Trayvon Martin. Though he was murdered on February 26, 2012 by a single gunshot to the chest, allegedly fired from a handgun owned by George Zimmerman, a self- appointed “neighborhood watch captain,” his name is seemingly everywhere. His name filled the streets of New York City’s Time Square at the “Million Hoodie March,” on March 21. His name can be found on Twitter updates of the investigation, which now include the Justice Department’s own and Facebook postings appealing for signatures for a petition to have his accused murderer charged with his death (You can sign the petition by visiting www.change.org.). His voice is even heard in youtube postings of the 911 calls (Trayvon screams for help in one of the calls.). His death is being discussed on local and international news and radio, at bus stops, on side walks, over lunch counters and dinner tables, in beauty salons and barber shops, in pulpits and pews across the country.
But, why is Trayvon Martin dead? What crime did he commit or attempt to commit that would warrant deadly force? According to Zimmerman, “We’ve had some break ins in my neighborhood and there’s something really suspicious about this guy… He looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something… He’s got his hand in his waistband and he’s a black male… Some thing’s wrong with him… He’s coming to check me out… He’s got something in his hand… These (expletive) always get away… He’s running… Are you following him? (911 operator) Yes (Zimmerman). We don’t need you to do that (911 operator).”
1. “We’ve had some break ins in my neighborhood and there’s something suspicious about this guy.” If Mr. Zimmerman is suggesting that because the culprits of the recent burglaries were African American or socially colored black (assuming that this is true), then he is engaged in racial profiling when suggesting a possible link to Mr. Martin’s presence as an African American male based solely on the fact that he is in the neighborhood. It assumes that Mr. Martin’s only reason for being in the neighborhood is to commit a crime. This is the only reason. Mr. Martin is not wearing a ski mask neither is he carrying a crowbar. He’s not looking into cars or peeping into persons’ windows. He’s walking on the sidewalk, talking to his girlfriend on the phone.
And could you be more specific? What makes Trayvon Martin appear “suspicious”? What of Trayvon Martin’s actions make him a suspect of criminal activity? I suggest that if you can’t put your finger on it, don’t put your hands on him.
2. He looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. What exactly does that look like? And which one is it? Is Mr. Martin a potential burglar or a drug addict… or something? What does Mr. Zimmerman want to see? Why is Mr. Zimmerman only able to see Mr. Martin’s presence as a problem? If he’s not up to no good then he’s on drugs and if he’s not on drugs, it’s something. I don’t know what it is, but he is not right. He’s not the right person. He shouldn’t be here. Because?
3. He’s got his hand in his waistband and he’s a black male. And this statement should suggest that because he is a socially colored black male that Mr. Martin is reaching for a firearm? Do all African American males carry guns, their sole purpose in life to take the lives of others? Perhaps. According to race’s stereotypes, the social color of black means dangerous, violent, criminal. And how is Mr. Martin able to hold a phone, a beverage, a pack of Skittles (or if applicable, hold the bag that possessed the two items), put the hood over his head when he noticed that Mr. Zimmerman was looking at him and go for a gun in his waist band? Is this a special talent of socially colored black males?
4. Some thing’s wrong with him. What is wrong about an unarmed teenage child, walking down the street, talking on the phone with his girlfriend after returning from a store with a beverage and candy in hand? What’s wrong with wearing a hooded shirt and pulling it over your head? It is his right to wear his clothing however he chooses and it is raining outside. Is wearing a hoodie a crime?
5. He’s coming to check me out… He’s got something in his hand… First Mr. Zimmerman says that Mr. Martin is coming toward him with something in his hand then he says,
6. These (expletive) always get away… He’s running… Who always gets away? What crime has he committed for which he would be escaping punishment and why does Mr. Zimmerman feel that it is his right to ensure that Mr. Martin is punished? What narrative is Mr. Zimmerman mentally reviewing and why does he include Mr. Martin? What character does Mr. Martin portray in the mind of Mr. Zimmerman?
Mr. Martin is running away from a stranger who is chasing him, not a uniformed police officer or any one who could identify themself as such. Mr. Zimmerman had no badge and even if he did, had no right to chase after Mr. Martin, who up to this point, has not committed a crime. Attacking Mr. Martin, who has only been caught in the act of walking down the street is without warrant.
7. Are you following him? (911 operator) Yes (Zimmerman). We don’t need you to do that (911 operator).” We all know now what happens shortly thereafter. George Zimmerman concludes that Trayvon Martin is not his neighbor and now he will never be. Trayvon Martin was killed, tried by the eyes of George Zimmerman and found guilty by reason of stereotype.
Barbara Liston: Trayvon Martin case: Should Sanford police chief be fired?, The Christian Science Monitor, March 22, 2012
Alexandra Petri, The Scariest Thing About Trayvon Martin, The Washington Post, March 21, 2012.
George Zimmerman’s 911 call