Trayvon Martin: A reminder of Millennial-era racism
Published: Friday, April 6, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
On Feb. 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot to death on his way to a relative’s house in Sanford, Fla. In the past month, the details around his death have blown up in the media, eliciting reactions from all over the country. This case strikes a chord with several people who feel that Martin was killed because of his race.
George Zimmerman, Martin’s killer, has yet to be charged with a crime. Zimmerman alleged that he shot Martin in self-defense after a brief struggle. Despite evidence and witness accounts casting doubt on Zimmerman’s claims, the police let him walk free. Zimmerman is currently in hiding.
Zimmerman’s motivations for the killing could be argued for days, but the most important thing to understand is he murdered an unarmed 17-year-old boy in cold blood, merely due to a “feeling” he had that Martin was up to no good.
It is disheartening to realize that in the 21st century, persons of color still need to be careful of their surroundings. In an ideal world, the way that a person acts and the content of his character should be what defines them, not their clothing or the color of their skin. But in Zimmerman’s mind that night, he saw Martin as a criminal, a likely offender that needed to be apprehended. He did not view Martin as a smart, charismatic 17-year-old boy with a caring family and a bright future ahead of him. No, he viewed him as a thief, a rogue criminal casing a gated community to raid.
Martin was completely innocent in this case. He did not initiate the conflict, he did not seek trouble and he was completely unarmed. Unless you count a bag of Skittles and an iced tea as weapons. Zimmerman is a grown man, with more than a couple pounds on Martin, making his claim that he was in a “fight for his life” against a skinnier, younger individual hard to believe.
This case is reminiscent of other racially charged violent criminal cases. Emmitt Till was a young boy who was brutally lynched in 1955 by two older men. His case was one of the sparks that helped charge the Civil Rights Movement. In 1998, James Byrd Jr., a 49-year-old man, was savagely beaten by three white supremacists in Texas and dragged throughout the streets while still conscious. Both of these victims were targeted because of their race. Perhaps Zimmerman did not shoot Martin solely for the color of skin, but it cannot be denied that his suspicion of the teen would have either subsided or become nonexistent if he was white.
People who do not think race was a prime motivator in this killing are ignorant and unaware of the challenges people of color still face today. When Zimmerman saw Martin that night, he did not look at him as a human being, but as a transgressor who did not belong.
This case is evidence that despite being in the 21st century, we are far from living in a post-racial America.