Remembering the February shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Carleton students gathered at a town hall meeting last Wednesday night to discuss and reflect on the implications of his case for the American justice system.
On Feb. 26, neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman shot Martin as he was walking home in Sanford, Fla., from a trip to the convenience store. Martin was unarmed, carrying only skittles and iced tea, and Zimmerman had been advised by local police not to follow him. While Zimmerman claims he was acting in self-defense, his evidence has not yet been substantiated
That Zimmerman has not been arrested and brought to court has caused a significant amount of outrage across the nation.
“This case demonstrates the purest form of racism: to take someone’s life and not even have a trial…not even have a drug test afterward,” said Martin Olague, assistant director of the Office of Intercultural and International Life, who spoke at the meeting. “We are left with so many questions about why no action has been taken.”
Throughout the day, students and some professors wore hoodies (just as Martin was wearing when he was shot) to commemorate his life and bring awareness to his case. At the meeting, students could also sign up to go to the Twin Cities on Thursday to participate in a “million hoodies” rally that peacefully promoted social equality and justice. The rally was last Thursday.
“I’m wearing a hoodie today because I’m tired. I’m tired of the United States of America not valuing the lives of black men,” said Ray Nelson ’12 in opening remarks at the meeting.
Olague, Shantrice King ’13 and Anni Abadian-Heifetz ’12, each read a personal reflection on the circumstances of Martin’s death before students were split into small discussion groups.
Many students reflected on the idea that what happened to Martin could have happened to anyone, including themselves or their family members. For some students, similar situations had already occurred in their lives. The overall tone was of shock and outrage, but also of inspiration to bring the social issues surrounding Martin’s shooting, such as racial profiling, into a more public discourse.
Coming back together as a group, students suggested different ways to do something meaningful with the emotions evoked by Martin’s case to raise awareness about the social injustice of his death and the deaths of young men like him.
Ideas included creating curricula for middle school students covering Martin’s death to give a perspective outside of the media, starting a million hoodies march in Northfield and creating a mural of the many pictures of students wearing hoodies.
“Why should you care?” King asked. “Because if you don’t, who will?”