Trayvon Martin


Trayvon Martin Case Inspires Discussion Of Racial Profiling In D.C.

Elahe Izadi / DCentric

Charles Rawlings holds a photo of his son, DeOnte, who was shot and killed by off-duty police officers.

The Trayvon Martin case has spurred conversations in communities across the country over racial profiling and unequal treatment in the criminal justice system. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton convened a D.C.-specific meeting Tuesday night, where she also announced that she plans to introduce a bill reestablishing a federal grant program for states to focus on racial profiling.

The program would pay for developing state anti-racial profiling laws, collecting data on traffic stops, training police officers and running fashion programs meant to reduce racial profiling. A similar grant program ended in 2009.

The Tuesday night forum by Norton’s D.C. Commission on Black Men and Boys was meant to “focus on eliminating the branding of African American boys and men on sight as criminals or in other negative ways,” Norton said.

There are a number of stories similar to the Trayvon Martin case, but not all have received the same level of national attention. In D.C., one of the most notable such cases is the 2007 death of 14-year-old DeOnte Rawlings, who was shot in the back of the head by two off-duty police officers after the boy allegedly stole one of the cop’s minibikes. The officers were never charged with a crime, and the family received a settlement over a civil lawsuit filed against the city.

Charles Rawlings, DeOnte’s father, said during the forum that his heart goes out to the Martin family.

“When you lose a child and when you’re alone, people don’t know what you’re going through,” Rawlings said. “It’s so painful that he’s not here anymore… My pain [doesn't] ever go away.”

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In Your Words: George Zimmerman And To Be White And Hispanic

Courtesy of Orange County Jail

A 2005 photo of George Zimmerman.

Race looms large in the story of Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teenager shot and killed by Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Zimmerman claimed self-defense in the Feb. 26 incident and hasn’t be charged with a crime. The lack of charges have led to nationwide protests by those who believe Zimmerman would have been charged had Martin not been black.

But how much does the race of the shooter matter in the story? Zimmerman’s father is identified as white and his mother as Hispanic. Many believe Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, but Zimmerman’s family has used his ethnic heritage as a defense against such claims.

A number of you weighed in on the role of race in the story and the complexity of racial identity for Hispanics, who are considered a minority group in the United States. C_vs writes that Hispanic is an ethnicity, referring to “people of various backgrounds who are united by the Spanish language and Latin-American culture.” But Hispanics can be of any race.

Laribos writes that the Martin case highlights the need for more nuanced ways to identify Hispanics:

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Dissecting Geraldo Rivera’s Hoodie Comment

Peter Kramer / Getty Images

Geraldo Rivera is a FOX News correspondent.

Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black Florida teenager killed by Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman, was wearing a hoodie at the time of the shooting. Zimmerman, who hasn’t been charged with a crime, told a 911 dispatcher that Martin “looks like he’s up to no good, or on drugs or something,”

As the case has captured national attention, many have focused on the hoodie. It’s being used as a symbol to stand in solidarity with the Martin family, and now, it’s being partially blamed for the incident. Controversial television personality Geraldo Rivera said on the March 23 edition of “Fox and Friends” that:

I believe that George Zimmerman, the overzealous neighborhood watch captain should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law and if he is criminally liable, he should be prosecuted. But I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.

Rivera went on to say that he tells his “dark-skinned” son Cruz to not leave the house wearing a hoodie because “people look at you and they — what do they think? What’s the instant identification, what’s the instant association?”

Many then took to Twitter to criticize Rivera, who then tweeted this:

Its sad that I have to be the one reminding minority parents of the risk that comes with being a kid of color in America--channel the rage
Geraldo Rivera

Rivera’s advice shifts responsibility from aggressors to victims, much like saying rape victims were “asking for it” because of what they were wearing. But Rivera’s statements also somewhat allude to the painful decisions that many parents have to confront, of how to protect their black and brown children in a world where racism exists and can costs lives.

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Trayvon Martin And How ‘A Million Hoodies’ Began

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Supporters of Trayvon Martin rally in Union Square during a "Million Hoodie March" in Manhattan on March 21

The case of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager shot and killed Feb. 26 by a Neighborhood Watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla., has captured the nation’s attention. The shooter, George Zimmerman, claims self-defense and hasn’t been charged with a crime.

“This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or on drugs or something,” Zimmerman told a 911 dispatcher, adding that Martin was wearing “a dark hoodie, like a gray hoodie.” Moments later, Zimmerman shot an unarmed Martin in the chest, and claimed it was in self-defense.

Daniel Maree, 24, started the Million Hoodies for Trayvon Martin rally and social media campaign.

Federal authorities said Monday that they would take over* join the investigation. The announcement came on the same day that Daniel Maree, a 24-year-old digital strategist in New York City, wrote a blog post and uploaded a YouTube video, pushing for Zimmerman to be charged. Maree asked people to post photos of themselves wearing hoodies with the hashtag #millionhoodies, sign a petition calling for Zimmerman’s prosecution and for New Yorkers to march on Union Square Wednesday. The Million Hoodies for Trayvon Martin movement is now spreading to other cities, including D.C. (Disclosure: Maree used to be my neighbor and we’ve hung out a few times).

The Martin case resonated with Maree on a number of levels. He grew up in South Africa where “as a black person you feel like you’re at home” since the country is majority-black, Maree said.

“When you come to the States, when I came, it was kind of surprising. You actually do feel like a minority, because you are one. That feeling is tangible,” Maree said. “And then to have situations like this, which happened to Trayvon Martin, it shows it’s not just a feeling that we’re imagining. It’s real.” Continue reading

Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman And Beyond Black And White

Werth Media / Flickr

A photo of Trayvon Martin appears on a protester's sign during a March 19 rally in Sanford, Fla.

A national debate about racism in the criminal justice system has been reignited by the Feb. 26 killing of an unarmed black teenager in Florida by a non-black man who hasn’t been charged with a crime.

Here’s what happened, according to news reports and newly-released 911 recordings: Trayvon Martin, 17, was walking from a convenience store to his father’s house in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. That’s when Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman, 28, spotted him. Zimmerman called 911, reporting a seeing a suspicious person. “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something,” Zimmerman said to the dispatcher, and began following Martin. A struggle ensued and Martin, unarmed, was fatally shot in the chest. Zimmerman claims self defense and hasn’t been charged with a crime. Federal authorities announced late Monday that they would launch a full-scale criminal investigation following protests over local police’s handling of the case.

The narrative appears to be a sadly familiar one, of seemingly double standards, of little to no punishment when the shooter is white and when the person shot is black. Benjamin Crump, the Martin family’s lawyer, has said that if the roles were reversed and Trayvon Martin was the shooter of a white man, an arrest would have been made immediately.

Orange County Jail

A 2005 photo of George Zimmerman.

But a letter from Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman, to the Orlando Sentinel complicates the narrative. Robert Zimmerman writes that his son, George, is “a Spanish speaking minority.” (He also goes on write that his son has black family members. “The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth,” the letter states.).

Orlando Sentinel reporter Rene Stutzman has been closely following the case and had an exclusive interview with Robert Zimmerman. Stutzman tells DCentric that George Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is Hispanic.

Does Zimmerman’s Hispanic heritage change the larger story? Maybe not, but it does demonstrate that America’s longstanding black-white debates about racism have been complicated by the country’s shifting demographics. Racial identity for Hispanics is much more fluid than for other groups. Many Hispanic immigrants feel they are accepted as white by larger society, but those with darker complexions still face plenty of discrimination, according to a 2010 American Sociological Association report. In other words, a light skinned Hispanic, such as Zimmerman, may be treated as a white man by larger society, while a darker Hispanic may be treated as black. And when it comes to racial profiling, anyone can discriminate against anyone else. A person can even be sued for racially discriminating against another person of the same race.

In the end, no matter how many debates about race this case spurs, one thing won’t change: a teenager who was carrying little more than a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea is dead. And for now, a community is torn apart as so many questions remain unanswered.