After Trayvon: The Trayvon Martin Shootings
The fatal shootings of Trayvon Martin have fueled a nationwide outcry and led to thousands of protests all over the United States. To understand what is happening here, let us go back 18 months, to the night of February 26, 2012.
Trayvon Martin- a 17-year-old African-American student was visiting his father's new fiancee in Sanford, Florida, when he was spotted by the neighborhood watch, a Hispanic 28 year old named George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman called 911, profiling Martin as a 'suspicious person', saying "This guy looks like he is up to no good or he is on drugs or something." Zimmerman may have felt suspicious due to recent thefts and break-ins in the neighborhood.
Shortly after the phone call, a violent encounter took place between Martin and Zimmerman, in which Martin confronted Zimmerman for following him, and it ended when Zimmerman fatally shot Martin, just as he was about to enter the townhouse he was staying at.
A day later, after Martin failed to come home, his father filed him as a missing person. When he was visited by the Sanford police, he immediately recognized his son with a photograph.
On March 19, 2012, the Justice Department and FBI officially declared their involvement in the case.
Upon being confronted, George Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder, but claimed he was assaulted by Martin, thus conforming to self-defense- committing the murder.
A lot of investigation was done, which included a petition to arrest Zimmerman, created by the parents of Trayvon Martin on Change.org, which rounded around 1.3 million supporters. Many supporters believed Martin was a victim of racial profiling because he was black.
However, despite the protests and the petition, Zimmerman was declared not guilty in court, a year and a half later, on July 13, 2013.
Zimmerman's release from the federal court has prompted nationwide protests. In the past few months, people have taken to the streets, demanding Zimmerman's imprisonment, claiming he was "racist" and "discriminative" against Martin.
Barack Obama issued a statement on July 19, famously quoted as saying, "Trayvon Martin could have been me". In his 20 minute address, he explained the African-American frustration over Martin's death.
Click here to watch his address.
This event is mainly impacting people in the USA, due to the protests.
I once read somewhere that continuously stating the differences between people just make the differences even bigger, and I feel this can be applied to what is happening right now too. As the protests spread throughout the nation, the idea of racism is spreading too. People are growing more aware of how they are different from each other.
I think African-Americans have a right to be upset over this issue, simply because of the past- of historical affairs. Although the American Civil War ended almost one and a half centuries ago, the past is not forgotten. Events might be forgiven, but they may still be present in people's minds. And as Obama said, many cases of discrimination are still happening in the United States. Perhaps they are not as big and dramatic, but they are still there.
However, let's not forget that George Zimmerman himself was a multiracial individual. He was Hispanic, and Hispanics have also been discriminated against in the past. So, could the African-American frustration just have been fueled by this event, and not actually been caused by it?
Murder, no matter what the motivation, is a crime. When you kill an individual, you have taken away their right to live, to have a future, to help their family. So, when you kill a person, you are not just impacting one person, you are impacting everybody that person was associated with.
This is why I think George Zimmerman should have been convicted because, in the beginning, he only made assumptions, but he then went further and committed a crime. Everyone has assumptions, and I think it is impossible to completely eliminate racism from the minds of people. There will always be people who are more friendly with one group of people than another, or who may show hostility towards another group. This, I believe, is a natural process, because we all form one large multitude, and in a crowd, there is always diversity.
Racism may not have played a direct role in the crime, but it most likely made Zimmerman feel scared, or angry, or suspicious. I don't think Zimmerman shot Martin because he was black, but his first impression of Martin was formed because he was black. And perhaps when Martin assaulted Zimmerman, his instinct told him to commit the crime.
If Trayvon Martin had not confronted Zimmerman, then perhaps this crime would never have happened at all. But Martin was young, and being followed may have left him feeling frightened or angry. So in a way, he did have a right to stop Zimmerman and ask him what he was doing.
In cases like this, it becomes very difficult to place the blame on just one person. Zimmerman cannot be the only one blamed in this case. Some of the blame falls on Martin's lack of judgment. He was out past normal hours, and that too during a time when the neighborhood was unsafe. Martin's father could be to blame, for allowing his son to just leave the house during this time. The police could be to blame for not taking better actions to prevent this crime.
But when it all comes down to this, I think Zimmerman should have been the one punished for this crime because he not only disrespected police orders, but he also used fatal self-defense against an innocent young boy.