Trayvon Martin would have turned 19 years old yesterday. And to celebrate? George Zimmerman, the man who fatally shot and killed Trayvon, announced yesterday that he would fight DMX in a celebrity boxing match. What a day for Zimmerman to make this announcement.
While Trayvon’s family must mourn the anniversary of their son’s birthday and murder in the same month, Zimmerman has gone on to become a wealthy artist and apparent celebrity.
Trayvon Martin has come to symbolize so much within American society: racism, needless violence, gun control, the implications of controversial self-defense laws, and the sad state of our justice system.
While hundreds of pp-eds have been written, tens of thousands have protested, and lawmakers have called for an examination on self-defense laws within the US, little has changed since Trayvon’s death. In fact, yesterday marked the third day of jury selection for another case that deals with Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law after a 17 year old was fatally shot for playing loud music.
A viral campaign was launched yesterday which hopes to draw attention once again to the life that Trayvon Martin will never get to experience. The hashtag campaign #19ForTrayvon launched by Colorlines allows individuals to document where they were in life at the time of their 19th birthday.
At 19, I was afforded the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. #19forTrayvon @Colorlines
— Jerdi (@justjerdi) February 5, 2014
The memories, which range from personal to reflective on the kind of life Martin could have had, are touching and poignant. But through everything, the hashtag reminds us: he was still just 17. (You can view more here.)
“Stand your ground” laws have directly and clearly defined racial biases. According to the Urban Institute, states with these laws have an acquittal rate of 17% for white-on-black shootings vs. a 1% acquittal rate for black-on-white shootings. Within Florida, where Trayvon was killed, the rates are even more troubling – 73% of cases of white-on-black shootings and killings resulted in the shooter walking away with no penalty whatsoever.
Citizens and lawmakers must once again examine where we stand on issues of race relations, criminal justice, “Stand Your Ground” laws, and what kind of a society we wish to live in. The color of our skin should not dictate the result of criminal lawsuits. An individual’s race should not immediately make us suspect to others. Race, ethnicity, or the hoodie that we wear should never be viewed as justification for violence and hatred to be perpetrated against an individual.
Regardless of your personal beliefs on self-defense and the ultimate outcome of the case against George Zimmerman, one fact remains – Trayvon Martin would have turned 19 this year. His life was cut tragically short and his family’s loss is symbolic of so many deeper issues within our society.