“Everybody is outraged. There is no justice in this.” Tracy Martin, the father of Trayvon Martin
Being a young black man has been called the hardest job in America. Young black men are much more likely than white men to be jobless, in jail and labelled “suspicious,” sometimes with deadly consequences. Such was the case on February 26th, when 17-year-old high school student, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by a white neighborhood-watch vigilante in Sanford, Florida. The shooter, George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old white Hispanic, noticed Trayvon walking through his gated community and called 911 to report a suspicious person. Instead of following the dispatcher’s instructions and ending his involvement there, Zimmerman continued following Trayvon. An altercation ensued and Trayvon was shot. Zimmerman claimed self defense and has not been charged with a crime. Trayvon’s parents are both heartbroken and outraged. As Benjamin Crump, the family’s lawyer put it, “If Trayvon would have been the triggerman, it’s nothing Trayvon Martin could have said to keep police from arresting him Day 1, Hour 1.”
Of the many unanswered questions in this case, two stand out. First, Trayvon Martin, who had just stopped off at a convenience store, was armed only with a bag of Skittles and a can of ice tea. George Zimmerman, who weighed over 100 pounds more than the victim, was armed with a 9 millimeter handgun. Even if there was a physical altercation between the two, why was such deadly force necessary?
Second, one of the reasons the police gave for not immediately arresting Zimmerman was that he had a “squeaky clean” record. A few days later it was discovered that Zimmerman had been arrested in 2005 for resisting arrest with battery on a police officer. Trayvon Martin, on the other hand, had no criminal record.
These and other troubling facts have led the Central Florida Urban League and others, to call on the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice to conduct an independent investigation. Central Florida Urban League president and CEO, Allie Braswell said, “A private citizen taking law enforcement into his own hands cannot be condoned. If it is found that a crime has been committed, the shooter must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” This case is now generating national attention and we will be following it closely.
We do not know for sure why George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. But we do know, according to a 2011 College Board report, that 45 percent of African American high school graduates between the ages of 15 and 24 will end up “unemployed, incarcerated or dead.” We also know that the murder of innocent black men in the American South is nothing new. Fifty-seven years ago, the white murderers of 14-year old Emmitt Till in the Mississippi Delta were acquitted of the crime in a clear case of racial injustice.
As the father of a 10-year old African American son, I join all African American parents and Americans of conscience everywhere in calling for an end to the war against young black men and a thorough investigation of the death of Trayvon Martin.
Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League.