Institutionalized racism apparent in killing of Trayvon Martin

For the past month I have followed all things related to the tragic death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. I’ve watched the people march in anger wondering why Zimmerman hasn’t been brought to trial, heard all the songs in tribute to Martin and now seen legal analysts break down the Martin case like an NFL draft expert on SportsCenter.

The lessons we’re learning from this case are going have a lasting impact that we can’t ignore.

A teenager was killed for nothing and it took almost a month for George Zimmerman to finally be arrested and face charges for second-degree murder, but we should not be satisfied.

Although the issue of race has taken center stage following Martin’s death, let’s not forget about the troubled justice system that allowed Zimmerman to continue to go about his days. Now in custody, he still has a chance to see all charges dropped because of a vague “stand your ground” self-defense law.

I can tell my teenage nephews we live in a world that won’t judge you by your skin, but incidents like this happen far too frequently.

Other African-Americans died at the hands of the police only months after Martin’s death. New Orleans native Wendell Allen, 20, was shot and killed by narcotics officers as they raided his home, and 22-year-old Rekia Boyd of Chicago was shot in the head by an off-duty detective. We have had to come together in protest and tribute far too many times at these acts of violence dealt as a result of institutionalized racism.

It was reported that Zimmerman “profiled” and “assumed” Martin was a suspicious person doing criminal activity. Martin had his civil rights violated. He had a right not to be bothered.

We all have that right, but yet when incidents like this still happen people will have to cautiously go around in fear of getting stopped, harassed or even gunned down based on the color of their skin. This is not the Wild West; we should not have to settle things with a bullet. We should not be living in a society where we would have to question every person of color walking around in a hoodie or see a group of young people of color and assume they’re in a gang, but – sadly – it happens.

The major determinant to prosecuting Zimmerman for second-degree murder is Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which states that a person may use force in self-defense when there is a reasonable belief of a threat. This law is considered unreasonable by some because this hypothetically means that anyone can shoot anyone, claim their life felt threatened and basically walk away without going to trial.

Many are relieved over the arrest of Zimmerman, but there is a chance the case could get thrown out before it goes to trial if his lawyers can prove that Zimmerman acted in self-defense within the territory of the “stand your ground” law. I implore the justice system not to make this a world where you can take a life and not be held accountable.

It’s been said over and over again that we are all Trayvon Martin. Let that be a reminder that it doesn’t matter who you are. We must finally wake up from the nightmare of all this violence and hatred. We have to learn to see each other as human beings before we see each other as a color.

A teenager’s life was taken away way before his time and now we must step forward and come together in his memory to ensure that no one will ever have to face the pain of the Martin family again.

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