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10 Years Later: The Murder of Trayvon Martin, and Where We Are Now

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

Content Warning: This article discusses racism and hate crimes, which may be triggering for some readers. Reader discretion is advised.

July 13, 2013. The fateful day when George Zimmerman was found not guilty on all counts for the murder of Trayvon Martin. As a 12-year-old girl who barely did anything besides read and listen to Ariana Grande, it was a little out of character for me to be glued to the television during the entirety of a criminal trial. But this trial changed my entire world.

On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black boy, was walking through a family member’s neighborhood and spotted George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old man in the community watch group. Zimmerman told a 911 dispatcher that Martin was a “real suspicious guy” who looked like he was “up to no good.” After the dispatcher told Zimmerman to stop following Martin, Zimmerman said, “Okay,” hung up the phone, and minutes later, an altercation happened that ended with Martin being face down on the ground, dead from a single gunshot.

Martin was shot and killed in a city right next to my hometown. Not only this, but it wasn’t even a year after my little brother was born. Suddenly, what my parents had tried to shield me from became obvious to me: as a young Black girl in a predominantly white area, some people wouldn’t like me just because of the color of my skin, and people might especially dislike my baby sibling, just for being a Black male. So, you’re telling me that I’m a criminal just because I’m Black and I look different from everyone else? I couldn’t believe this was the world.

Unfortunately, it is. We live in a world where when my mom tells me she just got stopped by a police officer, I have to worry about whether she will be killed for being “suspected” of brandishing a weapon or if she will be able to drive off safely. I have to worry if my brother will be stopped while walking home from the bus or if my dad will be killed while walking out of a convenience store.

Trayvon Martin was killed 10 years ago, and have we made progress? Honestly, I’m doubtful. The murder of Ahmaud Arbery, followed shortly by Breonna Taylor and then George Floyd within the first half of 2020 was a tragic setback, and it showed. The streets erupted with Black Lives Matter rallies and marches, protesting the years of systemic racism Black Americans have experienced. On the surface, a lot seemed to change. Companies started to change their products, like Band-Aid introducing brown and black bandages or Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix changing their name to Pearl Milling Company. Sure, these are all improvements, but millions of people weren’t in the streets protesting for a simple name change of a pancake mix.

The demands made by the Black Lives Matter Movement, such as defunding the police, the conviction of the police officers responsible for killing Arbery, Taylor, and Floyd (and others), the implementation of critical race theory in schools, weren’t unreasonable, but how far have we actually come? At least 14 cities, such as Austin and Los Angeles, promised to cut police funding and to redistribute money to violence prevention, better housing, and other services in 2020. Still, most of them have done the opposite and are instead boosting police budgets. Most politicians believe that the call to defund the police means decreasing police budgets so much that they barely have enough money to function. The reality, however, is that the goal should be to defund the police, demilitarize police departments, invest more funds into rehabilitation programs, improve the prisons and incorporate mental health workers to reduce violent encounters. Little to no progress has been made on this front.

Derek Chauvin, George Floyd’s murderer, was convicted on all three counts, including second-degree murder. All three men involved in Ahmaud Arbery’s murder were found guilty. On the other hand, the man involved in Breonna Taylor’s murder was convicted of “wanton endangerment” of the apartment above Taylor’s and faced no charges relating to Taylor’s death.

Critical race theory, which is the intellectual and legal framework based on the idea that race is a social construct and racism is embedded in legal institutions to create racial inequalities, is being attacked by legislators. Representatives, senators, and even the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, are working to ban critical race theory education and training in schools and the workforce, calling it “state-sanctioned racism.” It’s almost as if all the work that has been done to try to begin to fix the racial injustices and inequalities might be undone by a few lawmakers and politicians who will never experience racism and discrimination in their lives.

This is where the problem lies. Those in power maintain willful ignorance of the systemic racism that runs rampant throughout the country. A wide majority of the public is also guilty of ignoring racial inequalities. In 2020, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok were filled with “activists” posting black squares, infographics and tributes for a few months. However, these so-called “activists” have not taken enough action as they get their validation from hitting “repost” on an Instagram infographic. Of course, some activists donate, educate and fight for progress. But most of these activists are performative, and we need to be productive now more than anything.

Naziah Roberts is a junior at UCF majoring in Clinical Psychology and minoring in Human Services and Social Inequality and Diversity. You can often find her trying out a new dessert recipe, making a new Spotify playlist, or reading about astrology when she isn't busy learning about the inner workings of the human mind! She is pursuing a career as a Clinical Psychologist for underprivileged youth.