Trayvon Martin was killed because George Zimmerman had a gun in his hands. Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, spoke in Philadelphia at a meeting of the National Urban League on Friday, July 26. Fulton asked the crowd of over 2,000, “to use my story, to use my tragedy, to use my broken heart, to never let this happen again to anyone else’s child.”
“No prom for Trayvon, no high school graduation for Trayvon, no college for Trayvon,” she said. But, what we do will define Trayvon’s legacy.
As a white writer and organizer who works in the African-American community, I sent an email to ten friends and colleagues soliciting their opinions about the George Zimmerman verdict. Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges on July 13. I sent the communication to 4 African-Americans, 3 Hispanics and 3 whites. Far from this being a scientific poll, only 3 African-Americans responded. One white person had some comments but wanted them to be kept private. This is not a good indication of the urgency of our willingness to examine our hearts and souls.
“My immediate reactions to the Zimmerman verdict were outrage, sorrow and disappointment. But, I was not surprised. As a black man who has seen how this nation has demonized our black boys in its media coverage, its literature and its pop culture, I had hoped that the facts of the Trayvon case (Trayvon was unarmed, Zimmerman was told not to follow, Zimmerman was not a policeman, Zimmerman got out of his car to continue to pursue Trayvon, etc., etc., etc.) would outweigh the racist depiction of this innocent boy. I had hoped that the maternal instincts of the 6 women on the jury would allow them to empathize with Trayvon’s mother in the loss of her child. But no, once again we are reminded that it just doesn’t work like that for black folks. Immediately after verdict, I rushed to be with my two grandsons, 11 years old and 7 years old, to hug and kiss them and let them know again that their glistening black skin was a blessing from the Lord, evidence of a proud and glorious history. They both told me, “We know pop pop.”
– James Randolph, retired Deputy Commissioner of the Phila. Department of Human Services
Our country is supposedly based on the rule of law not the rule of an individual. But individuals wrote this Florida stand your ground law where the interpretation of a dangerous situation is so broad that a 17 year old boy without a gun can be legally murdered.
“A clear example of the how a law can lead to injustice. How can it be justice if an adult with a weapon pursues a teenager doing nothing more than walking home. He kills the teenager and there is not a murder committed? Going after someone while carrying a weapon is all you should need to know!”
– Bernard H. Fisher, accountant in Delaware
We are challenged to write laws that create a more just society. But, it will take more than good laws to ensure that tragedies like Trayvon never happen again.
“This incident represents an opportunity for Americans to reexamine their true feelings about class and race in America. I feel certain that despite that fact he is part Hispanic, George Zimmerman may have felt the same way about a Mexican in his community. The current prejudice in America is not just about race but also about class. In this gated community, I am sure that Mr. Zimmerman felt there are those who neither had the right or privilege to live there.”
– Dolores Shaw, community leader
We must change our heads and our hearts. As Trayvon’s mom Sabrina said, “Trayvon was my son. But, Trayvon is also your son.”