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Can Trayvon Martin’s Killing Spark National Reflection on Prejudice?

Can Trayvon Martin’s Killing Spark National Reflection on Prejudice?

One of the reasons why Trayvon Martin’s killing has evoked so much outrage is because of the racial profiling.

This element is clearly established from the 911 tapes and Zimmerman’s known history and it has brought to the fore, though not universally, a subject which America — at least some of America — still seems to have a hard time dealing with.

When the news was breaking of the killing, numerous black writers wrote about how it was the profiling that saw them identify with a kid they did not know.

Jonathan Capehart wrote in the Washington Post:

“One of the burdens of being a black male is carrying the heavy weight of other people’s suspicions. One minute you’re going about your life, the next you could be pleading for it, if you’re lucky. And far too many aren’t. That’s why the Feb. 26 killing of Trayvon Martin has black parents around the country clutching their sons a little closer.”

Black parent Cosby Hunt wrote about clothing advice he plans to give his two sons:

“We did not plan to give them advice about hoodies, but now I see we’ll need to have that talk, too. We will have [to] say, ‘You know how you used to wear your hooded Batman sweatshirt when you wanted to fight the bad guys as a kid? Well, now that you’re older, some people will be confused and think that you are the bad guys if they see your hoodie and your skin color. It’s silly and wrong that anyone would think that you are the bad guys, but we don’t want you to be hurt. We don’t want the real bad guys or even some guy playing superhero to hurt you.’”

Those concerns are being fanned by outright racist reactions, denial of what African-Americans are describing about their lives and the reaction of some in attempting to paint Trayvon as somehow deserving of his fate.

MSNBC’s Rock Centre had four African-American journalists explain their own experience of racial profiling.

Glamorous host Tamron Hall said:

“I am followed in department stores. I have walked in dressed professionally or dressed in jeans and I have walked into stores and, instantly, security is on my back.”

Hall recalled her father telling her brother what numerous others have also been recounting — how to handle getting pulled over by traffic police: to keep his hands on the steering wheel, look forward, answer “yes, sir” or “no, sir,” and avoid any sudden movements: “Because we don’t want that officer to believe there’s a black man in that car who’s making a sudden move and we’ve gotta take action.”

Touré explained:

“Even if I’m in a suit, this sort of automatic clutch of the purse or what have you. You know, just a little cringe. But we know that just wearing a suit does not change anything. You know, they’re not really looking at the suit. They’re not really looking at the hoodie. They’re looking at the skin.”

Says Ron Allen,  “I sometimes wonder what would it be like if i didn’t have to worry about racism and race and you could just live your life as a normal person.”

Watch:

Anti-racist educator Tim Wise in a powerful essay turns to the science to point out that:

“It should be especially unsurprising that Zimmerman would have internalized racially-biased assumptions about black males, given the society in which he (and we) reside.”

He ticks off how:

· Research has conclusively shown that local newscasts over-represent blacks as criminals, and over-represent whites as victims.

· A substantial percentage of anti-black racial hostility can be directly traced to media imagery, even after all other factors are considered.

· Disproportionate incarceration of black males — especially for non-violent drug offenses, which they are no more likely (and often even less likely) than whites to commit — feeds the perception that they are so treated because they are dangerous and must be kept at bay.

· Criminality is so associated with blackness that whites literally and almost instantly connect the two things — the fear center in the brain is seen to light up — even though they are roughly five times as likely to be criminally victimized by another white person.

· Anti-black racism has been so long ingrained that not only most whites, but also most Latinos and Asian Americans, demonstrate substantial subconscious bias — even about a third of blacks themselves demonstrate anti-black racism.

Some white writers have reflected on what this national moment means for them, as Christy Diane Farr did for Care2, on her “reality check”.

“White privilege?” she writes “Um … yeah. My kid is white and he wears a hoodie, and when he and his friends cross the street between the closest snack vendor and our neighborhood, nobody stops them to ask what they are doing. They are not assumed to be up to no good, nor does anyone think they don’t belong here. They are white kids in rural Tennessee. They belong here – whatever the hell that means – and that turns my stomach inside out.”

Says Wise:

“Empathy — real empathy, not the situational and utterly phony kind that most any of us can muster when social convention calls for it — requires that one be able to place oneself in the shoes of another, and to consider the world as they must consider it. It requires that we be able to suspend our own culturally-ingrained disbelief long enough to explore the possibility that perhaps the world doesn’t work as we would have it, but rather as others have long insisted it did.”

Writes Farr:

“Never has there been an experience like this that went completely unnoticed. But, never has there been one in which everyone allowed themselves to be consumed by the wave of possibility. There’ve been maybe 10,000 people enraged or engaged, or even a million or more, but not everyone.”

“We’re being given that invitation again now. Nothing we can do now will justify the taking of Trayvon Martin’s life. Period. But, please, please, please let this be the last false start of that wave that can take the fearful energy that is consuming our country, and return it to love.”

Related stories:

Trayvon Martin’s Death: This White Woman’s Reality Check

Update: Trayvon Martin Case Developments

Justice For Trayvon: Repeal “Stand Your Ground” Laws In All 25 States

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47 comments

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4:38PM PDT on Apr 10, 2012

I was visiting my mom; she invited me to spend my vacation with her and her new husband. He’s a lot richer than my dad and they live in a big house and have really nice things. I was kinda scared to be in his house because I’m not as refined as he is and he probably wouldn’t approve of me. I haven’t even graduated from high school yet and my grades aren’t very good. I got into a little trouble when my dad and mom got divorced but I’ve been doing good. I got over being mad about it. I can see now that mom and dad weren’t very good together. She is much happier now and I have to admit so is dad and my new step-dad isn’t so bad either; he’s really been treating me just fine.
There isn’t much to do here and my girlfriend is back home and I’ve been wishing I’d be able to go back home soon. Tonight I decided to go to the local store to get some candy for mom and me. Her husband is out of town for a day or two. While I was on my way to mom’s house, a guy in a car started to follow me. It scared me because every time I turned a corner, he turned the corner too. If I walked fast, he speeded up. If I walked really slow, he slowed way down. I called my girlfriend and we talked and she said I should hurry home so I started to run and that’s when he jumped out of his car right next to me and he had a gun in his hand and it scared me to death. He didn’t say a word but then he grabbed me by the arm and said, “

12:08AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

I'd like to add that even if Zimmerman thought Trayvon was pulling a gun on him, he still has to be convicted for manslaughter to pay for his error. Drunk drivers don't mean to kill innocent people either, but they pay for their mistake....so should Zimmerman. No excuse for his actions which resulted in the death of an innocent.

This story is very upsetting. My sincerest condolences to Trayvon's family and friends.

12:01AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

Zimmerman has a history of violence but still hasn't been arrested for murdering a teen in cold blood?? I see his father is a judge -- that explains everything. When riots break out when Zimmerman is declared innocent (and he will be because our justice system only works for a privileged few), Zimmerman AND his judge-father will have blazing targets on their heads. This will be the LA Riots all over again. People are getting pure sick of the injustice out there, and with the economy tanking, they have nothing to lose. Desperate people take desperate measures. This could become quite a volatile situation.

11:45PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

I'm behind on the Trayvon story. If I understand correctly, a boy wearing a hoodie was walking down the street with a snack in one hand and talking to his girlfriend with a phone in the other hand; and he was shot to death??? You can't shoot at someone unless they pull a gun on you first. ??? So what did the boy do, steal cheap junk from a store and shove it in his pants? THAT warrants being killed??!! I'm sorry, but something is terribly wrong here. If the killer isn't convicted, towns are going to burn.

3:51PM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

And yes, Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty but won't get his day in court UNTIL he is at least arrested and charged.

3:50PM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

People who are supporting Zimmerman claiming he is innocent until proven guilty seem to ignore the fact that Trayvon Martin has those same rights. Zimmerman appointed himself police,district attorney, judge, and jury and summarily executed him without ONE shred of evidence,let alone PROOF.

8:58AM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

My thoughts and prayers for Trayvon's family and friends. I hope with all my heart that, somehow, life makes it up to you, and that you find peace of mind.

As someone who lives outside the United States, this tragedy looks to me like a child was murdered because of the way he looked. I don't think it's a race issue: I don't think races exist. It's a prejudice issue, certainly, where the color of the child's skin (which should be as irrelevant as the color of their eyes) and the way he was dressed wrongly identified him as "someone up to no good" in the eye of a prejudiced, unfortunately armed and dangerous person.

The issue is hatred towards difference, once again.

1:56AM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

Welcome to America, country of injustice and racism. Killing an innocent young man is prejudice and injustice thanks to the Governor of Florida Bush who can change the law but he doesn't want to. Bush family is racist and evil.

8:47PM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

Apologies if this posts more than once.


Should it spark a real debate and introspection? Yes.
Will it? No.


Look at how so many have scrambled to Zimmerman's defense, in one form or another.

In my opinion, even saying we don't have all the facts yet, shouldn't be stated either.
One, a TEEN was shot for NO COMPELLING REASON!
Side notes for "One"; if this were flipped- race/color wise, this would be an entirely different ballgame.
Two, this whole thing shouldn't have been brushed off, legally, in the first place but obviously, this Zimmerman has the right connections.


Really, again, in my opinion, how can anyone other than his blood kin come forward in support of him?! Meaning, I get "why" family would do so or feel like they "had" to but the number of people coming to his defense, "automatically", tells us that nothing has changed and if anything, it's gotten worse.

8:45PM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

Should it spark a real debate and introspection? Yes.
Will it? No.


Look at how so many have scrambled to Zimmerman's defense, in one form or another.

In my opinion, even saying we don't have all the facts yet, shouldn't be stated either.
One, a TEEN was shot for NO COMPELLING REASON!
Side notes for "One"; if this were flipped- race/color wise, this would be an entirely different ballgame.
Two, this whole thing shouldn't have been brushed off, legally, in the first place but obviously, this Zimmerman has the right connections.

Really, again, in my opinion, how can anyone other than his blood kin come forward in support of him?! Meaning, I get "why" family would do so or feel like they "had" to but the number of people coming to his defense, "automatically", tells us that nothing has changed and if anything, it's gotten worse.

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