Rebecca Fisher ’14
Outrage has broken out across the nation as no arrest has been made in a Florida teen’s death. On the night of February 26th, Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old high school student was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain of his gated community. Zimmerman claimed he killed Martin out of self defense, though Martin was unarmed and was only carrying a pack of Skittles and iced tea. Eyewitnesses recounted the events a bit differently than Zimmerman, reporting that they had heard “a scuffle, then a cry for help, and then a gunshot.” Recently, a female friend Martin was talking to on his cell phone moments before his death has come forward with new evidence, further compromising Zimmerman’s story. What is certain, though, is that an unnecessary death occurred that night. Who is to blame is still called into question.
Those siding with Zimmerman are citing the main cause of Martin’s death as the hoodie he was wearing at the time, making him appear suspicious as he walked through his own neighborhood. As explained by Geraldo Rivera, a Fox News host, “the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.” Now, an easy comparison can be made between this case and cases of rape in which people accuse victims of assault of “asking for it” by wearing certain clothing. Concerning both issues, opponents have fought back by stating that only an aggressor can perpetrate a crime, and that it is completely ludicrous to think that anyone would be compliant in their own rape and/or murder. In a twist, those demanding justice for Trayvon Martin have banded together behind the symbolism of his hoodie. Just this past week, a “Million Hoodie March” took place in cities across the United States as thousands took to the streets in memory of and in protest to Martin’s murder. Even celebrities have begun to take notice. Prominent athletes, such as Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade and Lebron James, have tweeted pictures of themselves and their team wearing hoodies in support of Trayvon Martin.
President Obama released a statement regarding his remorse over this regrettable death. In a remark issued Friday, the President expressed that “if [he] had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Many have come to the conclusion that the most significant reason Martin was shot was because he was African American. Newt Gingrich took offense to the President’s comments, calling them “disgraceful.” He followed by saying that “any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period. We should all be horrified, no matter what the ethnic background. Is the president suggesting that, if it had been a white who’d been shot, that would be OK, because it wouldn’t look like him? That’s just nonsense.” The White House has followed up by dismissing Gingrich’s comments, calling them the result of someone “clearly in the last throes of his political career.” With race relations still tense in some areas, there is a good chance that racial profiling is a very important factor in this case. The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights probe into the shooting and a grand jury is scheduled to meet on April 10th to consider the evidence of the case.
What this means for the United States is still unclear. On one hand, this could bring into question the relaxed gun laws in some states. Currently, Zimmerman is hiding behind Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which permits the use of violence in the act of self-defense, even if it causes fatalities. On the other hand, Martin’s murder could bring to light other racially motivated crimes that have previously been overlooked. However, whether Martin’s death can be classified as race-related is still debated. Hopefully, once a grand jury indicts a specific party, justice can be found, and this media fueled blame game can be put to rest.