Too bad Alvin Wilkerson wasn’t George Zimmerman.

If he was, he might be walking around free today for a tragedy that was more of an accident than a crime.

But unlike Zimmerman, who is now free more than a year after fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, and claiming it was in self-defense, Wilkerson had no such luck.

The black trucker was sent to prison in 2008 – two years after he fell asleep at the wheel of his semi while driving in North Florida. He slammed into the back of a car carrying seven white children, killing them all.

No doubt, the tremendous loss of life was horrific. But here’s the thing: Wilkerson wasn’t on drugs.

Nor was he drunk.

Nor did he utter obscenities under his breath about kids always getting away with joyriding; the driver of the car, in fact, was 15 and unlicensed.


This tragedy occurred because Wilkerson defied his bodily urges to get more sleep. Zimmerman, on the other hand, set a tragedy in motion because he defied a dispatcher’s advice not to follow Trayvon, and because he flouted neighborhood watch rules that forbid the carrying of guns.

Yet in the jacked-up justice system that governs this state, when black men like Wilkerson and Trayvon make mistakes, they still tend to be viewed through the lens of criminality and incorrigibility, while when men like Zimmerman – a white Hispanic – make mistakes, they are viewed through the lens of nobility and good intentions.

That pretty much explains why, in 2008, Wilkerson was sentenced to seven years in prison. He received a year for each of the white youths who died.

That pretty much explains why Wilkerson’s sentence marked the first time in Florida history that a person was convicted as a felon for causing an accident by falling asleep at the wheel.

And that pretty much explains why Wilkerson, a family man with no criminal record, was instantly viewed as reckless and sinister, not overworked and overly loyal.

It explains why the exemplary life that he led before that tragedy, a life, in fact, that many black men are often demonized for failing to lead, suddenly evaporated in the heat of revenge and a judge’s obsession – he said he cried at seeing the makeshift memorials to the crash victims – to make an example out of him.

Even. Though. It. Was. An. Accident.

But let’s talk about Zimmerman, shall we?

Apparently, that mostly-white jury was more swayed by the scars on Zimmerman’s head than the sight of Trayvon’s corpse splayed out on the lawn of the housing development.

They cut Zimmerman a lot of slack for the fatal “accident,” he caused. Juror B37, in fact, said she believed that Zimmerman’s heart “was in the right place,” and that Trayvon’s killing was “an unfortunate incident that happened.”

They empathized with Zimmerman’s zeal for protecting his neighborhood. But the zeal that led Wilkerson to cause that fatal accident in Union County, his zeal being trying to work to care for his wife and three children, only earned him condemnation.

And he’s still doing time for it.

Now I’m not saying that Wilkerson shouldn’t have been punished. But by any stretch of fairness, seven years is unduly harsh. And what the unfairness of it all says to me is that in Florida, the lives of black men like him, and black boys like Trayvon, aren’t valued as much as those of white men like Zimmerman.

It’s a reminder that in this state, black men continue to pay for that constant devaluation – whether the price is an unduly long stretch in prison for an accident.

Or a bullet to the heart.

Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her @tonyaajw. Or like her at


(Photo: AP)


31 thoughts on “To Get Away With Killing a Child in Florida, It Helps to be George Zimmerman

  1. Ruth O'hara on said:

    #1. Nix the stats games, the misdeeds of INDIVIDUALS are not the big issue here…INSTITUTIONAL Racism is. (although each feeds the other)

    #2. African Americans make up a disproportionate of the prison population because they are the most profiled, arrested, charged and longest sentenced group, not necessarily because they break more laws than European-Americans.

    Read a book for a change:

  2. You guys need to do better research before writing your articles. Zimmerman is NOT WHITE!!! He is HISPANIC!!! He grew up speaking Spanish in his home. So quit making this about race! Do I think he needed to shoot and kill Trayvon? No. If he was really feeling threatened enough to grab his gun, wound him. You don’t need to shoot someone in the vitals that doesn’t have a gun pointed back at you. Do I think he should have gotten off scot free? No. But the problem is, there were no witnesses, and only one man was left alive to tell his side of the story, we’ll never know what truly happened. But I was a little upset to see him get off with no punishment…and guess what people? I’m WHITE!!!
    Just remember, Zimmerman has to live with this for the rest of his life. Everyone knows his name now. Who’s going to give him a job? Or date him, etc.? He’s got a long hard life ahead of him…

    • Jj
      I knew he was not White days after I first heard the story, even still, I thought it was a killing, not a murder. It was not until time and new information arose that I believed – and continue to – that he murdered Martin. What convinced me that Zimmerman murdered Martin, was that Zimmerman’s story of that night was constantly inconsistent. Yes, everyone is entitled to forgetfulness, but something as important as well as tragic as pointing a gun and ending a life, is not something that is unmindful. (Now that the trial is over, I TRULY believe he got away with murder.)
      Unless, I have not heard the latest, he is currently married. However, if his marital status should change, I am willing to bet the farm that women would be lining up to date and ultimately marry him. Additionally, there are many people who favor the likes of him, so I will not be surprised if there is a job held open and/or created just for him. (BEFORE his trial was over, it was reported that more than $400,000 had been donated. AFTER the trial, it was reported that more than $1,000,000 was donated.)

  3. Andrea on said:

    This is dumb. Of course he was gulity he fell asleep at the wheel. If the author wanted to make a good comparision, she could have found a better case.

  4. Denice Bellinger on said:

    JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON MARTIN – Hopefully the one good thing that comes out of this tragedy is that we get out and vote in the midterms. Traditionally, black people have a history of poor turnout in the midterm elections. But realistically speaking, these elections are just as important, if not more so, than the Presidential elections. The Senate and Congress and they are the shakers and the makers; the law makers and law breakers of politics. A President cannot make a move without their say so.
    You see, “the man” has long since figured out a way to keep us out of the loop – they run for office. And when they get in office, they change and re-write the laws not in our favor. While all we do is march on Washington, protest and hold rallies when injustice is done upon us. That’s so 1960s. If we put as much energy in showing up for midterm elections, maybe we won’t have to march as often to defend our rights, and until we start showing up in masses, we will see these types of situations happen time and time again.
    This should be a wakeup call for all of us. Black people are a force to be reckoned with and the system knows that!! We put President Obama in office and we can certainly get these old outdated people out of Congress. Let’s not make Trayvon Martin’s death (and others like him) in vain. Exercise your power; exercise your right. I beg you to VOTE IN THE MIDTERM ELECTIONS.

    • Denice, I could NOT agree with you more! For the last 28 years, I have been at the polls. Over the last 10 years, our group has tried to instill in our Black community how so VERY important it is to vote. Sometimes we encounter those who are truly inspired while others have given us [VERY] flimsy excuses as to why they will not show up at the polls.
      I wish Black people knew the importance of voting, and I have tried to share my personal experiences while being an AVID voter. As an AVID voter, I have witnessed with my own two eyes what my local government officials will and can do. An avid voter can keep their child out of jail. An avid voter can receive necessary social security benefits. An avid voter can put additional police officers in the neighborhood. An avid voter can get additional Stop Signs in the neighborhood.
      So, for those who are not avid voters and at the same time are unhappy with the conditions of their neighborhood, they need to realize that they hold the power, and they have every RIGHT to exercise that power.
      Denice, you said it all about not just voting in the presidential election but in EVERY election.
      Our group appreciates the marches, but we appreciate the large numbers of our Black and Brown brothers and sisters at the polls [even more.] (As you stated, we would not need so many protest marches if we would just cast our vote – in EVERY ELECTION.)
      Thanks for posting this!!!!!!!!

  5. While reading I too wondered why the author was comparing Wilkerson, who killed seven innocent children to Zimmerman, who murdered one innocent child. Of course there is a difference between killing someone and murdering someone, but I did not know that “Wilkerson’s sentence marked the first time in Florida history that a person was convicted as a felon for causing an accident by falling asleep at the wheel.” That says a lot.

    • I will not debate the statistics of violence, but ANY child, Black, White, Red, Green or Yellow, does not deserve to be murdered. They do not deserve to be harassed by the police or a neighborhood security guard.
      I do not know what news channels you watch or newspapers you read, but my media sometimes identify race and sometimes they do not. And when they do not, I always wonder and want to know.
      Not all Blacks identify themselves as “the victim” because not all of us are. However, we as well as other minorities are more likely to be followed when we enter a lavish department store although we entered with true intentions AND enough money to make a purchase. We are more likely to be harassed by the police when we are walking in our own neighborhood that was once mostly Black but now mostly White. (We were born and raised in that neighborhood and now that a widespread of Whites has moved in, we are now harassed and asked why we are there.) Minorities are less likely to receive justice in a court of law. Just because some of our Black and Brown brothers and sisters did something wrong, then all of us are labeled and presumed guilty. It is not the fault of the White community when a White person does something illegal just as it is not the fault of the Black community when a Black person does something illegal.
      Here in Colorado, stalking is a crime. And although I am aware that the laws differ from State to State, I had no idea it was legal in Florida.
      It is obvious – at least to me – that you believe Zimmerman’s ever-changing accounts of that night. Even as a Black person, I do not believe everything a minority tells me, but luckily, for you and yours, you all stick together no matter how inconceivable [the story.] Perhaps that is the very reason there are less of you in our prisons than there are minorities. At least you all stick together – right or wrong.

  6. jhuff on said:

    If those seven kids had accosted Alvin with knives or guns and he blew them all away with a shotgun
    and was then sent to prison. I’d be right there with the amen’s and no justice with you. Buuut I’m sorry what is this case suppose to do with GZ?

  7. How in the world can this compare, because of the way he lived his life he should get a break because he failed to listen to his body and get some sleep. He killed 7 kids, you don’t get to say sorry and to compare this case is an insult to all of the victim’s family.

  8. Chrisai on said:

    @ Honestly and JR, one last thing,you best believe, this day in age, African-Americans will not stand for the foolishness your type put our people through years ago. So, I challenge you to try us, it will definitely be an all out war in the US!! We will mop the floor with your asses!! Believe that!!!

    I’m done…good day people:)

  9. casey on said:

    @ J.R. if you knew anything you ass wipe you would know that your race depends on who your father is and not your mother you stupid ass wipe!!!! he is white you are what your father is and in your case an ass wipe!!! @honestly we didn’t come from Europe your non washing ass ancestors did!!!!!! smelling like wet dog when it rains!!!!

  10. Ladeejaye on said:

    Would like to dedicate this poem to Trevon’s family and friends.


    Why did you take my life?
    Was it because of the color of my skin?
    Was it because I was young?
    Was it because I was black?
    Do you think you would have done this
    If my hoodie didn’t cover part of my face and back?

    Was it because of the skittles?
    Was it because of the tea?
    Really, George why did you harass and then kill me?

    You said over and over that you were scared
    That’s why you shot me in my chest
    Even when you summoned the police
    And they asked you not to approach me
    You still found a need to make an arrest

    Why did you do it?
    Do you really know?
    Was it because I looked different than you
    That you had to let you hatred show?

    Well, George now that the court acquitted you
    Do you feel more like a man?
    Because no matter what the justice system decided
    The pouring of my innocent blood
    Forever will remain on your hands.

    Jeanette Plummer @20130716
    All Work Rights Reserved

    Trevon may you rest in the Lord.

  11. Chrisai on said:

    You coward piece of s#@! It’s best that you hide behind your email while making those remarks, cuz you can bet your life you wouldn’t have any teeth yet alone, any limbs left after saying those ignorant ass remarks about my people to their faces. Be brave do it you bastard…I DARE YOU!!!! Since you’re feeling froggy, jump in a room full of African-Americans and say what you posted, and see if your ass will make it out….COWARD!!!!!!! PU$$@@@@, BI^% A$$ PUNK!!!!

  12. WOW, these articles are coming to light more and more.People have passed out from illness and killed people and not went to jail. These people really hate us don’t they? They really really hate us,
    WHY? They get all the breaks, make more money, better luck getting hired in the movie industry,
    nature blessed them with better hair (not to put us down, but you know what I mean by better hair), they pretty much have their heaven right here on earth, and they still , still hate us. I don’t understand. I guess I never will.

    • I was all for everything youwrote until I got to the part about “nature blessing them with better hair” I don’t think you can make that appear any less self-loathing by adding “you know what I mean by better”. I don’t know about the blind, deaf and dumb brothers and sisters that still believe those old slavery myths, but I for one am very Happy to be Nappy. Just so you know, white people envy your black skin and your thick overly curly hair, and your big kissable lips. Be proud to be African men and women and your kids will learn to be as well, by your example.

  13. Beverly Ward on said:


    Trayvon was not a thug GZ is a thug and so are you, so far as I’m concern he is white he doing the work of white people.

  14. Aaron on said:

    Elijah Muhammad told us the truth many years ago and black people rejected him based on false ideas and hope that white people could change. I think it is time as a race that we take another look at the wisdom the Messenger had to offer.. Just look at this J.R characters comment and realize that there are a million more out there just like him.

    • I believe that until we confront the idea of change, we must first deal with the problem, and in my opinion, that IS the problem: we have yet to acknowledge the change that is needed. We have yet to deal with the problem of racism. It seems as though the issue of race has been marginalized as some deem it too difficult to have an open and sincere conversation. It is as if the words “honesty” and “acceptance” are too vulgar.
      In my lifetime, I doubt there ever will be change for the J.R’s of this world.
      BTW, what did Elijah Muhammad say?

  15. Hamilton on said:

    No justice just us!
    What you need to understand is that it is ,,,,and has been open season on blacks males,,,,for years and as long as we just keep marching like a heard for cows this is never stop. watch I will prove it to you:

  16. Tony Naples on said:

    I don’t agree with the analogy. More importantly, where are the articles on Alvin Wilkerson prior to this comparison? For the most part I would like to know if a fund was ever created to support Wilkerson’s family while he serves his 7 year term. If so, I will gladly contribute.

  17. Honestly on said:

    You filthy and violent cave n!@@ers should have stayed in the caves of Europe where you belonged. No!! Instead you’ve poisoned the world with your hate, racism and destruction. You mayonnaise monkeys are the real savages. I hope to live long enough to see you neanderthal apes punished long, hard and continuously for depraved nature.

  18. J.R. on said:

    You savages will never fit in this society.
    How can you, in all reality, be upset about a young thug who got what was coming to him? Then the icing on the cake, Zimmerman IS NOT WHITE!!! He is a Latino. You people need to get a grip on reality and accept the fact that Travyon bit off more than he could chew and paid the price. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

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