Remembering Trayvon

trayvon

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s killing in Sanford, Florida. Communities and college campuses across the country, including Yale, held demonstrations and vigils once again, remembering the tragedy of Martin’s death and the conversation about guns, race, and violence that it had sparked.

On the evening of February 26th, 2012, an unarmed African American student walked out of house to a nearby 7-Eleven to purchase Skittles and iced tea. Suspecting Martin of criminality, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida, called the police and shot the unarmed Martin in what he believes is “self-defense”. Zimmerman was ultimately convicted for second-degree murder, fueling a national conversation about racial profiling and its violent repercussions for communities of color in the United States.

Indeed, racial profiling is a central part of the execution of criminal justice in today’s America. A recent ACLU report found that blacks and Hispanics were roughly three times as likely to be searched during a traffic stop, blacks were twice as likely to be arrested and blacks were nearly four times as likely to experience the threat or use of force during interactions with the police. Moreover, the 112th Congress concluded without voting on the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), a bill which would provide train law enforcement in mitigating responses based on stereotypes about certain groups. While law enforcement may believe itself to have legitimate reasons for using race to guide response efforts, incidences like Trayvon Martin’s death remind us the damage that profiling as a policy is capable of.

In the wake of Sandy Hook and other recent shootings that have captured our national attention, it is important to remember that the reality of gun violence is not only a matter of accessing arms, but also about holding our society accountable for the circumstances and narratives which foster violence in and against communities of color.

In forging policy solutions to our national gun violence problem, we must strive to protect both the first graders of Sandy Hook Elementary and Trayvon Martin alike.

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