Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black child was shot and killed-he would’ve been twenty-four today. Time and time again these acts of violence against people of color by authority figures sweep the nation, but nothing changes. Innocent people are killed because of their skin color. Our country was built on racism and oppression, and it still thrives on it. We can’t let the victims be forgotten. We must speak out against hate crimes. We must continue to say Black Lives Matter. We must continue to say their names.
Trayvon Martin was born February 5th, 1995. He was killed February 26th, 2012 at seventeen years old. The fatal story of Trayvon starts with a young, African American boy who was buying a few snacks from his local 7-11 convenience store. He was on his way home when a local neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, called the police because Trayvon looked “suspicious.” Now, I know what you’re thinking: why did this seventeen year old boy holding a bag of skittles and a can of Arizona tea look suspicious? This local watchman called the police on many people he considered suspicious, and yes, you guessed it, they were all African American males. During this call, the police told Zimmerman not to engage Trayvon and to stay where he was, which Zimmerman ignored. Trayvon started running when Zimmerman decided to chase after him, disregarding what the police had ordered. Camera footage showed that Trayvon was doing nothing criminal and was actually on the phone with his girlfriend. There was an altercation and unarmed Trayvon was shot by Zimmerman, blocks away from the home he was staying at. Zimmerman claimed it was self-defense and was acquitted on all charges. Before going into the details about the racially charged murders that happen all over America by law enforcement and authority figures, I’m going to talk about Zimmerman. George Zimmerman was arrested for stalking a private investigator that was making a documentary about Trayvon. He was charged with domestic violence on multiple occasions against his ex-fiancé, and ex-girlfriend. He had pulled a gun on his ex-girlfriend and threatened to shoot her-all charges were dropped. He attempted to sell the firearm he used to murder Trayvon by calling it an “American firearm icon”. He was arrested at a restaurant for yelling at a waitress and using racial slurs against her. The detective recounted that Zimmerman said “I didn’t know you were a n***** lover.” Those are the words and actions of the man who shot and killed an unarmed black child.
Trayvon Martin wasn’t the first African American to be senselessly murdered by trigger hungry authority figures, and he’s not the last. Tamir Rice was a twelve-year-old boy who two police officers stated drew a gun at them, which was actually found to be a nerf gun. They shot the young boy twice. Philando Castile was shot seven times while in his car as he was reaching for his license, which he stated multiple times before the police officer shot him. The officer was found not guilty on charges. Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Stephon Clark. Say their names. Remember their names.
To talk about the senseless murders of African Americans by police officers, you have to first talk about the institutionalized racism ingrained in the police force. For decades, officers of the law have abused their power by arresting, coercing, and murdering black individuals on the bases of their skin color. The movie “Black-Klansman” by Spike Lee, showed the mistreatment of African Americans by the police and how the majority did nothing to protect them. This movie allowed the general public to get a glimpse into the brutal reality of police brutality against African Americans. Police are killing African Americans constantly with the excuse that they were threatened and that it was self-defense. Quite simply, when the victim is a person of color, no one bothers to ask the important questions. The shooting of innocent people of color have to do with the implicit racial biases an individual has, and these specific individuals happen to hold a person’s life in their hands and they take advantage of the authority they hold.
In 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement was born. People of color came together to form this network of people from all over the world to show support of African Americans and their protest against racism. This movement had a lot of controversy around it; people were coming at it with phrases such as, “All lives matter”, and “Blue lives matter” in support of police. The basis behind the Black Lives Matter movement was not to say that only black lives matter, but to take a marginalized group of people who are oppressed and give them overdue support. People rallied all over the globe and protested against police brutality, racism, and oppression of people of color. In fact, the majority of people incarcerated for minor drug offenses are African Americans, which is an issue that must be faced and talked about in this country. The United States justice system is built on the humiliation and prosecution of Black individuals.
I am white. I am a white, cisgender woman who has never experienced racism. I can say that I will never experience discrimination based on my race. I’m not trying to speak over people of color or act like I know better than they do about the racism they face. I know that I have privilege, and I intend to use that in a positive way, however I can. When these unnecessary tragedies happen, my heart can only break for the families and victims of these crimes. My heart also breaks for the people of color who live in fear every day. So, I speak out. I say their names. I remember their names.
Rest in Peace
February 5th 1995- February 26th, 2012
*Any views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not reflect the views of Her Campus/Her Campus Oneonta