Friday, April 13, 2012

Some complexities of the Trayvon Martin case

Sean Thomas-Breitfeld over at has written a really good analysis of some of the complexities involved in the Florida shooting of African American teen Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer whose ethnicity has become a source of controversy in the case. Here's a brief sample:
George Zimmerman’s unconscious biases and his racial identity did not cause Trayvon Martin’s death. The gun he carried while volunteering his time as a neighborhood watch captain is what made the difference between a misunderstanding leading to insults and hurt feelings, and the death of an unarmed black teenager who was walking home from the store. But rather than talk about the laws in play in this case, we get mired in a debate over the motivation of individual actors.

The new black/brown terms of this case were a convenient distraction for conservatives (particularly the National Rifle Association) who would rather we not focus on how Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law fosters a vigilante mentality. The leaking of details about how Trayvon Martin was a normal (rather than perfect) teenager helped the Sanford Police shift the focus away from how their inaction the night of Trayvon’s death and showed a too-familiar disregard for the well-being of black men.

There are legitimate questions to raise about how gated communities—as modern-day, segregated enclaves—foster a racialized paranoia that George Zimmerman was caught up in. There’s a real discussion to have about the many ways that structural racism and criminal justice collide and conspire to rob Trayvon Martin of fair and just protection by the police. We must not lose sight of the structural factors at work in situations like this one.
There's much more to this eloquent post, and it's well worth reading the whole thing.

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