Today, a woman by the name of Sybrina Fulton is a childless mother. As our divided nation seeks to find understanding in the midst of the tragic death of her son, Trayvon Martin, Fulton faces the realization that he is more than the victim of a shooting. Fulton is living the terrifying reality of countless mothers who fear that their children will be harmed or killed for no apparent reason.
In late February in Sanford, Florida, self-appointed neighborhood-watch captain George Zimmerman, 28, reportedly gunned down 17-year-old Martin. In a 911 call, Zimmerman accused Martin of being under the influence of drugs and generally looking suspicious. Zimmerman was armed with a gun; Martin was equipped with a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea.
Zimmerman has yet to be arrested and has proclaimed his innocence under Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law. This policy allows you to use deadly force if it is in self-defense. The police must determine whether deadly force was necessary before arresting a suspect. In Martin’s case, what is apparent is that a child was senselessly killed. The laws working to protect the shooter have caused a miscarriage of justice and left the victim’s family defenseless.
The curious case of Trayvon Martin serves as a reflection of America’s treacherous history of gloomy race relations. As a nation demands justice for Martin, we must examine if we truly live in a post-racial America. This tragedy demonstrates that despite the fact that our nation currently has an African American president, we still manage to remain a nation heavily burdened by racism. In response to Martin’s death, President Barack Obama said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
I have two brothers who look like Martin. My greatest fear is that Zimmerman will never be charged for Martin’s murder — and that my twin brothers could quite possibly be the next Trayvon Martins. Will my mother one day receive a call that her sons were gunned down for looking suspicious?
As our president, the nation, and I stand outraged over Martin’s death, we are reminded of the power of the citizenry to stand against injustice. Martin’s legacy is being honored through the Million Hoodie campaign, which was created to petition for Zimmerman’s prosecution and to demonstrate that merely wearing a hoodie doesn’t constitute being suspicious.
What makes someone appear to be suspicious?
Though it is not clear if this shooting was racially motivated, Martin’s name is among countless African American men who have been killed for appearing to be suspicious. Across the country, hundreds of people have attended vigils and rallies in support of Martin. The Miami Heat basketball team and members of Congress are standing in solidarity with Martin by donning hoodies in an effort to preserve his legacy.
As members of our nation try to make sense of this catastrophe, many continue to stand both in support of and against Martin. According to journalist Geraldo Rivera, “the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.”
In spite of criticisms of Martin, his mother’s ability to persevere in the face of hardship is remarkable. Her story reminds me of the struggles of African American women who were lynched in the 20th century for demanding police intervention in the murders of their sons and husbands.
Though Martin’s mother can never find solace in the death of her son, she can find comfort in knowing that her son’s life has sparked a national movement for an end to inequality. Though Martin’s voice may be silenced in death, his life serves as a call for further peace and social harmony. Hopefully, we can wake up from the fantasy of a post-racial America and enter the reality of an America deeply divided by race and hierarchical privilege.
Martin’s legacy will live on — so long as we repair this breakdown of justice.