From my column to be published in The Daily Free Press on March 27, 2012.
Break time. I closed my books and eagerly opened up my preferred websites of procrastination. I briefly skimmed over Facebook and Twitter, and aimlessly scrolled down Tumblr. My right hand held up my face, and my tired eyes were slowly closing. Just as they were about to cross the point of no return, two words caught my eye: “Miami” and “death”. I sat up, immediately concerned and alert. I scrolled back up to the beginning of the post. It started with a photograph of a young black kid followed by a bolded headline that read “Unarmed Black Teen Gunned Down By Neighborhood Watch Leader After Being Deemed Suspicious.”
This was a few weeks ago, and it was the first time I heard about Trayvon Martin and what happened to him in Sanford, Florida. I could not believe my eyes when I first read the articles, and I cannot believe the world right now that this case has still not been rightfully resolved. It hit so close to home because Trayvon is from Miami, and I could not believe this actually happened in my home state. It is as if a giant neon sign has sprung up in the center of our society screaming, “HEY GUESS WHAT? RACISM STILL EXISTS.”
What shocks me the most – perhaps even more than what actually happened – is the fact that there is actual controversy over this. Let’s take a look at the basic facts: George Zimmerman, the twenty-six-year old neighborhood watch leader, followed around Trayvon Martin, a seventeen-year-old black kid, because “the way he was walking or appeared seemed suspicious to him.” Zimmerman, based only on this irrational suspicion, got out of his car and approached Trayvon with a loaded pistol. He did this against the direct orders of the police to stay in his vehicle. Trayvon was wearing a hoodie and had in his possession the deadly items of a cellphone, an iced tea, and a bag of skittles.
George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. He confessed to the police. He claimed self-defense based on his bloodied nose. The police did not take him into custody. They did not arrest the man who explicitly went against their orders and confessed to killing a person. This is all the proof anyone needs to see the blatant racism that occurred that night.
Yet, people are actually arguing about this. This is what I cannot wrap my head around. The blame is falling instead on the most irrelevant facts of the case, such as that Trayvon was wearing a hoodie. This is disgusting. It is the equivalent of blaming a rape victim for wearing shorts. These victims were not “asking for it”. They do not deserve the blame that society is too afraid to take responsibility for.
There is a twenty-six-year old man in a car following a seventeen-year-old kid at night. This man has all the power: he is older, he is more familiar with the area, he is inside his car, and he is armed. The only way something could possibly occur is if he gets out of his car. If I was walking home at night in an unfamiliar neighborhood and a car began to follow me, I would be completely terrified of that car and its driver. There is every chance I would react aggressively if I was approached in this manner. The flimsy reports of Zimmerman’s nose bleeding that hold up his claim of self-defense are not enough to excuse the fact that this is a terrifying situation for any young person to find him or herself in. There is only one person in this situation who should be held responsible: the grown man who deemed it appropriate to follow a young kid around in the dark, get out of his car, and confront him with a weapon, especially after the police dispatch explicitly told him not to do so.
George Zimmerman let his racism dictate his actions, and it resulted in an innocent death. Now, that same racism is allowing him to walk free. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We cannot allow racial profiling and racism to run rampant in our society. It is crucial for the advancement in humanity to eradicate these sentiments. We need to recognize that Trayvon Martin represents every single death caused by racism. We need to fight the terrible injustice of this case and make sure it will never happen again.