July 25, 2012
Trayvon Martin is one of the biggest stories of this year and one of the worst tragedies. Anytime that a person loses his life through a random act of violence, then it is a travesty. But, when that act is committed as a result of racism it becomes a censure of our society as a whole.
Though the Trayvon Martin case is a horrible incident, the media has overrun the general public with pictures and stories of him and his murderer, George Zimmerman. With my apologies to his family, I personally am tired of hearing his name mentioned whenever something that is borderline racially motivated is said in mixed company. The minorities get offended and defensive. The majority becomes apologetic and accommodating. And no one actually addresses the problem at the crux of the Trayvon Martin tragedy. What happened to Trayvon is not unique.
Black people are killed by people carrying weapons, badges, stereotypes, and other prejudices all the time. White supremacists drug James Byrd 3 1/2 miles by his feet behind a truck until he was decapitated. Imagine what he endured. Rodney King was beaten by cops so severely that he was hospitalized. One of the policemen, Officer Laurence Powell said, “I haven’t beaten anyone this bad in a long time,” and called African American suspects, “Gorillas in the Mist”. Amadou Diallo was fired upon 41 times by the police being struck 19 times while reaching for his wallet. Timothy Thomas was killed by police for pulling up his pants. Khiel Coppin was shot to death by police while carrying a black hairbrush. Robbie Talon was shot in his own drive way when cops thought he was breaking into his own car. And last year, Sean Bell was killed by police on his wedding day while sitting in his car with two friends. All of the people in the car were unarmed. And, these cases are only the ones that are publicized. Each year, people across this nation that are being paid to protect the common man and woman while keeping neighborhoods safe and secure, shoot unarmed civilians. The majority of these victims are minorities, and most of the cases where deadly force was used are against Black people. Trayvon is not the exception to rule. He is just one of many, but his case has received far more publicity.
That is because Trayvon Martin’s death by itself, is no uncommon occurrence, but it is important. Trayvon Martin puts a face of innocence on the stereotyping, the racial profiling, and the inconsistencies between apprehending the races. With the Rodney King incident, Black people knew that police officers regularly beat suspects, but White people did not. At first there was genuine disgust and contempt towards the offending officers and sentiment for Rodney King and the other victims of police brutality by the majority. But, then they found out about King’s troubled past and saw that he kept trying to stand during the beating. It was enough for people to decide that he may have provoked some of the violence himself. The James Byrd case worked similarly. His death was so violent that everyone was appalled initially, but then people found out that he was mentally ill and became less interested. But, Trayvon Martin was a cute Black teenager that happened to be wearing a hoodie when he was approached by George Zimmerman. There was a misunderstanding and Zimmerman shot and killed Martin who only had a bag of Skittles on him. Trayvon was an innocent victim who was killed for being Black in the wrong neighborhood (his neighborhood). In addition to being an innocent victim, he looked innocent which makes his death a hard pill to swallow for any person of any race. His death may do more for race relations in America than anyone living could do for it. His face has inspired politicians, Black, White, and Latino, to wear hoodies in protest of his death. People have been up in arms because this young life was lost due to an overzealous security guard who stereotyped a young, Black kid. In Trayvon Martin, people see the virtuousness of their own children and are disenchanted with the state of racism in this country.
Which Trayvon Martin is the real one?
As the facts come out about this case, we are starting to see that Trayvon may not have been as innocent as he was thought to be at the beginning of this case. Rumors that Trayvon was not the model child that his pictures displayed are now circling. Police reports show that a struggle ensued between Martin and Zimmerman, and that Zimmerman was bruised and bloodied when the police arrived. The police reports also say that Zimmerman alleges that he was attacked by Martin, and that he acted in self defense. Whether those injuries were obtained during the scuffle has yet to be determined, but the fact that Martin took a single bullet wound to the chest that was delivered by George Zimmerman has been confirmed. And, the proximity of the shot may decide whether Trayvon is a martyr or a bully.
Trayvon Martin has been over-sensationalized as one of the most devastating losses of the decade. And though the loss of a child is always a terrible loss, this case is not so different from what happens in neighborhoods across this country, and we should wait until all the facts of the case are uncovered to make a judgment. However, his death also brings light to forgotten prejudices that are ripe within this nation and for that the all the publicity that he has received is necessary.