Trayvon Martin: The Boy Who Started It All
Updated: Oct 27, 2020
Trayvon Martin, a high school student who was visiting his father in Sanford, Florida, was fatally shot coming home from the convenience store late at night, on February 26, 2012. A quick trip to the store to buy a bag of candy and soda was the last thing Martin did before George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, shot him. Initially, Zimmerman called the Sanford police department’s non-emergency line, reporting Martin as a suspicious character. Florida's “Stand Your Ground” Law doesn’t require someone to retreat from engaging in a dangerous situation if they’re able to, and it allows the use of lethal force if their safety is at risk of being compromised.
Zimmerman used this law to his advantage and ignored the dispatchers instruction to not engage with the teen. Moments later gunshots could be heard on his end of the call. Officers reported Martin dead by the time they arrived, and noted Zimmerman had a bloody nose and cuts on the back of his head. While being questioned by authorities, Zimmerman claimed self-defense, and was shortly released.
The case later gained nationwide attention, and thus the "Black Lives Matter" movement was created. Hundreds of people gathered on March 21 for the “Million Hoodie March” demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. On April 11, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty, and the case went to trial in June 2013.
The prosecution described Zimmerman as a “wannabe cop” who profiled Martin as a criminal, pursued him, and instigated a physical altercation with him. They also poked holes in his self-defense claim, bringing attention to the inconsistencies in his police statements. Zimmerman's defense attorneys argued that he only shot Martin after he attacked him. On July 13, the jury found Zimmerman not guilty for the murder of Trayvon Martin.
I remember watching this case on TV with my mom and her friends, when I was around 11 years old. After hearing the verdict, I started crying. I couldn’t fully grasp what was going on at the time, nor did I even have a personal connection to Trayvon Martin and his family. My only reasoning for having such an emotional reaction was, “What if this happened to my cousin?” I thought about how it could have been a number of my male cousins, how any one of them would have been in his position, and it upset me. Now that I am older, this has become a fear of mine.
For years, young black men have been racially profiled and assumed to be dangerous or suspicious people of interest. On the other hand, their white counterparts do not receive the same type of attention. A young white man has no reason to worry about not appearing threatening to random people on the street.
Most young privileged white men do not have to consider the implications of wearing a hoodie on a late night run. They do not have to be on guard 24/7 because of the possibility of someone wanting to harm them. White men can not understand the fear that black men of America feel everyday. They have the privilege, or luxury, of not being a black person in America.
Sadly, the recent events in Minneapolis and all around the country show how little has changed since 2012. The only difference is that we are no longer talking about a private individual taking the life of an unarmed black man, but the people who are sworn to protect us. Watching the protests on TV and seeing the diversity of the protestors, I am hopeful that we are getting closer to real change.
Such racism is not just an issue within the black community, but a problem that affects everyone. We should not have to explain to our younger generation why the color of their skin is threatening. There should not be anymore Trayvon Martins, or George Floyds, or Breonna Taylors. Enough is enough and the time for change is now.