Trayvon Martin: Walking While Black

By now, most of you in our US History class will have heard of the Trayvon Martin murder which occurred in a Florida suburb on February 26th. As of last Friday (March 30th), his killer had not been arrested. Here is a great report from Democracy Now:

How do we begin to deconstruct and make sense of this event? How can we use history to help us understand how a young African-American could possibly be gunned down in the middle of the day? Here is a video from Democracy Now that attempts to compare the Civil Rights movement in the 20th century with this recent event:

Please comment on what has been posted before you and try to incorporate what you have learned about the racial divide in the United States to help shape your answer. Comments are due on April 5th at 9:00 AM.

11 thoughts on “Trayvon Martin: Walking While Black

  1. To begin to understand this event I think we have to understand that many people in the world still have strong biases about African American people. This was a very unfortunate event, however, it brings racism to the attention of the media. Even with all the laws and declarations some people still can not accept different races. This is a difficult concept because people are people no matter what they look like. History can help us understand this, because it has happened before. For example, Emmett Till was brutally murdered after speaking to a white woman. This can help us understand the killing Trayvon Martin because it shows us that when people do not like other races they will go to extremes show their dislike. I think that people have no self control when it comes to beliefs, they do not control themselves or look at situation from an from an unbiased eye. This was shown throughout history and with Trayvon Martin. J.M.

  2. "Outrage is growing over the killing of the unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin""[Trayvon] was walking in a gated community in [Florida] when he was shot dead by George Zimmerman a self appointed neighborhood watchman"These are the words that bias a nation of consumers. The first and most important thing to address is that yes, it is very unfortunate Trayvon Martin died. His life was ended, but we must look at the facts to avoid ruining the lives of others. A vote of no confidence in the police chief was passed, because he did his job properly. Zimmerman claimed to be acting in self defense, and had witnesses who confirmed his claims. According to Florida law, that made Zimmerman innocent. Regardless of what the police chief wanted to do, he was a servant of the law, and had to follow it. As a result of doing his job properly, he may lose it.Most of the people who are making judgement and assumptions have failed to learn the whole story, far too many adjectives and adverbs are being used for something like this.There are some facts to be told, and this is what I could gather from various sources:1) It was raining the night Trayvon was killed2) Trayvon ran when Zimmerman first questioned him, then returned to confront him3) A flat head screwdriver and assorted jewelry was found within Trayvon's backpack4) The non emergency 911 call was a result of recent burglaries, not racismThe official police report states: Trayvon was on top of Zimmerman assaulting him, and Trayvonn grabbed for Zimmerman's firearm. In the struggle, the weapon discharged. The shell casing was still in the weapon, corroborating the account of a struggle. In order for the casing to still be in the weapon, someone had to be holding the side of it when it fired, preventing it from cycling chambers.Florida police handled the case well, Zimmerman's actions were acceptable according to Florida law. This does not make his actions right, perhaps Florida needs new laws.The most offensive thing about all of this is that it is continually being brought up. Trayvon is becoming the hot topic of the hour, and his death is becoming a story, not an event. This does not happen to other victims, and it is horrible we are making Trayvon's death an anecdote. Each person who voices their "opinion" on the subject without doing the proper research are dishonoring him. Those who say the investigation was handled poorly should attempt to change the law, because it was.If the media had decided to exploit another story, we may all have ended up reading about this:

  3. My personal opinion is that nobody truly knows what happened that day. There is tons of conflicting evidence, and as such, we should not try to jump to conclusions.In reaction to the comment above, unless there is a different non-emergency 9-11 call involved here, the only one I found out about was in response to "suspicious behavior", not burglaries. Obviously this entire incident could have been avoidable if Zimmerman had not begun following Martin around, and it is quite clear that Martin was followed because Zimmerman is racist, as he is known to warn residents of the area to steer clear of "young black males".Legally (providing that Zimmerman's story, that he was assaulted by Martin after confronting him (a story that most witnesses corroborated), Zimmerman is technically in the clear. The main issue is that there seem to be conflicting witness reports, and some evidence does not stack up properly, for instance, in the initial police report, Zimmerman is described as having a bleeding nose and bleeding from the back of the head, yet in the surveillance tape of Zimmerman being taken into the police station he appears to be without a scratch.It is obvious, however, that this situation could have been avoided if Zimmerman had not been biased towards african-americans in the first place, and this is where civil rights comes into play. This is slightly similar to a "lynching", provided that Zimmerman (and the witnesses') case is invalid. There have been several cases like this throughout history. In modern times, however, racism does not seem to be towards blacks as inferiors, but that blacks are all gangsters or criminals. (It is interesting to note however that the media has primarily been using old pictures of both Trayvon and Zimmerman, however; This distinction likely came after the more militant movements of the Civil Rights Movement, in which many black people took up arms against their white oppressors. It is also likely that this is because most black communities have not yet recovered from the poor situations they have endured for most of America's existence. It is interesting to note, however, that the media tends to portray Zimmerman as whiter than a more recent picture would suggest, and the media seems to be portraying Zimmerman as an archetypal "evil racist white man", which may be a new, inverse form of racism towards whites.Mitch Cunningham

  4. To begin to understand why this happened, I think that you have to go back and look at the racial divide between whites and blacks during the civil rights movement. There has always been racial tension and racism between white people and black people in the United States. Even with all the laws that are in place to prevent racism, there is still racism in the United States today. During the civil rights movement African American people were subjected to a lot of hate while the de-segregation of public facilities was taking place. Little Rock 9 is an example of this. 9 African American students were enrolled to go to school at an all white school and when they first got to the school there were protesters that wanted to get them out. This shows that if people don't like a certain type or group of people then they will say and do very extreme this to show this. There is a bias among white people in America that cause them to show hate towards black people. This was displayed in the murder of Trayvon Martin. He was shot because he was black and wearing his hood up.Tim Dang

  5. I am not really sure what to think but I do know is that we ask ourselves if racism really has been reduced. I believe there have been great advancements in reducing racism with many laws giving black people equal rights but we all know that it is still a big issue. What I really don't understand is why these laws have to be put in place? Why does racism exist when people are so different from one another and yet this one difference, skin color, is so much prominent than the others. Just because some people are a little but taller or shorter than you doesn't mean that we show so much hate as we do towards black people. Will is ever be totally eliminated? Probably not. There will always be people that are racist towards black people. But if the decline in racism continues, we can have a very equal society between white and black people. In the Trayvon Martin case, I truly believe that if Trayvon Martin had been a white person, he would not have been killed. Zimmerman has talked about self defense and that Trayvon attacked him. Zimmerman left without an injury, even a scratch. This does not seem like a someone that was attacked. Even if Trayvon did attack him which I do not believe happened, without a scratch on Zimmerman, he must have been either a good fighter or much bigger which he was and in either of these cases, he would have control of Trayvon and could have restrained him without shooting and killing him.Although I sort of agree with Sam saying it is dishonoring Tayvon to keep bringing the case up, simply letting the killer go without a fight and not getting the justice he deserves is dishonoring him much more greatly. His parents have spoke out to he public about this expressing that they want justice and that they want people to fight for justice and the legacy of Trayvon.Gavin

  6. As Mitch has said before, I believe that no one really knows what happened on the day of the murder. Many of the witness' testimonies seem to contradict each other as well as some of the evidence. There is also the media adding to all of the uncertainty by talking about parties’ agendas and racism. All that is really known for certain is that a 17 year old, Martin Trayvon died on February 26 2012.You could say that by looking at history you can begin to understand why this happened but in doing so, you can sometimes forget about what has changed in the last 60 years. Yes, there was terrible racism before the civil rights movement and there is still racism today but does every time something bad happens between a black person and a white person, does one of those people have to be called a racist. When you read many of the articles about the terrible shooting of Martin and scroll down to the comments, it seems like not many have to do with him getting shot. They mainly have to do with racism. We can’t read George’s mind to find out is he shot Martin because he was black so why do people have the right to be able to slander his name all across the media. I know that it is free speech but why are you allowed to insult people because of not siding with the black person. Many of Zimmerman’s family and friends are scared because there have been death threats against him and threats of lynching his family. This seems like racism to me but am I a racist for not thinking that the black person is innocent. Many supporters of Zimmerman have tried to compare this to the story of a young white boy being lit on fire by 2 teenage black boys because the one about where a black person was hurt is getting more media. But why does it have to come down to racism. Maybe Zimmerman had an itching trigger finger and doesn’t trust any teenagers and maybe the boys that lit the younger one on fire were just angry at something and wanted to hurt someone. We will never know for sure.In the end it doesn’t really matter though. We don’t know all the facts and may never know because of how the media has made this into a circus. A kid was shot and killed and nothing will bring him back. Not sending Zimmerman to jail and having him get the death penalty as some people want.Bryce Dunn

  7. To begin to deconstruct the death of Trayvon Martin we must first realize that, despite the fact that the civil war is long over, racism is still very much alive. The only way we would be able to deconstruct and make sense of the event would be if we had clear and straightforward evidence and clear witnesses. Unfortunately, this case seems to have neither. As Mitchell said, no one can be sure of what happened. Florida's' very lenient gun policies might be just as significant as Zimmerman's obvious racism in causing Trayvon Martins death. Considering that in the United States any individual over the age of 21 can acquire a handgun it is amazing that things like this don't happen more often. We have seen racist killings such as the one of Emmett Till even before guns became a part of everyday life in the US. Trayvon Martin is dead because of the terrible fact that even today people still have biases towards African American people but also because of the laws that allow people to carry weaponry. Whether Zimmerman followed and then fought Trayvon because he thought he was a criminal, or whether he did it because he saw a black teenager and acted because of the colour of his skin, it is the "stand your ground" laws that make Zimmerman technically but not morally in the clear.-Sarah

  8. To begin to deconstruct this unfortunate event, we must first recognize that although there have been many laws passed regarding racism and equality, racism still exists to this day. Racism has reduced quite a bit, as Gavin stated, but it is still nowhere near gone. And to be completely honest, i don't think racism will ever be gone, because their will always be people who aren't willing to look past race.This event can be interpreted in many ways, because according to the Florida "stand your ground" laws, Zimmerman is allowed to protect himself if he's being assaulted. So you can look at it many ways. And truth be told. None of us will likely ever know what happened on that day, so we are left to speculate. Zimmerman is known to be racist, so many people think that he shot Trayvon Martin just because he was African American and just felt threatened for no reason. About what Sam said, i have never heard that before, but that in itself could create another opinion of its own. But i can truly state that i believe that this would not have happened if Trayvon was not black. Zimmerman made claims that he was being attacked, which is why he pulled the trigger, but again as gavin stated, Zimmerman was left without a scratch. This is a lot like the Emitt Till case a long time ago, where he talked to a white woman and was killed because of it,We have come so far in our attempt to eliminate racism, but sometimes it seems like we have made NO progress at all.-Bilal Shaikh

  9. Racial divide is a big problem in the United States. Black people are always seemed as criminal. In this event, a lot of people questioned that Martin was killed because of the bias, American discriminate against African-American. On a rainy evening late February in Sanford, Florida, a young Travoy Martin was returning home to his father's house after a walk to a store for snacks. After Zimmerman noticed Martin, he began following Martin and called the Sanford Police Department to say he witnessed suspicious behavior. But the police said he didn’t have to do that. After a while, Martin was shot. Zimmerman described the shooting as self-defence. How come a teenager hurt him, especially he was holding snacks both hands. The police didn’t arrest Zimmerman. Just because the boy is black, so he looked suspicious? And Zimmerman is white so he is always right and he doesn’t have to be arrested? Martin didn’t deserve to die, blacks do have status in the society. As Martin’s father always tells him that this society is really cruel. America has imported slaves since 1619. When Lincoln released "Emancipation Proclamation", Blacks became free in law. The U.S. Congress then came up with amendment 13, 14, 15 which were about freedom, citizenship and voting. But racism still existed. Little Rock 9 is a good example. They were all students in Little Rock High School who were blacks. On the first day of school, the white despised them and spitted on them, they didn’t want them to come to their school. Racial equality is still a dream. The US has a long way to go.Fei Hong

  10. I agree with Mitch, there is a lot of conflicting evidence on what happened that night. The NBC just admitted and apologized for editing the phone call between Mr. Zimmerman and Trayvon. This just goes to show that the media is trying to spin this in to a something it isn't. According to the BBC, the Orlando Police Departments story of what happened is very close to Mr. Zimmermans and goes on to say that Mr. Zimmerman was screaming for help as one witness describes "he was on the ground screaming while there was a dark figure on top of his chest". Trayvon had been suspended from school for 10 days because he was caught selling drugs which begs the question, "Maybe Trayvon isn't the innocent little boy everyone thinks he his?" Why is this case getting more attention than others like it, this might not even be racially motivated yet in Tulsa two white supremacists go on a shooting spree in a black comunity and kill three, that is a racially motivated case that killed three people and yet it isnt everywhere in the news. What about the black people that get killed everyday in the United States, what makes this case more important than the one of Kadejah Davis who was twelve when a 19 year old shot her while she was in her own home.-Owen

  11. I think that no one knows the fl account of what happened that night. There are many varying accounts of what happened. Some sources say that Trayvon was assaulting Zimmerman, but other sources indicate that this incident may have been caused by Zimmerman acting on his racism towards black people. Either way, this incident shows that some of the laws in America should be questioned. The Stand your Ground law seems like it encourages vigilantism. People can become the judge, jury and executioner if they feel threatened. Hopefully, these laws will be re-examined in the wake of this incident.-Duncan

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