“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”-President Obama

To say that the case of Trayvon Martin’s death has stunned the nation would be a gross understatement. News outlets nation-wide have reported non-stop on the case for the past month.

NPR summarized the night Martin died:

Seventeen-year-0ld Trayvon Martin of Miami, was walking from a convenience store to the home of family friend in a gated community in Sanford on Feb. 26th. He was confronted by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Zimmerman called police to report a suspicious person but before police arrived, the two struggled and Zimmerman shot and killed the teenager. Community members are demanding Zimmerman’s arrest but Sanford police say they don’t have sufficient evidence to dispute his claims of self defense.

Zimmerman has not been arrested because of Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which states that “As long as you are somewhere you have a lawful right to be, if someone attacks you, the words of the statute are you can meet force with force, including deadly force, if you reasonably believe that that is necessary,” law professor Jeffrey Bellin told NPR.

President Obama spoke on Friday about the tragedy, the Washington Post reported, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.” And he’s not alone. Christy Oglesby of CNN wrote, “My son knows he could be Trayvon.”

Many people have compared Martin’s death to the case of Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago who was murdered in 1955 for flirting with a white woman in Mississippi.

David Aretha, author of The Murder of Emmett Till, wrote, “Emmett Till was a bright and confident African American boy growing up with his single mother in Chicago. An offer to spend a few weeks with his great-uncle and cousins in Mississippi seemed like a fun way to spend his summer. His mother warned him about the racism and the violence aimed toward blacks down South, but Emmett paid little heed to her words. Then, just a few days after arriving in Mississippi, Emmett…innocently flirted with a white woman…. Three days later, fourteen-year-old Emmett Till’s body was found in a river, badly mutilated with a bullet wound in the skull.”

Till was kidnapped and murdered by two white men, the white woman’s husband and his brother in law.

Aretha pointed out that both cases gained national attention in large part because of the media. “[Mamie] Bradley had insisted upon an open casket so that the whole world could see what the murderers had done to her son.” And so it did, thanks to television and newspapers. Martin’s case has been elevated to national status thanks to social media and news channels.

Aretha reported to CNN’s John Blake, “The murders [of Till and Martin] themselves were appalling, but what really angered the general public was the injustice – highly questionable laws and customs that allowed for whites to freely murder blacks in the Jim Crow South and for someone to almost randomly shoot anyone in the Martin case. ”

Actress Angela Bassett told an audience in Chicago, according to the Chicago-Sun Times, “Trayvon Martin adds another name to the terrible legacy of young black men like… Emmett Till and countless others who were judged, sentenced and executed for the crime of being young and black. An innocent young man walking home from getting a snack, and by virtue of race, accused of being a trespasser and predator just steps away from his father’s home.”

Emmett Till’s murderers were tried and acquitted, even though they admitted to kidnapping Till. Zimmerman has not yet been arrested, even though he admitted to shooting a minor. Whether he’ll ever face charges remains to be seen.

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

For more information about Emmett Till, please check out The Murder of Emmett Till by David Aretha (ISBN 9781599350578)

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Published in: on March 27, 2012 at 11:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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