A Potent Anti-Profiling Movement as the Silver Lining of the Trayvon Martin Tragedy

Hope/expectation that the Trayvon Martin tragedy will have a silver lining by spurring a potent movement to combat racial stereotyping/profiling–excerpts:

Keli Goff, The Gift That Trayvon Gave All of Us: How the Trayvon Martin Tragedy Can Save Black America. TheLoop21.com/Huffington Post. 26 March 2012.

…[I]n my parents’ generation (they both grew up in the segregated South) a store simply hung a sign that said “No Coloreds” allowed. Today a store wouldn’t dream of doing that and yet most black people I know, and most black celebrities have a story (often more than one) about being blatantly denied service at a store due to race. In the case of Oprah Winfrey on two separate occasions at two different stores the stores in question locked the doors and claimed to be closed when she attempted to enter. In the case of Condoleezza Rice, a sales clerk questioned whether she could actually afford the jewelry she was eyeing. To those who have never endured such experiences, they may sound like minor indignities. But the Trayvon Martin case illustrates how easily subtle racism — which usually involves racial profiling — can escalate from indignity to death.

One installment of CNN’s “Black in America,” hosted by Soledad O’Brien, actually noted that many black parents are so conscientious of such profiling that those with teenage boys often provide them with a prepared speech for interacting with police officers to avoid them becoming another Robbie Tolan, the unarmed Houston teen shot by an officer who mistakenly believed Tolan had stolen the car he was driving. (He hadn’t.) O’Brien noted that this unofficial profiling speech is so pervasive within the black community it cuts across class lines. From working class black Americans to A-list celebrities, many of them consider the profiling talk just as important, if not more so, than the birds and bees talk.

Trayvon Martin is a powerful reminder of why. Only who knew that we would come to a point where the profiling “talk” would have to be revised by parents to not only include police officers, but any man who may see you as a so-called threat because of the color of your skin. (On that note, some critics have blamed Martin’s attire for his death. See my reply and others, here and here.)

…Much like Emmett Till’s racially charged murder in 1955 at the age of fourteen forced our country to finally confront the brutality of Jim Crow as more than just a “Southern problem” but a national shame, my hope is that Trayvon’s death will spark long overdue outrage and ultimately, a movement against, the subtle racism known as profiling that has risen in Jim Crow’s wake.

The fact that so many people of diverse political persuasions have condemned his killing gives me hope.…

Roland Martin, Is Trayvon Martin’s Death the Catalyst of a New Movement?. CNN.com. 15 April 2012

…[T]here is no denying that the death of Martin has moved this generation of African-Americans in a way that we have not seen in 40 years.

This post-civil rights movement generation — I am a member of it since I was born in November 1968 — has often been reluctant to embrace a social justice agenda. Instead, too many have had a me-myself-and-I mentality. Very few issues have led this generation to say, “Enough is enough!” The Trayvon Martin case may be that catalyst that I and others have often said is long overdue…

…But if we’re going to see a true change in this nation when it comes to social justice and the legal system, it will have to be led by young people.

It will be led by those college students who called themselves the ‘Dream Defenders’ in Florida who marched from Daytona Beach to Sanford on Easter weekend saying they were doing so to reach Dr. King’s dream of a better America.

It is going to require a 21st-century Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, the fearless, passionate and successful group that played a vital role in the civil rights movement, only to fall victim to more militant voices toward the end of the 1960s. This change in America will not take place only in the halls of the legislatures and Congress. It is going to have to take place in towns, cities, communities and homes. It truly must be bottom up and not top down.

Barrington M. Salmon, Trayvon Martin: Moment or Movement?. The Washington Informer. 18 April 2012

George Zimmerman is behind bars and much of the furor directed toward him by those angered by his murder of Trayvon Martin is cooling.

But the desire by many of these same people to transform the system that led to the death of an unarmed 17-year-old continues to gather steam.

In the 45 days prior to Special Prosecutor Angela Corey charging Zimmerman, 28, with 2nd-degree murder, many of the participants at marches and demonstrations, those on social media sites, and in conversation have made it clear that Trayvon’s death means nothing if it doesn’t lead to substantive change in racial profiling and police violence against black and brown people.

“People who thought things were OK, this is water thrown in their faces,” said longtime activist and human rights advocate the Rev. Graylan Ellis Hagler, senior minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Northeast. “They were slumbering. The fact that four young women organized the Trayvon Martin DC Rally for Justice is historic in itself. They are the face of the activism of young people coming out of the Occupy Movement. It can’t be put into a box any longer.”

“Instead of the idea of being wealthy, people have been asking the Biblical question: ‘What does it profit to gain the whole world and lose your soul?’ We have been in danger of losing our soul. This awakened us and aroused our sensibilities. This has to continue to be a movement … we have to build a movement on a broad front. The agenda has to be to stand with people who are immigrants. If it’s not us, it’s them. One of us is going to be the target. Black folk have to stand with brown folk.”

David Maree and Thenjiwe McHarris, both of whom were instrumental in organizing the national Million Hoodie Movement for Justice, said hard work and sound strategies are vital.

“We plan to make it a movement. It has started organically,” said McHarris, a 27-year-old Bronx resident. “… We’re seeing a lot of organizations and groups of people coming together, which is great. We have to look [to change] institutions, laws, policies and practices.”