What a Florida Teenager’s Death Tells Us About Being Black in America

By | March 20, 2012

Trayvon Martin was 17, visiting his father in Sanford, Florida. He was also black. George Zimmerman is 28, and had been a self-appointed neighborhood watchman in the area. He called in to the police that Martin was “suspicious,” upon which the police directed him to leave the rest to them. Zimmerman did not, feeling that Martin was “up to no good” or “on drugs or something.” Zimmerman was packing a handgun, and before long, Martin was dead from a gunshot wound in the chest. Zimmerman—who was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting an officer in 2005, and was noted in the neighborhood for a particular animus against young black boys—claims self-defense, though all Martin had on him was a can of ice tea and a bag of Skittles. As of yet, however, Zimmerman has yet to be charged with any crime.

The repercussions of incidents like the February murder of Martin are guaranteed to linger like the fallout from a nuclear accident, sickening the people, and communities, involved for years afterward. Indeed, the tragedy of this event is twofold. One is that it resulted in the senseless death of a bright, good-natured boy. The other is that it has stoked yet again the embers of racial hurt in this country, reinforcing the main obstacle to any true healing: the ugly relationship between blacks and the police. (The New Republic)

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