The best account of what happened the night 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by a man in the neighborhood is given by journalist Amy Goodman.
First, it is important to know that Trayvon wasn’t just wandering around some gated community, he was visiting his father who lived there. Trayvon was walking home from a nearby convenience store, when George Zimmerman saw him, called 911, then pursued him on foot with a 9mm gun.
In the 911 call released by the police, Zimmerman called Trayvon “f**cking coon.”
Witnesses heard Trayvon crying, and then cry for help, moments before Zimmerman shot him.
Police “corrected” their report, and said that Zimmerman was heard crying for help. (ABC News spoke to a witness and she confirmed that the officer corrected her when she said she heard Trayvon shout for help.)
Zimmerman, 28 years-old, weighing 250 pounds, carrying loaded gun, said he feared for his life when he saw the 140 pound teenager with Skittles and an iced tea. The police accepted this claim, and didn’t arrest him.
The police then bagged the body and labeled it “John Doe” – even though Trayvon had his phone, which could identify him. They tested his body for drugs and alcohol. They found none.
Zimmerman, meanwhile, is a free man. It was only when this story became national that the police decided to investigate. The Federal Justice Department will investigate, too.
It is difficult to know what will bring justice. Is it outrage? Public protest? Is it that “…All of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen,” as President Obama said in his remarks yesterday (Friday, March 23, 2012)?
I searched my soul, and to me, Trayvon was pursued like a runaway slave, guilty for walking freely. Gunned down, with no consequences facing his killer. It is not unreasonable to go back to the time of slavery, for a proper response. After all, slavery is the root of that “coon” comment.
As the great African-American abolitionist leader, Frederick Douglass (himself a runaway slave), said when asked to speak during July 4th celebrations in 1852 (thank you Tony G.):
“At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.”
Click here for Frederick Douglass’s entire speech.
This speech, and others, are part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook.