Racial Injustice Permeates the Death of Trayvon Martin


Johnny Andrews

Martin’s death has sparked national outcry, and protests have sprung up across the country in response. (Johnny Andrews/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT)


Martin’s death has sparked national outcry, and protests have sprung up across the country in response. (Johnny Andrews/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT)

Seventeen-year-old African American Trayvon Martin was on his way back to his father’s home from a 7-Eleven in Sanford, Fla., when he was shot in the chest and killed on Feb. 26. The shooter, neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, claimed that Martin was a “real suspicious guy” during a phone call with the Sanford Police Department before opening fire. The police department assured Zimmerman that an officer was on his way and there would be no need for Zimmerman to follow or observe Martin any longer. They also stressed that Zimmerman should not approach this “suspicious guy.”

Zimmerman approached Martin anyway and minutes later, shot the teenager multiple times with a nine millimeter handgun. It was later discovered that all Martin held in his hand was a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. Martin had no record of being a criminal, but was shot and killed as if he were one. Zimmerman was reported saying to the police, “These assholes always get away,” while observing Martin. Well, the same can be said for Zimmerman, who remains free.

According to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, those who act in self-defense cannot be charged with murder. But if Martin posed no threat to Zimmerman besides wearing a hoodie, looking around and being black, self-defense is not a factor at all. Martin was confronted by Zimmerman for no justifiable reason. Even Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who signed this bill into law, denies the application of this law to the case, as noted in the recent CNN article “Family of Trayvon Martin to Pursue Civil Case.” Yet Zimmerman has yet to be arrested for his actions.

Zimmerman always seemed a bit paranoid, having called the police nearly 50 times since January. According to phone calls recorded by the local police, Zimmerman went on to say, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something… And he’s a black male… Something’s wrong with him. Yup, he’s coming to check me out. He’s got something in his hands.” Martin was not on drugs as Zimmerman incorrectly assumed. These careless and irrational words spoken by Zimmerman moments before the fatal incident have been pushing this case to the forefront of media attention and causing much controversy.

The issue of race has been raised, not just among the black community but also by leftist blogs such as Think Progress and opinion editorials for New York magazine and the Huffington Post. According to neighbors, Zimmerman is known for focusing on young black males when combating crime. That reputation paired with his comment “and he’s black… something’s wrong with him,” reveal that race undoubtedly played a role in Zimmerman’s decision to shoot. The cops even told Zimmerman not to approach Martin and that they would handle the situation shortly, but Zimmerman’s irrational fear and racial biases caused him to make this grave mistake.

The trend of young black males being viewed as harmful or more commonly, “scary” is rooted in the act of racial profiling, which is practiced by many figures of authority, even today in the era of the first American black president.  Although other circumstances, such as Martin looking around or carrying something in his hand, might have prompted fear in Zimmerman, he did not stop for a moment to think about his rash actions before ending the life of an innocent teenager. His malicious behavior was motivated by his fear of an unfamiliar black male in his neighborhood without any reasonable suspicion.

Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera recently commented on the “gangster” image portrayed by many young black males and how it probably influenced Zimmerman’s suspicion. No one, regardless of race, should be approached and assaulted for wearing a hoodie or portraying any stereotypical image if they are not posing a serious threat. Rivera’s comments represent the ignorant justification for Zimmerman’s actions as based on Martin’s attire.

I know how it feels to be trapped in a menacing or dangerous image because of stereotypes associated with being black. Recently, I approached an Asian woman to ask for directions and she scurried away from me in fear while clutching her purse. The fact that I was misjudged by the color of my skin is upsetting. Unfortunately, such misjudgment proved to be fatal in Martin’s case.

This could happen to any black and innocent life unless these ignorant stereotypes are brought to the forefront of conversation and discussed. Zimmerman’s actions need no justification or further analysis. His arrest is not only necessary for providing comfort to Martin’s family and the millions protesting, but to ensure that justice is colorblind.