In 1977, at the age of 15, I attended Mt Vernon High School in Mt. Vernon, New York, one of the most dangerous and violent urban schools in America. Guns and knives were rampant. Assaults were a daily occurrence. Every walk through the hallway was an opportunity to be beaten or robbed. Lunchtime was an opportunity to have your lunch extorted by someone threatening your life. And worst of all were the bathrooms. Every decent kid at Mt. Vernon High School knew we were taking our lives in our hands if we went to the bathroom... where hoods, gang members, and drug dealers hung out.
The school was about 85% black. I was white. But being white wasn’t the problem. Being a good kid was the problem. It’s wasn’t black vs. white. It was good vs. bad. The good black kids were as readily beaten up and intimidated as the good white kids.
Like George Zimmerman I decided I wanted to make a difference- for white and black kids. I was sick of the crime and violence. I spent the summer lifting weights and taking boxing lessons, bulked up, and upon my return to school, volunteered to become a Marshal. That meant I was part of our volunteer school police force. We were unarmed, but carried badges and walkie talkies. Our job was to police the halls and prevent crime, drug dealing, and cutting classes.
Like Zimmerman, we weren’t supposed to engage, only observe and call for help. But, as you might surmise, it doesn’t always work out that way.
In the late Spring of 1977 I faced a “George Zimmerman moment.” As I patrolled an empty hallway in my high school, I spotted a gang-banger smoking and listening to loud music when he was supposed to be in class. I confronted and told him, “You’re coming with me.” The kid wheeled around and pulled a gigantic knife. In court it was classified as a machete (with a blade longer than 8 ½ inches). He lunged at me and I grabbed his wrist. We wrestled to the ground with him on top. A much bigger kid than me, he was soon winning the struggle and about to stick the machete into my head.
If I had had a gun, I certainly would have used it to save my life. That was the choice George Zimmerman faced. What Obama and the race-baiters call murder is self-defense. Those who make the race baiters happy by not fighting back are…dead. ...
I got lucky. As my life was about to be extinguished a principal emerged from his office to check on the commotion. Like Zimmerman, I’m sure no one knew which of us was screaming in my life or death struggle, but my screams saved my life. The principal shouted, “Hey you, drop that knife.” The kid ran. The principal raced to my side…I told him what happened…together we chased down my assailant in the school courtyard. I lived to tell this story.
Zimmerman’s critics call him “a police wanna-be.” I guess you could say I was a “police wanna-be” too. How rude. You know what that means? Zimmerman and I cared about our community. I cared about my fellow classmates. He cared about his fellow homeowners. We both cared about right and wrong. We wanted to protect and serve. We wanted to make a difference. And we volunteered to put our lives on the line- for no pay.
Should someone like that be punished, vilified, and put in prison, or respected, celebrated, and recognized by society? ... If only more Americans were willing to police our streets and schools, we’d all be safer. We should be thanking the George Zimmermans of this world.
Unfortunately our President can now be added to the list of people out to vilify you for trying to clean up your community and help your fellow man, white or black. Always remember that George Zimmerman was protecting a large number of black homeowners in that community.