Five years have passed since the fifth anniversary of an unarmed black teen, Trayvon Martin. Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator, on February 26, 2012 in Florida. The tragedy was allegedly sparked when Zimmerman “profiled” Martin because he was wearing a hoodie and looked “suspicious”.
Protests and outrage broke out when Zimmerman was found not guilty. I can remember watching CNN and hearing the correspondents discuss the facts of the case. And then they would flash a picture of Trayvon’s face on the screen. It did not matter to me what he was suspected of doing; the only thing I could focus on was how his life was taken from him.
Martin’s death sparked a series of movements, all aimed at bring about change in the criminal justice system and the treatment of blacks within the system. The best known movement Black Lives Matter (BLM).
Yet it appears we have a long way to go, and that racial profiling and police brutality still exist in America. A 2016 study conducted by criminal justice researchers from the Univ. of Louisville and the Univ. of South Carolina found that “the police exhibit shooter bias by falsely perceiving blacks to be a greater threat than non-blacks to their safety.”
Teens often feel powerless and question how they can create social change in America. One way is to have open dialogue about what is happening within communities. Hearing others’ opinions can be one of best ways to spark change. Another way to try and make a positive change within the system is to get the attention of lawmakers. Making a phone call or writing a letter to your representatives in Congress can help convince them that change is necessary.
Trayvon’s death was a tragedy, but his legacy and the fight for change will go on.