The Real Reason Trayvon Martin is Dead
Chris Hart-Williams | Staff Writer
Was Trayvon Martin aware that unlike any other group, African-American males are burdened with facing prejudice that leads to racial profiling? Nothing could have prepared the teenager for the night he would experience after being followed by George Zimmerman. There are several questions that loom over the tragedy of Martin’s death such as: “What if he was white? Was it the hoodie he was wearing that made Zimmerman follow him?”
The reason why Martin was followed goes far beyond what he was wearing; Martin was racially profiled. Racial Profiling is indifferent to what an African-American male wears. Some would argue that African-American males cannot afford to dress certain ways and need to dress appropriately. Just what is appropriate dress? Most of these critics preach against sagging pants, but as that fashion trend fades away it proves that “pull up your pants” will not be the answer to the problem of racial profiling. Martin was not even sagging; he was wearing a black hoodie, khaki skinny jeans and white sneakers. It would not be too overt to say that, most American teens from all backgrounds have those items in their wardrobes. Let’s get real for a moment, what happened that night had nothing to do with what Martin was wearing, not even the hoodie that has become an iconic symbol of the tragedy.
The value of commentary coming from those that preach “pull your pants up” should be challenged. Really is that the solution? If so, we need a PSA very soon. Matter of fact we need someone on every street corner of the country spreading the word as if it were “the gospel”. The message would be: “African-American males as long as you pull your pants up, prejudice will be no more and racial profiling will be of the past.” Unfortunately, it is just not that simple.
No one can say with a straight face that if African-American males dress a certain way they will avoid racial profiling. To support such an idea ignores the historic portrayal of African-American males in our current media, decades of discrimination and inequality and the former master-slave relationship beginning when the first ships of the Triangle trade reached the coasts of the South.
We cannot afford to ignore the remnants of our country’s past, remnants that have led to our current problem where African-American males are racially profiled at high volumes. If “pull up your pants” was the solution it would be an answer to the prayers of many, but it simply is not.
We cannot attribute the Martin tragedy to his hoodie. The hoodie itself did not influence the Zimmerman’s actions; what made him decide to follow Martin goes far deeper than that. If Martin were anyone other than an African-American male in that hoodie we would not have a tragedy. Zimmerman referred to Martin as a “punk” to the 911 operator well before he interacted with him. Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, simple as that. He was surveilling the neighborhood after there had been a stent of robberies and when he saw Martin that night, he saw a criminal. It is sad that an African-American male cannot walk at night without appearing suspicious, no matter if he is wearing a hoodie or a button-up, but it is our country’s reality. It is hard to imagine that things would have been different if Martin were not African-American. Zimmerman’s decision to follow Martin was based on his race and gender.
When critics sneer at the amount of attention this tragedy received they fail see what the incident represents for the daily life of an African-American male, a problem that does not stem from how someone is dressed but rather their skin color.
Those than cannot understand why this tragedy gained so much attention and why it continues to matter to people, need to understand that this tragedy put a spotlight on a problem this nation has with racial profiling. This tragedy exemplifies the worst that can happen in a country that racially profiles. Usually racial profiling does not end with a teenager shot down in his neighborhood but it is still a problem that should not be ignored.
We continue to reside in a society where African-American males often get the short end of the stick. It is far past the time where we need to stop judging people based on the color of their skin and resist attributing problems of African-American males to what one wears. We need to look deeper so that we can come to a day where racial profiling is no longer a problem. Unlike gains made in the past related to race relations through legislation, the change we need now is within the attitudes of us.
Chris Hart-Williams | Staff Writer
The First Year College program (FYC) is here to stay, says Mike Mullen, Vice Chancellor and Dean for the Division of Academic and Student Affairs (DASA).
The First Year College, established in 1995, is a program in Academic Programs and Services (a sub-division of DASA) that caters to first year students undecided on a major.
Recently, there has been concern amongst students regarding the elimination of FYC.
“It’s funny how rumors get started,” said Mullen. “We will always have a program…to do those things that FYC does.”
It is possible that FYC will undergo a name change, but it will remain the “college of options” for incoming students undecided on a major.
Mullen and other division leaders want to enhance DASA to better serve students.“The idea of an umbrella, University College has been discussed,”said Mullen. Thursday, in a meeting, they discussed the idea but have not yet come to a conclusion.
Enhancing services for second year students and transfer students is one reason for considering a change to FYC, said Mullen. He says because many students go into their second year still undecided on a major and others seek to switch majors in their second year, changes are needed to help students beyond their first year.
According to Mullen, budget cut changes, such as the elimination of the Transition Program earlier this month will not continue. The Transition Program’s services are now offered through FYC. The move of the Transition Program students into the FYC,which makes more services available to students. “It’s a win, win,” said Mullen.
Mullen points out that DASA is just over a year old and is expected to evolve.The merger of the Division of Student Affairs and the Division of Undergraduate Academic Programs created the new DASA July 2012.
Taari Coleman | Staff Writer
George Zimmerman is a man who needs no introduction. Since the verdict of his infamous trial against the state of Florida, Zimmerman’s life has taken many fascinating turns.
On July 13, 2013, the former neighborhood watch coordinator was acquitted of both the murder and manslaughter charges he was convicted of in 2012. Four days after this verdict was delivered, USA Today reported that Zimmerman was one of two men to assist a family of four to safety from an overturned SUV after a vehicular collision down the street from where Trayvon Martin was murdered. Unfortunately, that was his only positive upswing.
On the ninth of September, Zimmerman’s estranged wife, Shellie Zimmerman, called 911 after her husband physically assaulted her father. According to an interview on NBC’s Today Show, Shellie placed a 911 call in which she can be heard telling the dispatcher that her husband had smashed and cut an iPad she had been holding, punched her father in the face, and threatened them both with a gun. When the police arrived, however, they were unable to locate the firearm and Shellie later retracted her claim that a firearm had been present. Shellie and her father agreed not to press charges after being informed that she and George would both serve time for the incident. This quarrel may or may not have been the result of Zimmerman being accused of property theft by his mother in law.
Machelle Dean, Shellie Zimmerman’s mother, called Lake Mary, FL after police the home she and her husband had rented to Shellie and George Zimmerman had been damaged and was missing hundreds of dollars worth of property. CBS News reports that George Zimmerman was told to vacate the dwelling by the 26th of September, but when Machelle and David Dean arrived to regain control, they found a television and several pieces of furniture unaccounted for, as well as damage to the house itself.
Through all the negativity, Zimmerman and his wife are also going through a divorce that was filed on September 5, 2013. Shellie was also convicted and plead guilty to a perjury charge on August 28th for lying about the family’s finances during the State of Florida v. Zimmerman trial. Since the verdict, Shellie has expressed doubts of her husband’s innocence in the death of Trayvon Martin. She told USA Today, “I don’t know the person I’ve been married to…and I really don’t know what he’s capable of.” She does however report that she believes in the evidence used to defend her husband, respects and supports the jury’s verdict, and does not think her husband racially profiled Martin. She told Huffington Post, “I believe the evidence, but this revelation in my life has really helped me to take the blinders off.”
It is fascinating, the way things begin to appear when one is put in the victim’s perspective. It calls to question whether Shellie would have been as supportive throughout her husband’s trial if the incidents that occurred after the trial, had occurred before. It also makes one question the anger and psychological issues that Zimmerman may have had, and whether or not Martin’s death was only a one time circumstantial occasion.
Bilal Butt | Correspondent
On June 26, Rachel Jeantel took to the witness stand in the trial of George Zimmerman. Though it was Zimmerman who was on trial for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, at times it seemed as if 19-year-old Jeantel was the one being tried for murder.
The key witness for the prosecution, Jeantel was on her cellphone with Martin only moments before he was killed. The testimony she provided attracted a lot of media coverage largely due to her difficulty in carrying herself the way legal experts, and America expected. She mumbled. She spoke in a jumble of phrases and even slurred her words. This made it very difficult for some people to understand her, especially the mostly-white jury.
At times, her testimony was good, bad and even ugly. Despite this, no one could say that she was insincere. Jeantel’s testimony struck a nerve with the public. Much of this may have been associated with the fact that she did not engage in code switching at a time when some might have deemed it most necessary.
Code switching, or changing one’s vernacular to accommodate communication with people outside of one’s friends, family, and culture was a skill that Jeantel did not come to the courtroom armed with. Don West, the leading defense attorney for George Zimmerman, took advantage of this disparity by forcing Jeantel to continue her lengthy testimony and display what many perceived as her inability to communicate adequately. The Tampa Bay Times reported that this only drew more attention to “the gulf between middle-aged, middle class mainstream codes of behavior and life among poorer, non-white neighborhoods.” The whole nation witnessed the banter between West and Jeantel and it could not have been any more evident the discrepancy between a young black girl and the daunting legal system.
Throughout her testimony, the public often questioned Jeantel’s legitimacy, but never her authenticity. West grilled Jeantel throughout cross-examination to focus on “holes” in her testimony. He tried to limit her credibility this way, but instead allowed Jeantel to become more relatable. Rashawn Ray, an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, reported to the Huffington Post that “ Although Jeantel’s demeanor was contrary to how society has been socialized to view interactions between lawyers and witnesses, the longer she remained on the stand the more her credibility increased, because she appeared to be more authentic.” Her consistency while on stand during the trial helped her case, despite the fact that her diction was too often mistaken for un-intelligence.
If Jeantel ever had experienced how to navigate in the two worlds – the culture she lives in and the world of lawyers, jurors and TV cameras – she could have displayed more tact and avoided being misunderstood and her words misconstrued. Her lack of experience and opportunities do not make her less capable of speaking in a court of law. It is sad to think that the verdict of the Trayvon murder could have been dependent on how well his friend was able to articulate herself.