Justice for Trayvon Martin

On Feb. 26, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was found dead in an Orlando, FL suburb. George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, claims to have shot him in self-defense after a 911 call in which he reported Martin as being suspicious and was advised not to pursue the youth.

The story picked up speed in early March when Martin’s family called for the police to release the 911 tapes.  On March 13, ABC News found that Zimmerman’s police record was not as squeaky clean as originally painted — he had been charged with battery against an officer and resisting arrest but had the charge expunged. Meanwhile, the “suspicious” African-American boy wearing a hoodie, walking through his neighborhood with a pack of Skittles and an iced tea has no disciplinary or criminal record of any kind. His fault only lies in that he was a black youth in a predominately white neighborhood in a red state.

Despite national outrage and the efforts of Martin’s family, Zimmerman is still a free man because of his self-defense claim. Justice is still being sought with countless signatures on countless petitions and Million Hoodie Marches occurring throughout the country.

What’s troubling about this case is not just the racism, because anyone with eyes in this country can see that we are far from being post-racial. Racism is something, unfortunately, that we have come to expect from our own country on personal, civic, state and federal levels. What’s appalling is how little and how slowly the protests and petitions seem to be making a difference.  What’s even more upsetting is how hard people who support Zimmerman are trying to paint Martin in a negative light and how hard they’re trying to make it seem like Zimmerman is a victim of reverse racism.

We are at a time in our country’s history that is embroiled in archaic social issues — between this and the health care reform opposition, the war on women’s rights and a brief glance at the Republican candidates, the news very rarely shows us something that actually doesn’t make us say, “Uh, isn’t this the 21st century?” It’s disappointing to actively see how little social action can accomplish amid all this. It’s scary to see how a man who murdered a young African-American boy in cold blood because of his own prejudices can go free, even though the masses are calling for his arrest and evidence supports this.

An armed man who is well over 100 pounds heavier than the unarmed Martin certainly was in a threatened position, now wasn’t he? And really, how dare he walk through a neighborhood he belongs in? Why is the media being so mean to Zimmerman just because he’s half-white?

There is an important distinction to be made between our own tainted perceptions and the actuality of a situation. If Martin had been a white boy wearing the same hoodie, Zimmerman would not have gone against advice and pursued him; he probably wouldn’t have even called him in. No matter the argument, this is a race issue and the public should be vocal and outraged. And law enforcement should listen.