On Feb. 26, Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot dead for looking “real suspicious” while in a gated Florida community. What was he doing? “Just walking around, looking about,” according to George Zimmerman, the volunteer community watch captain who spotted him, followed him in his SUV, reported him to police then killed him. Neighbours say Zimmerman, 28, was “fixated on crime and focused on young, black males.” He had called police 46 times since Jan. 1, 2011. Twenty one days since the fatal shooting, there have been no arrests or charges.
The crux: Racism isn’t merely using “the N-word” or wearing blackface; it is the systemic and institutionalized treatment — in the streets, in the workplace, in the legal justice system — of ethnic minorities, like Troy Davis, like Trayvon Martin, like the countless people who came before them (e.g. Emmett Till) and who will inevitably come after. Is there any doubt that had the roles been reversed, Martin would be UNDER the damn jail by now? America is nowhere close to being “post-racial.”
Here is Zimmerman’s 911 call from when he spotted Martin:
Here is an important column on the fatal shooting by New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow.
Here is a piece on the youngest witness to the murder, 13-year-old Austin McLendon, who told HuffPost Black Voices he worried it could have been him who Zimmerman shot dead. “If I was like two years older, that could have happened to me.”
Here is a video interview with 13-year-old Austin McLendon.
And here is a list of things you should know about the murder. They include:
1. Zimmerman called the police to report Martin’s “suspicious” behavior, which he described as “just walking around looking about.” Zimmerman was in his car when he saw Martin walking on the street. He called the police and said: “There’s a real suspicious guy. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about… These a**holes always get away” [Orlando Sentinel]
2. Zimmerman pursued Martin against the explicit instructions of the police dispatcher:
Dispatcher: “Are you following him?”
Dispatcher: “OK, we don’t need you to do that.”
4. Zimmerman was carrying a a 9 millimeter handgun. Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. [ABC News]
11. Zimmerman “had been the subject of complaints by neighbors in his gated community for aggressive tactics” [Huffington Post]
12. A police officer “corrected” a key witness. “The officer told the witness, a long-time teacher, it was Zimmerman who cried for help, said the witness. ABC News has spoken to the teacher and she confirmed that the officer corrected her when she said she heard the teenager shout for help.” [ABC News]
MARCH 19 UPDATE: The U.S. Department of Justice, FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate the killing, the Miami Herald reports:
“The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “The department also is providing assistance to and cooperating with the state officials in their investigation into the incident. With all federal civil rights crimes, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which the law forbids — the highest level of intent in criminal law.
“Negligence, recklessness, mistakes and accidents are not prosecutable under the federal criminal civil rights laws.”