How about now?
Of course I don’t. I’m white. And that is one of the most powerful privileges that I have in this country. I can generally rely on the adage “innocent until proven guilty.”
But this person couldn’t. To one White vigilante, he looked “suspicious,” like he was “on drugs” and “up to no good.”
And it got him killed.
As I am sure you know by now, Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old young man who was found guilty by a White vigilante of the crime of walking at night while Black. He was unarmed, carrying only an iced tea and a bag of skittles for his sibling. Immediately after Trayvon was shot in the chest, George Zimmerman admitted to the killing.
He was not arrested. He was not tested for drugs or alcohol, as in common in cases such as these. He was not even detained. Why? He claimed self defense in a state that boasts one of the nations vaguest “stand your ground” laws, and the police on the scene decided that Zimmerman was telling the truth. They didn’t follow up with witnesses (some of whom say they heard Trayvon screaming and begging for his life), and they didn’t follow up with Trayvon’s girlfriend, whom he was talking to at the moment he was attacked.
It has now been nearly a month, and Trayvon’s killer walks free.
I have been wanting to write about this case for a few weeks now, but I wasn’t sure what I could add to the conversation. I couldn’t sum things up better than Mother Jones. I couldn’t address the related issue of White Privilege as well as Michael Skolnik at the Global Grind:
I will never look suspicious to you. Even if I have a black hoodie, a pair of jeans and white sneakers on…in fact, that is what I wore yesterday…I still will never look suspicious. No matter how much the hoodie covers my face or how baggie my jeans are, I will never look out of place to you. I will never watch a taxi cab pass me by to pick someone else up. I will never witness someone clutch their purse tightly against their body as they walk by me. I won’t have to worry about a police car following me for two miles, so they can “run my plates.” I will never have to pay before I eat. And I certainly will never get “stopped and frisked.” I will never look suspicious to you, because of one thing and one thing only. The color of my skin. I am white.
Despite all of the evidence that Zimmerman killed Trayvon in cold blood, Trayvon was presumed guilty until proven innocent. One of our good friends at Faux News even have the audacity to blame Trayvon (or his parents) because he was wearing a hoodie and he was looking “thuggish.”
It’s time for us to take action. Here are three easy things you can do to pressure those in power to arrest and prosecute Zimmerman.
- Sign the Change.org petition started by Trayvon’s family. With 1.5 million people having signed, the more voices that sign this petition, the harder it is to ignore.
- Pressure the state’s attorney responsible for the 18th district to do everything in their power to prosecute Zimmerman to the full extent of the law. You must call between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday – Friday. Get to an operator and ask to speak to the receptionist for Norm Wolfinger.
Here’s a potential script: “Hello, my name is _________________. I am calling regarding the Trayvon Martin case. I just wanted to register my voice in support of Trayvon’s family as they seek justice in the murder of their son. We ask that State Attorney Wolfinger publicly endorse the efforts to arrest and prosecute George Zimmerman, even before the Grand Jury has made its decision. Thank you, and have a great day!“
- Contact the original sponsor of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” legislation, Rep. Dennis K. Baxley, and encourage him to sponsor a process of revision of the law so that murderers like Zimmerman cannot hide behind such a vaguely-worded piece of legislation in the future. Here’s an example that you could use (but try to make it personal):
“Hello, my name is ______________. I am writing to encourage Rep. Baxley to consider formally revisiting Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law that he sponsored, the vaguest of it’s kind in the nation, on the floor of the House. Please open an investigation into ways that this law can be used to shield murderers from prosecution, just like it has done for George Zimmerman after he murdered Trayvon Martin. You told the CBS Evening News that you would be willing to revisit the law if changes were needed, and we hope that you will hold to your word and at least investigate this possibility. Thank you for your time and consideration. Sincerely, ____________“
JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON MARTIN. Please take action today.