Much has happened in American awareness in the two years since the killing of Trayvon Martin on that fateful evening in Sanford, Florida.
If nothing else, the consciousness of the nation has been awakened anew to the challenges faced by young men of color. The decision by George Zimmerman to produce a firearm and end the life of the 17-year-old, unarmed Trayvon Martin produced a national discussion of race in America that permeated the entire country.
Were it not for the killing of Trayvon Martin, it is doubtful that issues such as Florida’s controversial and dangerous Stand Your Ground law would not have received the kind of attention — and criticism — that it drew in the months after the Feb. 26 shooting.
It reminded the country in the starkest, rawest terms, that people make snap judgments about Black and brown boys, based purely on the most superficial of appearances. We have learned that we still live in a country where people have firm and fixed notions of who young Black and brown teenagers are and that their lives are often undervalued to a disastrous degree.
The tragedy that befell Trayvon has become all too common an experience in the last two years. It has been repeated in some form in the experiences of Ramarley Graham in New York City, of Jonathan Ferrell in Charlotte, of Renisha McBride in Detroit and of Jordan Davis in Jacksonville.
If there is any lingering legacy of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, it is the fact that the nation — and its media — seems to be far less willing to turn a blind eye on such heartbreaking calamities. Although the stand your ground defense was not invoked by George Zimmerman, the fact that it was something that remained possible in his defense alerted the country that such hideous laws exist, laws that give overarching power to anyone with a firearm who says he or she feels imperiled.
When I asked Benjamin Crump, the lawyer to the parents of Trayvon Martin, what the nation had learned as a result of that young man’s killing in the last two years, he offered two significant points.
“I think people now have learned that they can’t take for granted that their children will be safe walking home from a 7-11 store,” Crump said. “And they can’t take for granted that the person who kills your unarmed child will be held accountable for it.”
On the other hand, Crump said, “I think people have also learned that people of all faiths, of all colors and of all walks of life care and that they are willing to stand up for Trayvon.”
That seems to sum things up neatly. The key here, however, is that the people who care deeply about this kind of injustice continue to speak loud and protest tirelessly to ensure that laws like stand your ground become a thing of the past. That would be a fitting legacy for the life of Trayvon Martin.
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Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan
(Photo: AP Photo/Tampa Bay Times, Dirk Shadd)