We must dismantle the fraternity of racism and build an altar of love and justice, writes the pastor of Obama’s former church.
The fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin was driven by the stereotype of black men as criminals and the designation of the Young Black Male as the fall guy for the nation’s neighborhood fears.
The killing of Trayvon Martin (essentially for the “crime” of walking while black) and its aftermath provides one of those riveting moments in American history when the curtain of our still-all-too-rampant racism normally hides behind is pulled back … exposing the ugly underbelly of prejudice and hatred that still exists in too many corners of our society.
George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. (AP Photo)
Through decade after decade of scurrilous application of Jim Crow laws—combined with other forms of racially motivated biases that keep minorities marginalized—our country has created the near-perfect target for the majority culture’s collective hatred, fear, and opprobrium: the Young Black Male. Hoodie optional.
And thanks to new laws on the books in various parts of the country, the demographic many seemingly love to loathe and despise now have legalized targets pinned on their backs; the Young Black Male is now officially considered fair game in some parts of America. Game on—lock and load.
Under the “Stand Your Ground” laws that have been enacted in many states anyone can do what George Zimmerman did in Sanford, Fla.: shoot someone (preferably a Young Black Male) to death and then claim self-defense. Of course, it won’t work too well if the shooter is black and the victim is white. Oh, and after the “kill” the shooter should bop him or herself upside the head with that trusty Glock … just hard enough to raise the self-defense knot right above the left eye.
In spite of the fact that the shooter in this case will, in all likelihood, stand trial on state or federal charges, Southern “justice” being what it historically has been, there’s no assurance of a fair and unbiased jury being selected—or of a conviction … even if the evidence is overwhelming. This is why so many blacks were lynched in America a century ago: whites knew they could carry out their murderous acts with impunity. And, to quote an NAACP slogan: in America, “much has changed, much has not.”
The emerging facts surrounding Trayvon’s death are so glaring as to be mind-boggling. Most important among them is the fact that when Zimmerman told a police dispatcher that he was following a Young Black Male (who, according to Zimmerman, “appeared to be on drugs”), the dispatcher responded, “We don’t need for you to do that.” At that point Zimmerman should have gotten back into his vehicle and simply followed Trayvon until police arrived, but he continued his pursuit; a deranged white man on the hunt of the elusive Young Black Male. Zimmerman even said, “These assholes always get away.” But not this time.
Supposedly, a number of break-ins had occurred in the gated community that served as Zimmerman’s hunting and killing grounds, and while no suspects had been arrested or even spotted … it was assumed by him and others that the dreaded Young Black Male—the fall guy for all our nation’s collective neighborhood fears—was responsible for them.
Law professor Paul Butler on surviving as a baby-faced young black man, becoming a prosecutor to change the system from the inside—and why racial profiling is counterproductive to keeping communities safe and free.
I became a prosecutor because of Trayvon Martin. I used to be him, black, baby-faced, and 17. The times I wasn’t being harassed by police and security guards, I was being harassed by young African-American men. Stopped and patted down by the former, robbed of my lunch money by the latter.
The difference between Trayvon and me is that I survived. And then I wanted to use my Harvard Law school education to address the two most vexing criminal justice issues for blacks—over-enforcement of the law and under-enforcement of the law—at the same time. So, in the early ’90s, I joined the United States Department of Justice as a trial attorney.
My plan was to go in as an undercover brother. It’s the classic liberal response—to infiltrate the oppressor to try to create change from the inside. I thought nobody would be in a better position to make a difference than me.
Young black men are frequent victims of crime, and the most likely to be charged with crimes. I could have responded the way that lots of my brothers do—by not trusting anybody. You walk through your ’hood, and you glare at the dope boys on the corner who make your community feel unsafe. Then, when the squad car slowly rolls by, and the cops take a good look at you, you glare at them too.
But I was an idealist. And being a prosecutor seemed to be the perfect solution to long-standing concerns that African-Americans had about both civil rights and public safety. In the segregated neighborhood in Chicago where I grew up, blacks made the same claims about law enforcement that they do now. The times that my neighbors were not complaining about how the police treated them, they were complaining that the police were never there when they needed them.
These claims seemed contradictory, but they were both accurate. And unfortunately things have not changed much, 30 years later, when the United States has one black president and 1 million black people in prison.
People attend a rally demanding justice for Trayvon Martin in Freedom Plaza, Saturday, March 24, 2012, in Washington. Martin, an unarmed young black teen was fatally shot by a volunteer neighborhood watchman. (Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP Photo)
The citizens of Sanford, Fla., need the police right now. And they are not there. There are more African-Americans in the criminal justice system than there were slaves in 1850. Yet no law enforcement official has found the time to arrest George Zimmerman, more than a month after he followed Trayvon Martin, got out of his car to confront him, and then shot him dead.
As outrage spreads across the country.
Even the pouring rain didn't stop some 150 protesters in Chicago from marching Friday to protest the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who was shot and killed last month in Florida by neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman, in what's suspected by many to be a racial incident. There have already been huge protests and school walkouts in Florida, but the outrage is spreading across the country.
For Trayvon’s death.
Fox News host Geraldo Rivera said Friday that Trayvon Martin’s hoodie sweatshirt is “as much responsible” for his death as the neighborhood-watch volunteer who shot and killed the teenager. Speaking on Fox and Friends, Rivera said hoodies can draw “unwanted attention” to “dark-skinned” kids. Although Rivera used his own son as an example, Rivera tweeted after the show that his son was “ashamed” of the comments, but Rivera insisted in a later tweet that "it's sad that I have to be the one reminding minority parents of the risk that comes with being a kid of color in America."
Florida Rep. delivers speech on House floor.
As thousands rallied in Florida over the death of black teenager Trayvon Martin, who was shot to death Feb. 26 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, the outrage over the killing has moved to Congress. Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson delivered an impassioned speech on the House floor Thursday, calling for the arrest of Zimmerman, and said she was "tired of burying young black boys."
The Trayvon Martin tragedy is not the first in which a young person has been injured or killed by a shooter who claimed self-defense in ‘Stand Your Ground’ or ‘Castle Law’ situations. Here are seven other cases, from Florida to North Carolina to Texas.
The Trayvon Martin case has sparked a national debate about so-called Stand Your Ground laws. The idea behind these laws is simple: if you feel your life is being threatened by someone you don’t have to back down. You can even use deadly force, if you feel it is necessary.
The philosophy stems from so-called Castle Laws, on the books to varying degrees in most states, in which a person facing an intruder in his home can defend his property with deadly force (one’s home being one’s castle, that castle is liable to be defended). Stand Your Ground states extend this concept to outside the home—to one’s occupied car, for instance, in Pennsylvania—and of course in Florida, it extends to one’s own person.
But as the Trayvon Martin killing shows, the broad strokes of the law are up for criticism and protest. And Trayvon is not the only young person to lose his life over what can sometimes appear to be a Wild West, shoot-first-or-be-shot mentality. There are other cases that involve teenagers who were assaulted with deadly force under questionable circumstances. Unlike Trayvon, some of the teens were involved in criminal activity, a few even at the time the shootings occurred. The Daily Beast looks at some of those cases.
Thomas Baker was on his normal early morning jog in Town ‘n’ Country, Florida, when he got into a fight with two hooded teens, ages 18 and 16. Carlos Mustelier, the 18-year-old, punched Baker, according to police reports. That’s when Baker pulled out his .45-caliber semiautomatic, for which he had a permit, and shot at Mustelier eight times. Mustelier died. The 16-year-old was not hurt. Neither teen was armed. Neither had a criminal record. Baker and the teens were in fact neighbors. Because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, prosecutors declined to charge Baker in the killing. “It was a terrible thing,” Baker told the Tampa Bay Times. “He was a good kid,” a friend said of Mustelier, who was “spoiled” by his mother.
A memorial to Trayvon Martin (inset) sits outside The Retreat at Twin Lakes community where Trayvon was shot by George Michael Zimmerman while on Neighborhood Watch patrol March 20, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. (Roberto Gonzalez / Getty Images)
Marqus Hill had his concealed-gun permit in Pennsylvania revoked in 2005, when he was charged with attempted murder. Hill reapplied for his permit after he was acquitted. Pennsylvania denied his request, but he was able to get a permit in Florida. Thanks to a loophole by which Pennsylvania honors Florida permits, he was again allowed to carry a gun in Pennsylvania. That loophole had fatal consequences for Irving Santana. When Hill saw a couple of unarmed teenagers trying to break into cars in Philadelphia, he brought out his loaded gun and shot 18-year-old Santana 13 times. Hill will face trial for murder in June. He is claiming self-defense under Pennsylvania’s Stand Your Ground law, saying he feared for his life and thought one of the teens was armed.
As thousands of protesters in the Florida town where Trayvon Martin was killed demand an arrest, some residents say the man who shot him focused too much on young black men, and question the role of racial stereotyping in the youth’s death.
More than 25,000 people filled Fort Mellon Park in Sanford, Florida on Thursday night to protest the lack of an arrest in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Just a few miles away, some residents of the upscale Retreat at Twin Lakes housing complex, where Trayvon was killed, were still trying to figure just how much of a role a string of small burglaries and long-held stereotypes played in the teenager’s death.
Julie Fletcher / AP Photo
According to several homeowners who live at the Retreat, many of the well-groomed townhomes were robbed and vandalized last year by what some say was “a gang of young black men.” Many now believe those robberies set the stage for a young man’s death—and international outrage over it.
“I was told by a neighbor of ours last year that the men causing our problems were black,” said 35-year-old Jackie Mathews, who lives with her brother in the complex. “They told me to avoid young black men at all times and to call the police if I saw a group of them in the complex.’’
Sanford police received nearly 15 reports of burglary and theft from Retreat at Twin Lakes homeowners last year.
Trayvon Martin probably wasn’t aware of the rash of crimes in the complex that housed his father, his father’s girlfriend, and his baby brother, when he set out for a bag of Skittles and iced tea on the last day of his life.
And he’d likely have no way of knowing that the Neighborhood Watch leader, George Zimmerman, would see him walking home from the store that February night, deem him suspicious, and call the police. He’d have no way of knowing what would happen next to him, or that his name would soon be known the world over.
“How could anyone look at that baby’s face and think he was a criminal? How could they just see him as black, and not as somebody’s child,” said Marion Evans, Trayvon’s grandmother.
In Al Sharpton-led attends protest
More than 8,000 people attended a rally in Sanford, Florida, for slain teenager Trayvon Martin, who was killed in February by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. Protesters wore hooded sweatshirts to honor Trayvon, demanding justice for the unarmed black teenager. The protest was filled with impassioned speakers, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, who said that Zimmerman should have been arrested because you can’t “defend yourself against Skittles and iced tea.” Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, thanked the crowd for its support, saying that Trayvon is everyone’s son now. Ray Lewis, Patrick Ewing, and Jesse Jackson are expected to attend a Sanford City Commission meeting on Monday.
Was George Zimmerman just a vigilant neighbor, or something more perilous? Matthew DeLuca examines the dozens of calls to police Zimmerman made in the years before he shot Trayvon Martin.
A stray dog, open garage doors, unfamiliar vehicles … and, on a rainy winter night, one black male teenager wearing “dark-gray hoodie, jeans or sweatpants.”
Whatever his complaint, George Zimmerman seemed quick to call the police. Over the course of nearly eight years, Zimmerman made at least 46 911 and non-emergency calls (PDF) to the police department in Sanford, Florida, culminating in the two fateful calls he made Feb. 26, shortly before he confronted and then fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Taken together, the police log of Zimmerman’s calls paint a picture of an extremely vigilant neighbor. The police department has released audio recordings from six of the most recent calls, but the audio of calls older than six months is destroyed, according to the Seminole County sheriff’s office.
Outrage over the shooting has continued to grow in recent days. On Wednesday, Martin’s family traveled to New York City to join a protest in Union Square that drew hundreds of demonstrators. On Thursday, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, Jr., stepped down temporarily in the hope of “restoring some semblance of calm to this city,” he said at a press conference.
For the most part, the nature of Zimmerman’s calls make him sound more like a curmudgeon than a vigilante protecting the Retreat at Twin Lakes, the 260-unit gated community where he lived and where he shot Martin.
In November 2006, according to the log, Zimmerman placed a non-911 call to report a late model red Toyota pickup “driving around the neighborhood” and the apartment complex for several minutes.
In June 2009, he called to report that people were misbehaving in the community-pool area, jumping over the fence and trashing the bathroom.
Roberto Gonzalez / Getty Images; inset, Orange County Jail / Miami Herald / AP Photos
While police chief steps down.
U.S. Justice Department officials on Thursday met with the family of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager shot and killed by a neighborhood-watch captain. The meeting comes just hours before the Rev. Al Sharpton will lead a rally in Florida, which thousands are expected to attend. Martin’s family joined supporters and activists in New York for a “Million Hoodie March.” Meanwhile, Sanford, Fla., Police Chief Billy Lee, who is leading the investigation into Trayvon Martin’s death, said on Thursday that he will “temporarily remove” himself from his position.
Outrage on blogs and social media has kept up the pressure for justice in the slaying of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. His mother, Sybrina Fulton, tells Allison Samuels she’s overwhelmed—but will find no peace until his killer is arrested.
Sybrina Fulton says she could barely catch her breath at the moment thousands of thunderous chants exclaiming “I’m Trayvon” began to fill the chilly night air in New York’s Union Square late Wednesday night.
Allison Samuels on why Trayvon Martin has captured the nation.
“I was simply overwhelmed by the moment,’’ Fulton told The Daily Beast shortly after attending the “Million Hoodie’’ rally in her son’s honor. “To hear so many people that don’t know me and never met Trayvon come out to support his family and our fight for justice for him is something I never could have imagined.’’
In a case that continues to surprise, stun, and anger the country, Fulton’s 17-year-old son, Trayvon Martin, was killed last month in Sanford, Florida, when an unregistered neighborhood watch leader shot the teenager to death after deeming him ‘suspicious looking.’’ The man, George Zimmerman, 28, reportedly told police he killed Martin in self-defense following an altercation. He has not been arrested or charged with any crime.
The now controversial killing of Trayvon garnered virtually no mainstream media attention in the days immediately after he was fatally shot, but that all changed when the teenager’s parents decided to hire civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump and his law firm to get more answers on exactly how and why their son died.
“They called me the same day they were notified that their son was dead,’’ Crump told The Daily Beast. “When I heard their unarmed teenage son was shot to death, I just knew there’d be an arrest shortly. There wasn’t an arrest 48 hours later, and then I knew we’d have to take this outside of Sanford if we wanted justice.’’
Trayvon’s parents were told by the Sanford police that Zimmerman wasn’t arrested in their son’s death because the facts of the case did not dispute his claim of self-defense.
For Crump, taking the Trayvon Martin story outside of Sanford simply entailed dialing up a few well-placed friends such as the Rev. Al Sharpton. Crump worked closely with the civil rights leader in 2006 on another racially charged case—the controversial death of a 14-year-old, African-American inmate of a Florida boot camp.
Florida officials pass 'no confidence' vote on police chief.
The “Million Hoodie March”—planned by activists outraged by the killing of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin last month—featured two special guests: Trayvon’s parents. Martin was killed Feb. 26 by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman who said he was acting in self-defense against the 17 year old, who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt that evening. Meanwhile Wednesday night, the Sanford City Commission passed a "no confidence" vote of police chief Bill Lee. The city will now decide whether to ask for him to resign or fire him. Zimmerman has not been charged for the shooting.
George Zimmerman, the man who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida, aspired to enter law enforcement and kept a zealous eye on his neighborhood.
George Zimmerman wasn’t a cop, but he wanted to be. The 28-year-old man who shot Trayvon Martin inside a gated Florida community Feb. 26 is in hiding now, as the media and the nation direct their attention to the town of Sanford, near Orlando. The neighborhood watch captain has not yet been charged in the shooting, and claims he acted in self-defense when he shot the African-American teenager with the Kel-Tec 9mm handgun he was licensed to carry. But now, with national attention mounting, Martin’s parents are calling for Zimmerman’s arrest and prosecution.
The Zimmermans, George and his parents, Robert and Gladys, moved to Florida from the Manassas, Va., area about 10 years ago. The third of the couple’s four children and a former altar boy according to his father, Zimmerman graduated from Osbourn High School in Manassas in 2001.
The family’s neighbors from Virginia said they didn’t have many memories of Zimmerman as a boy. “He seemed to be a good enough kid,” Ron Whitis, a former next door neighbor, said.
It didn’t take long for Zimmerman to adjust to his new Florida home. In 2003, he gave chase when he saw a man steal a television from a supermarket, following the shoplifter until police could catch up. Zimmerman followed another man a year later, saying the man had spit on him.
Zimmerman’s record becomes spottier over the following years as he had a handful of run-ins with the law. In July 2005, Zimmerman was arrested after a tussle with law enforcement outside of a bar near the University of Central Florida. It was a first offense, and Zimmerman got off with a pretrial diversion program.
Orange County Jail / Miami Herald / AP Photos
In August of the same year, a petition for injunction was filed against Zimmerman by a woman who cited domestic violence, and Zimmerman responded with his own petition. Both injunctions were issued.
In 2007, records show Zimmerman married Shellie Nicole Dean, a cosmetologist. The next year, he struggled with credit-card payments to Capital One, ultimately reaching a settlement for $2,135.82. Capital One later reported that Zimmerman was failing in his payments.
Neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman said he was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed.
The man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin has a whole new set of problems after the court found out he lied at his bond hearing, writes Mansfield Frazier.
George Zimmerman took the stand during his bond hearing Friday, issuing a statement to the Martin family. ‘I’m sorry for the loss of your son,’ he told the court before answering a series of questions about the case.
Chaz Guest captures the Trayvon Martin tragedy. He talks about honoring Martin's legacy.
Conservatives are using the teenager’s tweets, hoodie, and school suspension to blame him for his own death—and to show that racism was not a factor, says Michelle Goldberg.
George Zimmerman, the man who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida, aspired to enter law enforcement.