Reporting and technical writing. Saturday - Oct 16, 2021

A History Lesson Around Trayvon Martin

OPINION: Reasons why in these cases the killers had to explain their irrational fear.

Altercations resulting in death are tragic for anyone, but in some cases involving black victims, their killers can be left having to explain their irrational fear.

As details emerge about the night George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, no detail trumps the fact that a man with a gun felt threatened by a teenager without a gun. If self-defense is Zimmerman’s claim, it’s disturbing that he maintains their altercation warranted killing.

My view of the Trayvon Martin case is compounded by my memory of cases from the distant to the recent past. Elements of this story remind me of Yusef Hawkins (1989), Latasha Harlins (1991), James Byrd (1998), Amadou Diallo (1999), the Danziger Bridge shootings (2005), Sean Bell (2006), and more — all cases from my lifetime that show how certain people, when faced with their own fears, can really undervalue black lives (even other black people can do this, i.e. Danziger Bridge).

not only have black males been in these shooting cases but black females as wellIn a similar way to how we call child abductions “Amber” cases, I think of murders of unarmed black people as “Emmett Till” cases (1955). But Trayvon Martin’s case is actually more similar to Latasha Harlins’ case, showing that not only have black males been in these shooting cases but black females as well. Harlins had a bottle of juice, Martin had a pack of candy. Both were teenagers and each faced an adult with a gun. Yet in both cases the gun-wielding adult said that they felt more threatened by the unarmed teen.

Harlins’ case upset me because I was very close in age to her in 1991 and also living right there in the Los Angeles area where she was killed. In fact, city-wide anger over her case contributed tremendously to the tension in L.A. that led to the 1992 riots (but what gets discussed much more is the acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King).

History lesson on Latasha Harlins

One comment
  1. Choerul

    07/27/2012 at 05:55

    Race aside, it’s still very very wrong. How can he claim self defense when the boy had nhtiong on him to hurt anyone with, yet he himself had a gun? Come on now. And they won’t even try to investigate it?? A person’s life was taken!! That definitely calls for an investigation.I think all too often police try to cover eachother’s backs when things like this happen. In my town not too long ago a drunk off duty police officer was speeding and hit and killed a 15 year old boy with his car. The officers who responded to the scene (one being the father of the officer who killed the boy) tried to cover it up. They disregarded evidence (an empty liquor bottle that was thrown from the car window after the accident happened that an eyewitness saw) and the officer refused a blood alcohol test at the hospital siting a fear of needles as an excuse. When a persons life is taken, ALL ASPECTS of the issue should be investigated, whether or not it was probably self defense. That is ridiculous.