The gist: ON 26 February 2012, in Sanford Florida- a southern state of America- a self-appointed neighbourhood watch volunteer shot and killed a 17 year old boy after he believed him to be a threat to his community. Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old black boy was walking by himself in the rain, with his hoodie up, armed with a bag of skittles and some iced tea, clearly popular weapons of choice for those looking to threaten an entire community. George Zimmerman, a white hispanic, phoned the police who told him not to act but to wait for their arrival. He then took it upon himself, the saviour and hero that he is, to chase this young boy, wrestle with him and eventually shoot and kill him. On Saturday July 13 2013, a jury of six women, five white and one white hispanic, acquitted him of all charges of manslaughter and first-degree murder.
My reaction: So in the past few days, since I’ve been following this case, I’ve turned into a bit of a social rights activist. Me, the infamous couch potato, have read every article I could find and tweeted and retweeted all the reactions on social media to this highly unjust case. Not because I’m looking to be the next Martin Luther King Jr, God rest his soul, but because it saddens and shocks me that in 2013, after the brutal killings of Emmett Till, Stephen Lawrence, Medgar Evers and so many more, that a verdict like this can still be seen as just and fair.
Ok, let’s just take race out of this for a second (as the court was also instructed to). A young male, not even old enough to drink, was walking alone in the dark, in the rain, unarmed. An older man saw him as a threat to his community and proceeded to chase HIM, against police instructions, immediately making the young boy a victim. Now if you were the young boy in this situation, what would you think? You’re alone, its dark, you’re minding your own business, eating your sweets, and you get chased by an older man. You’d be scared, wouldn’t you? You’d want to defend yourself, wouldn’t you? And after Martin rightfully defended himself, UNarmed, he was shot and killed by a man who claimed self-defense. What part of that sounds just to you? That a man chased a young unarmed boy, shot and killed him and then got let off on claims of self-defence. Race or no race, this verdict was completely preposterous.
I’m not going to lie, I cried when I read about this case. When I thought about how his parents must feel, having raised a son and losing him to something so petty, and then watching your son being blamed for his own death. Its easy to be blind to colour. As minorities, we’re made to feel like if we say anything about it, we’re delusional and simply looking to blame someone else for our personal failings. But when cases like this come to light, it suddenly becomes very difficult to ignore. There is outrage, there is fear, there are tears shed and hearts broken because we all suddenly realise: Trayvon Martin could’ve been any one of us. He could’ve been our son, our brother, our friend. Murdered because he was racially profiled and deemed a threat to a white hispanic and his community.
Your action: My initial reaction was despair. At the verdict; at the apathy towards it on a grand scale; at the many people who said they were ‘not shocked’ at the verdict, and even at the criticism Obama received for coming out and saying ‘If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin’, simply echoing what many black parents all over the world are feeling. Eric Holder, the first black attorney general, described the killing as ‘tragic and unnecessary’ and I have to agree that it was. You don’t have to be black to see that. But please don’t let his death, one of many race-related killings, push you towards apathy; to accept that, as my brother sadly put ‘America is racist? Surprise!’ Throughout history, the people coming out in full force and refusing to accept the norm have changed laws, changed policies and influenced the running of a nation. Where would we be if people like Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X accepted that this was the way things were and were going to be? Please don’t let Trayvon’s death go to waste. Stand up and say something.
Ingredients for Change:
1.A broken heart
Yes, this verdict was terrible and saddening, and even the fact that it took so long to arrest Zimmerman was a cry of the broken justice system that operates in certain states of America. Let yourself be outraged. Let yourself be fed up. Let yourself cry and feel the pain hat Martin’s parents will have to feel every day for the rest of their lives. That is the only way anything is going to be done to prevent things like this from happening in the future.
As easy at it is to accept the inherent racism of a supposedly progressive nation or let your anger drive to a ‘black supremacist’ state of mind, we must never forget hope. Anger at a case like this is not only just, its expected. But anger without hope doesn’t lead to change, it leads to hatred. Find out what you can do, how you can get involved to prevent the loss of more Trayvon Martins and Stephen Lawrences.
Volunteer at a local youth centre or a civil rights group, educating and implementing policies for equality
Write to your local MP at http://www.writetothem.com , telling them how you feel about the case
Donate money, prayers or your time at http://www.trayvonmartinfoundation.org
Sign the petition pursuing the Department of Justice to file civil rights charges against Zimmerman by clicking here. (If you’re not in the US, google a mcdonalds location and use that postcode)
Sing! Write! Post youtube videos! Discuss! Educate! Talk about this and don’t let issues as big as this be swept under the carpet like they usually are.
Protests are happening all over America, including New York, LA and Alabama. Eric Holder and several other attorneys are looking to try the case as a federal case; and a civil case can now be made by Trayvon Martin’s parents, before February 2014, the 2nd anniversary of his death. Change can happen. Justice can be served. Tragedies happen but hope still persists. Justice for Trayvon starts with you.
P.S. Obama shares his thoughts and his ways we can help. It’s worth a watch: Click here