The tragedy of Trayvon Martin has been one of the strangest and most emotionally intense news stories of this year. Martin, a 17 year-old African American, was shot and killed on Feb. 26, in Sanford, FL, by a Hispanic neighborhood watch officer, George Zimmerman, 28, as he was walking back home from a convenience store where he purchased a bag of candy and some iced tea. Zimmerman claimed self defense and no charges have been formally filed against him. This circumstances surrounding the incident has sparked international attention.
It always amazes me when my peers get pumped up about a social issue. Ever since Sunday, my Facebook news feed has been littered with thoughts on the matter. It goes without saying that most are outraged. And it’s understandable. Under no circumstances, should Martin have been shot or even apprehended.
I’ll admit it took me longer than it should’ve to take this story seriously. I previously heard about it, but it wasn’t until watching an MSNBC video clip of the coverage on yesterday that I truly grasped the magnitude of everything. Even Ed Schultz, an evening news anchor of the same network, admitted that he should’ve been more aggressive in his coverage.
There are many unsettling issues at the heart of this story. The first and one of the most important is the fact our President has yet to publicly address the situation. I’m not making an accusation or criticism of Obama, yet I just find it odd that he hasn’t mentioned anything.
This story also hits home because if you’ve seen the photos that have circulated on television broadcasts, then you will see that Martin looks to be a harmless teenager. He was a clean cut type of guy and from what I’ve heard about his personal character, I find it hard to believe that he aroused any suspicious behavior. The fact he was killed walking back from a convenience store resonates with me due to the fact I stay right down the street from a local country store/gas station. Before I got my car in 2007, I used to always walk up the street to purchase candy or a soda pop. Even at night. I never imagined that someone might think I was up to something suspicious. When I was younger, I lived in a mostly Caucasian subdivision where there was also a nearby store that me and my sister frequently walked to.
I won’t touch too much on the racial aspect of this. The 911 tapes have been released and they certainly give rise to the claim that he was singled out for being a black male. The officer who Zimmerman talked with even told him to not pursue Martin. There is also video of another call made by neighbors who reported the incident that is downright scary to listen to since it contains the screams of Martin as he is dying. This type of thing happening to anyone would be a tragedy. However, I have to think with all my heart that there would’ve been much quicker and harsher legal action taken if the races had been reversed.
But at the end of the day, this isn’t about starting a race war, but it’s about ensuring that these types of situations have no place happening anywhere in this country and that people who do commit blatant crimes of this nature are swiftly brought to justice.
The following video clip is one of the best I’ve seen that gives you a brief snapshot of everything. It’s from MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Perry and is a must see, particularly for anyone who isn’t familiar with the story. At the start of the video she poses a profound question to the audience– “When you hear the name Trayvon Martin, does it mean anything to you? If it doesn’t, it should.”
After watching this, I hope his name and the memory of how he died will always mean something to you.
Writer’s Note: President Obama officially addressed the Trayvon Martin incident during a press conference on the morning of Friday, March 23.