“But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.” –President Barack Obama
Two weeks after his 17th birthday, Trayvon Martin was gunned down by an overzealous neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman. Martin’s death galvanized the nation, racial animosity rose and political lines were drawn. Martin was labeled as a thug to some and a martyr; in the likes of Emmett Till, to others.
Trayvon Benjamin Martin was born in Florida on February 5, 1995. Martin struggled with disciplinary issues during his high school years. He was suspended three times during his junior year, for tardiness, possession of drug paraphernalia and vandalism. Despite these infractions, Martin was never charged with a crime and had no juvenile record. In late February 2012, Martin spent his third high school suspension visiting his father and his father’s fiancée, Brandy Green, at Green’s home in a gated community, The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Florida (http://www.biography.com/people/trayvon-martin-21283721).
On the evening of February 26, neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman encountered Martin, who had left the house to purchase Skittles and iced tea. Zimmerman called the Police Department at 7:09 PM to report a suspicious person, Martin, walking between homes. The police dispatcher instructed Zimmerman not to follow Martin, he did not comply. After Zimmerman hung up the phone, he and Martin engaged in a physical fight. According to Zimmerman, Martin approached and punched him in the face, initiating the conflict that followed. The confrontation ended with Zimmerman shooting the unarmed teenager in the chest. Martin died less than a hundred yards from the door of the townhouse in which he was staying (http://www.biography.com/people/trayvon-martin-21283721).
By a vast 86-9 percent margin, African-Americans disapproved of the verdict acquitting George Zimmerman of criminal charges in Martin’s death, while whites approved by 51-31 percent. 86 percent of African-Americans say blacks and other minorities do not receive equal treatment as whites in the criminal justice system. Far fewer whites, 41 percent, shared that view. 87 percent of blacks called Martin’s shooting unjustified. Just a third of whites agreed; another third call it justified, with the rest unsure (Gary Langer).
After Martin’s death we marched, placed his image on our shirts, and wore our hoodies. Moving forward, how should we adequately remember Trayvon Martin? Do we march? Do we put our hoodies on, or do we decide to make a real and substantial change and what does such a change look like?
While the country’s economic outlook has improved over the last year unemployment for African Americans still remains high at 12%. 70% of African American children are born to single mothers with 40% of those living in poverty. 1 and 3 African American males will go to prison in their lifetime. One of the leading causes of death for African American males between 15 and 19 is gun related homicide. So maybe we can best remember Trayvon by curbing those startling statistics.
What I hope is that we do not let Trayvon’s death fade from our memories. Yes, we marched with our hoodies on and expressed outraged over his death, but moving forward if we are to adequately honor Trayvon’s life then we should continue to work on changing attitudes and acceptable social norms that makes killing an unarmed African American socially acceptable.