Trayvon Martin: a tragedy which could have been prevented


Courtesy of Werth Media

When kids in West Linn walk to Safeway or Market of Choice to purchase a drink and a snack, they expect to be able to walk back home safely. It is this sense of security that West Linn teenagers have which makes it hard for us to believe that other adolescents can be kidnapped or killed when they are walking short distances in their own neighborhoods. But it happens more often than we know, and for many reasons, such as prejudice.

On the night of Feb. 26, 17 year-old Trayvon Martin had gone to the nearby 7 Eleven a for a snack, and was returning to his relative’s house whom he was visiting in Florida. On his way home, a self-proclaimed watchman of the neighborhood, George Zimmerman, reported the boy to the police for looking suspicious. He was told by the dispatcher not to follow him, and a squad car would be sent. Zimmerman ignored the instuctions of the police and followed Martin. Martin was then shot to death by Zimmerman.

According to Florida law, anyone who feels threatened in anyway is allowed to defend themsleves, even if that mean killing that person. In a case like this where there is no direct evidence that the killer was threatened, the law can be very destructive. Many analysts speculate that Martin was an innocent victim, and he was shot based upon his race and appearance. Martin was an African American boy, and it has been common in this country’s history that black people, especially males, are accused of crimes of which they are not guilty.

What some people trying to analyze the case, such as Fox News host Geraldo Rivera believe, is that Martin may have been spared if he had been wearing different clothes. In Riviera’s section of the news, he made a comment which expressed his feeling that the hoodie which Martin was wearing was “as much responsible” for the boy’s death as his shooter, George Zimmerman.

In protest to this assumption, supporters of Martin have been wearing hoodies to pay respects to the dead teen. Wearing a common article of clothing such as a hoodie would  most likely never cause a white teenager to be shot. So in reality, it was the racism that comes with seeing a black boy in a hoodie which led to Martin’s murder.

George Zimmerman has still not been tried for his obvious crime, although the people throughout the nation are in an uproar over this case. Even President  Barack Obama has called attention to the issue. But that is no surprise; after all, our president is African American, just like Martin. Obama, addressing the case with a speech, said; “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” If Obama had a son in addition to his two daughters, and he was shot when walking on the street, the murderer would be in prison in the blink of an eye. It should be the same way for Martin’s killer.

A good example of this is that of Emmett Till, an African American teenage boy who was visiting his relatives in the south during the 1960s. He was accused of looking at a white woman “wrongly” when he was in a store, and was later brutally tortured and killed for his alleged crime. Even in West Linn’s Advanced Placement United States History classes, students and the teacher have tied this present day case to this case in the 1960s. It is crimes such as these reoccurring which make it is seem as if the country has not really progressed as much as we say it has.

In order to limit these crimes, Florida and any other states with similar laws need to abolish these poorly thought out legislations which allow people to “defend” themselves in such an offensive way. Anyone could commit homicide and simply say “They were threatening me.” The dead person wouldn’t be able to tell his or her side of the story. This law allows, to an extent, obviously unlawful killings. For example, a gang fight could be taking place, and if members of the gang or any bystanders were killed, the law would cover this, because the dead could have been threatening the murderer’s life. If the murderer says that was the case, then they get off scot free.

The two significant parts of this case are the faults of lawmakers and the fact that our country has not grown all that much out of the racism of the sixties. Florida lawmakers should have realized that their faulty self defense law would lead to excused premeditated murders and hate crimes. The country has not progressed nearly as much as we would like to think it has, and many still hold prejudices against other races. The self defense law just gives bigots a free pass to act on their racist beliefs, and can allow the killing of innocents, like Trayvon.