In a society that seems to witness a constant stream of terrible news, nothing appeared to hit the American conscious quite as hard as the death of teenager Treyvon Martin at the hands of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Stanford, Fla. last month.
On Feb. 26, while walking home from a convenience store, Zimmerman confronted Martin after he assumed that Martin was up to something suspicious. A physical confrontation occurred between the two, and Martin ended up dead with a bullet to the chest. Armed with only Skittles and an iced drink, his death has outraged many and called attention not only to how the Stanford police supposedly “mishandled” the case, but also to the Florida-centric Stand Your Ground Law, which allows the use of lethal force if it can be proven that the person’s life was in danger.
What seemed like an open-and-shut case of a racially motivated attack grew far more complicated as newly released evidence suggested that not only was Zimmerman acting in self-defense, but that Martin himself was the aggressor. According to Zimmerman, he lost track of the young boy and was going back to his car when Martin approached him, and after some words were exchanged, punched him in the face and proceeded to slam his head onto pavement, prompting Zimmerman to shoot him in the chest. Zimmerman’s testimony goes against previous evidence that suggested Martin was innocent in the encounter, including an account from Martin’s girlfriend who claimed that she was talking to Martin right before the fatal altercation occurred.
While it’s too soon to know what actually happen between the two men, the reaction towards the case has grown ugly — real ugly. As an African-American youth myself, reading through the multiple articles on the Florida case was extremely distressing; even worse were the comments that seemed to be made up of back-and-forth accusations of racism and attempts at discrediting Martin. It’s horrifying to find people who seem to imply that because Martin wore a hooded sweatshirt and got suspended from school for weed, he deserved to be killed.
Suddenly, this case is not simply about whether or not a boy’s death was justified, it’s about how we haven’t learned a thing in terms of race relations. Racial profiling is still something that’s terrible; however, it slips under the radar because mostly everybody practices it. I wouldn’t want someone to assume things of me just as much as I don’t think someone who is Caucasian, Latino or Middle Eastern would want anyone to assume things of them based on ethnicity. At this point, I don’t believe that Zimmerman is the raving racist that some news outlets have made him out to be. In fact, I actually can buy that Zimmerman is probably a decent person. However, I think we can all agree that if Zimmerman chose to stay in his car or simply had let the police handle the situation, a young man would not have died that night.
I really do hope this matter gets settled soon, as it’s clearly trying for all of those involved. However, the death of Treyvon Martin has revealed an ugliness within us that isn’t going away any time soon. This is clearly a problem that needs to be settled before another person is tragically killed.