law professor.
Marshall Coulter is different from Trayvon Martin in a variety of ways; he has previous burglary charges (some still pending), he was very clearly on someone else’s property, and he’d been milling around Landry’s house earlier that day. Also, he’s still alive (in critical condition). However, I think the two of them are connected.
Zimmerman suspected that Trayvon Martin was responsible for a string (what defines a ‘string’?) of burglaries in his neighborhood. There have been several robberies in the Marigny area of New Orleans recently. To be fair, there have been several robberies in just about every area of New Orleans. Trayvon was a skinny seventeen-year old walking through a middle-class neighborhood. Coulter was a skinny fourteen-year old riding his bike through a middle-class neighborhood.
Coulter has prior burglary charges. Martin had discipline problems and documented drug use. Side Note: Show me a seventeen-year old who hasn’t mouthed off, gotten in a fight, or smoked pot, and I’ll show you a very skeptical writer.
This is an opinion piece, so I’ll quit stalling and get to it. I opine that George Zimmerman thought Trayvon Martin was Marshall Coulter. Because of this, the Marshall Coulters of the world endanger the Trayvon Martins. What I mean to say is that Marshall Coulter, by my preliminary assumptions, seems to be a criminal who intended to burglarize a house. Trayvon Martin was not, but he did, as policemen are wont to say, “fit the profile.” The shame is that “the profile” encompasses almost every young black male.
I don’t mean to excuse the prejudices and assumptions that led Zimmerman to shoot Trayvon Martin, just possibly explain them. To a person who’s already suspicious of young black kids, Martin is indistinguishable from Coulter. One in three black males is somewhere in the criminal justice system; the system has intrinsically racist elements, that’s for sure. However, it’s incredibly naive to assume that all of these black men have been railroaded by an unfair system. The truth is that crime is rampant amongst young inner-city black males, and that fact sparks dormant prejudices in some. Don’t misunderstand me; the responsibility for a taken life always rests with the person who pulled the trigger, justifiable homicide or not.
Now, the likelihood of a white person being killed by a black person he/she doesn’t know is lower than the chances of being killed by falling from a ladder. That’s not the perception though, and definitely not the impression given by the media.
The usual battle lines have been drawn in New Orleans; conservatives on talk radio are praising this bayou Batman for defending his castle from a dangerous intruder. Young idealists on Facebook are lamenting a world in which fourteen-year olds are gunned down.
This case differs from Trayvon’s case and I want to drive that point home. What would you do if you were in your car and saw a kid walking through the rain with his hood covering his head? Now, what would you do if you heard your dogs barking at 2 a.m., went outside and saw someone had jumped your fence? If you shouted ‘Freeze’ and he started moving? Hopefully, your reactions to those two situations are different, because that difference is everything.
A black kid becomes threatening because of his actions, not by virtue of being a black kid. If Marshall Coulter had been walking through his street and Merritt Landry had shot him, I’d have written a much different article.
Still, it breaks my heart that we live in a world in which fourteen-year olds are killed for their own stupidity, their own mistakes, the fear of others, or a world that says they can be killed with impunity. Is it open season for the hunting of black kids or is this just more violence in a violent city?