On the evening of February 26, Trayvon Martin—a 17-year-old African American-- was shot, and killed near his home by George Zimmerman, a “self-appointed” neighbourhood watch captain in Sanford, Florida. For the full story, read here.
According to numerous news reports, Martin, a Miami native, was visiting his father in Sanford and watching the NBA All-Star game at a house in a gated Sanford community. At halftime, Martin walked out to the nearby 7-Eleven to get some Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea. On his way back home, Zimmerman, who was patrolling the neighbourhood, saw him and called 911 to report "a real suspicious guy." Even though the police warned Zimmerman not to confront Martin, the former chose to do so anyway. What happened next is anyone’s guess, but the evening ended with Martin dead and Zimmerman claiming he shot him in self-defense.
Self-defense… Because everyone knows there’s nothing more lethal than a pack of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea.
Can someone just call a spade a spade? Zimmerman targeted Martin because, according to his racist little mindset, he looked out of place. What was a black kid (wearing a hoodie no less!) doing walking at night in a gated community? He can’t seriously BELONG here, right? He MUST be up to no good. Let me, frustrated cop-wannabe, possessor of an easily-obtainable armed weapon (thank you NRA) and purveyor of all that is good and decent in the U.S. stand my ground and take care of the menace. Let ME be his judge, jury and executioner, all with one swift bullet. Shoot now, ask questions later. It’s the American way…
To add insult to the debacle of a police investigation that followed, and the fact that Zimmerman is still walking the streets free, despite having killed a man, journalist and radio host Geraldo Rivera made the outlandish comment that "His hoodie killed Trayvon Martin as surely as George Zimmerman did.” I somewhat understand what he was trying to say, but choosing to put the blame on the victim’s attire, instead of the obvious racism and vigilantism that still permeates American society, is like choosing to blame a woman’s short skirt for her getting raped. Blame the perpetrator, not the victim.
Ever since the story started making international headlines, I haven’t been able to get the image of young Martin out of my head. An avid gym-goer, every time I train, I see young kids walking around with hoodies pulled over their heads. Most of them are teenagers, strutting around with that made-up bravado that boys that age have; a kind of attempt at Manny Pacquiao-inspired street cred, despite the gangly swagger and the pimply faces. Some of them are whiter than white. And some of them are black. It breaks my heart to think that the ones with the darker skin colour run a higher risk of being perceived as “suspicious” for no other reason than their skin.
Zimmerman targeted Martin because, according to his racist little mindset, he looked out of place. What was a black kid (wearing a hoodie no less!) doing walking at night in a gated community?
I look at the kids in hoodies and think of the black teacher who was stopped by Westmount Public Security years ago, while she was walking down the street, because someone reported “suspicious” activity. I think of Joel Debellefeuille, the black man driving a car that appeared too expensive for the SQ, possessing a name that was too Quebecois-sounding (whatever that means…) and was stopped (in front of his family) because of “suspicious” activity. I think of the countless incidents I’ve heard my black friends recount; incidents that I, a white woman, have not, and will never experience.
The Martin case is, without a doubt, about so much more than racism. It has brought to task, what appears to be an incompetent or complicit police force, questionable gun laws and “stand your ground” self-defense legislation that potentially does more harm than good. But, at its essence, it’s about a young black man, armed with nothing more than a hoodie and a bag of Skittles, getting gunned down because he was in – what someone perceived-- a place he didn’t belong. Because of his skin. That’s racial profiling. And it’s alive and well.
President Obama moved me to tears when he declared: “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon,” but it shouldn’t matter who Trayvon looked like. He was already somebody's son.