This week marks a year since Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen who was walking home in his gated community, was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman for being “suspicious.”
When news of his untimely death hit news waves, the media covered the murder extensively. Communities gathered with candles and prayers, donning hoodies to represent the slain student. George Zimmerman’s face was plastered all over our television sets. We cried. We cared. We were ready to fight.
But then Trayvon’s name disappeared from CNN, Fox and MSNBC. George Zimmerman’s hearings only appeared on local Florida news. Both of their names receded from headlines and got lost among the other deaths. Aurora. Jordan Davis. Newtown.
But what about Trayvon?
A Google report revealed that the interest of the George Zimmerman case/Trayvon Martin death went from full throttle to literally zero.
Did we forget just 11 months ago that we were trumping an important cause? Where was the tenacity that we possessed while screaming Trayvon’s name and protesting to get the “Stand Your Law” ground repealed?
As the one year anniversary of Trayvon’s death rolls around, just two weeks after he was to turn 18, we must remember what we were fighting for. Believe it or not, it wasn’t just for the slain teen. We were fighting for justice for not just Trayvon, but for an entire nation. Here’s why…
Stand Your Ground Law:
Even if George Zimmerman is convicted of murder and spends time behind bars, we will still have to grapple with the fact that Florida’s controversial and deadly “Stand Your Ground” law has yet to be repealed. The legislation states that if an individual feels threatened, they can shoot first. Even before Trayvon’s death, the law resulted in self-defense claims tripling in Florida, which made it difficult to prosecute cases against people who shoot others. Trayvon is not the first innocent and unwarranted death by this law, (Zimmerman’s defense is using the law in the June trial), and he won’t be the last. If we fight for Trayvon, we have to continue to fight for this law. Justice for Trayvon isn’t about putting Zimmerman behind bars…it’s making sure this doesn’t happen again.
If we forget Trayvon, we forget Jordan Davis. Davis was the other 17-year-old Florida teen who was shot and killed by Michael Dunn for allegedly playing his music too loud. The similarities are eerie. Michael Dunn, the 46-year-old gunman, also called upon the Stand Your Ground Law. Both teens were 17. Both were black. Both were shot by men who are allegedly racists. If we forget Trayvon, we forget all little black boys who are senselessly shot because their skin presents a threat. If we forget Trayvon, the fight for Davis, kids on street corners in Chicago, there or anywhere, are trivialized.
If we forget Trayvon Martin, we forget who killed him. But most importantly, we forget what killed him. George Zimmerman was a man who legally owned a gun. He was licensed to carry a firearm. It was not obtained illegally on a street corner or stolen from someone unsuspecting. What killed Trayvon was the system that is set up in America that makes it easy for someone with a vendetta, prejudice, or mental incapacity to use irresponsibly. And we have to change that.
If we are to examine not who killed Trayvon, but what killed Trayvon, we have to look at the myriad of historical incidents in America that got us here today. Why was Zimmerman “scared” of a teen boy walking home with a packet of Skittles in his hand? What made Zimmerman label him a thug and a punk? Why was he suspicious? Trayvon was black, and holding that card is still the deadliest thing in America. If we forget Trayvon, we forget why he was targeted. We forget why he died. We forget that the post-racial world the media tries to convince us we live in is false. We remain blind to the violent and hateful climate of this nation. Arguably, Trayvon was killed because of his skin. And so are hundreds of little black boys in America. Black boys 15 to 19 years old are 28 times more likely than White boys the same age to be killed in a gun homicide. If we forget Trayvon’s cause, we forget our children. We forget to secure our future.
It’s just this simple. If we do not continue to push for justice, the momentum behind George Zimmerman’s June trial will dissipate. Who will be watching? Who will bear witness? And though we cannot determine the outcome of the trial, we have to let Zimmerman know that we haven’t forgotten. We are still Trayvon. We are still pushing. And he will still have to pay. One way or another.
Trayvon Martin, we will never forget.
PHOTO SOURCE: GETTY