Commentary: The Legacy of the Trayvon Martin Shooting Still Shames Us

Keith Boykin

Commentary: The Legacy of the Trayvon Martin Shooting Still Shames Us

Keith Boykin remembers the slain Florida teenager.

Published February 26, 2015

It was three years ago tonight when a 28-year-old man with a gun got out of his truck in Sanford, Florida, and confronted, chased, shot and killed a 17-year-old kid who was walking home from a convenience store with a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona Iced Tea.

By now, everyone in America knows the man with the gun was George Zimmerman and the teen with the candy was Trayvon Martin. But the legacy of those who spent 18 months vilifying the boy with the Skittles and glorifying the man with the gun has left a permanent scar of shame on the skin of this country.

I'm ashamed that people in our country, people with a voice, people with authority and responsibility, invested their energy and reputations defending Zimmerman as a law-abiding patriot and denouncing Trayvon as a gangbanging thug.

I'm ashamed that six jurors in Seminole County, Florida, were willing to accept the racially charged counterintuitive argument that the responsibility to de-escalate an unprovoked sidewalk confrontation lay with an unarmed child who feared for his life and not with the armed adult who accosted him.

I'm ashamed to live in a country where cowards like Zimmerman who hide behind the courage of a holstered gun are able to escape legal responsibility for the fatal foreseeable consequences of their misguided aggression.

I'm ashamed that the killing of an innocent child by an unnecessarily armed neighborhood watchman with a violent past did nothing to force the nation to confront the disturbing effects of the unrestrained proliferation of guns in America.

I'm ashamed of the hypocrisy involved with any so-called pro-life, pro-family Christians who opened their mouths to argue that an innocent boy with little more than a bag of candy "got what he deserved" for attempting to defend himself against an armed adult stranger who approached him from a truck in the dead of night.

I'm ashamed of all conscious Americans in positions of public trust who failed to speak up about the unjustified killing of an unarmed boy because they feared their words might lead to personal economic consequences.

I'm ashamed for any citizen who still, in 2015, dwells in the fragrant delusion of post-racial American equality amidst the overpowering stench from newly littered bodies of the murdered descendants of slaves.

And although I am grateful that the tragedy of Trayvon Martin awakened a part of the public consciousness and spawned a new generation of leaders, I'm ashamed that Trayvon and so many others had to lose their lives to get America to pay attention.

I'm ashamed that the list of martyrs since Trayvon has grown to include Jordan Davis, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Renisha McBride, Ezell Ford, John Crawford, Kajieme Powell, Akai Gurley, Darrien Hunt and too many others to mention.

I'm ashamed we were not able to save them.

Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes commentary for each week.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

BET National News - Keep up to date with breaking news stories from around the nation, including headlines from the hip hop and entertainment world. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter. 

Written by Keith Boykin


Latest in news

Inauguration Day

January 20, 2021