What Does Real Justice For Trayvon Martin Look Like?

Colorlines.com readers come together to discuss the path forward from the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin, and the long history that brought us here.

By Channing Kennedy Mar 26, 2012

We’ve written a lot about Trayvon Martin in the last week. We’ve covered the Department of Justice’s investigation, the sheriff’s resignation, Obama’s personal remarks, the gun-friendly state laws at the root of the case, and the acts of solidarity and calls for justice from across the nation. (In fact, some of our own contributors have started a Tumblr for folks of color to share their "Trayvon stories" about racial profiling.)

And there’ll be lots more to report on in the coming weeks. For now, here’s a handful of thoughtful comments from the Colorlines.com community, about both the path forward and the long history behind Trayvon’s tragic death. Here’s what you had to say.

david ervin, on the ludicrous assertion that Trayvon was inviting suspicion by wearing his jacket hood up on a rainy night:

Hundreds of white men and women must have looked scary as hell no matter what style of dress, while bringing their family, friends and children to go to a lynching, for sport. Not to mention those bizarre KKK hoodies.

Celeste Winders on Obama’s statement that "If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon":

His statement wasn’t just that of a President, it was that of a parent. I have three sons- 3, 4 & 8 and they look like Trayvon. It’s heart wrenching. It makes me more afraid as a parent of ever letting my boys out of my sight. I have a teenage daughter who also looks like Trayvon. You would like to think that your teenager can walk to the store. The mom in us doesn’t want them to but they look at us, roll their eyes and accuse us of being overprotective because they are "almost grown" and it’s "just the store" so we let them go. Then they don’t come home. That is the reality that parents of young black children face everyday. This case is the reminder. President Obama understands that. That was what his statement was today. He spoke as a parent. As a parent I appreciate it.

And Francisco Lopez:

I wish he would think about his family, when he tears American children apart from their parents and deports them… he can’t identify?

On the gun laws and personal politics surrounding the case, Sonny Espinoza:

Unfortunately, what is getting lost in the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the absurd racism that it brings to light is the fact that Florida and other states now have laws that enable citizens to carry armed weapons, and have given them license to use them "in self-defense" by offering legal protections in the event they kill somebody in the process of doing that. It seems nobody is really confronting that problem, especially when you look at how the online petition for challenging Florida’s law has virtually no supporters while everyone is jumping on the bandwagon for the petition to prosecute Zimmerman. And its understandable for people of color to express ambivalence about this, since we have a history of feeling unsafe in our historically segregated and ghettoized communities due to the violent circumstances of poverty and the occupying law enforcement agencies that don’t serve and protect us. But by seeking security in firearms, we only reproduce the vicious cycle amongst ourselves.

Yes, the demands of our own self-defense perhaps necessitate a more nuanced perspective on whether or not to take up arms, but we need to reconcile that with the right-wing, NRA-dictated domestic policies that will empower racists to kill our children with legal protections. Remember that white racists in the tea party were allowed to bring guns to anti-Obama protests and yet you couldn’t even wear an anti-bush t-shirt or have an anti-bush bumper sticker at an anti-Bush protest. There is a peculiar double-standard in this country when it comes to having an "armed citizenry" and we really need to think more deeply about how we position ourselves as people of color in relation to that, especially now at a peculiar moment when we are now begging the police to do their job.

Our news editor Jamilah King interviewed historian Koritha Mitchell about her new book "Living with Lynching" and the history of anti-black vigilantism in the U.S. She’s kind enough to join us in the comments with additional perspective:

As Ida B. Wells found long ago, rape was NOT the real motivation for lynching. In fact, rape wasn’t even alleged–let alone investigated and substantiated–in 2/3 of cases. The more historians dig, the clearer it is that lynching was about terrorizing blacks to keep them from asserting their new political position (not being slaves anymore and wanting to exercise the rights of citizenship) and to keep them from gaining and keeping any semblance of financial independence.

This is why Wells underscored the fact that lynching did not become a weapon against blacks until AFTER Emancipation. As long as they were slaves, killing them meant a financial loss for whites. Once they were free, killing them became more desirable, especially if they were gaining a financial foothold and whites preferred taking the land they had cultivated, for example. Especially when you put these realities, which I discuss in my book, with the pattern exposed in Slavery By Another Name, which goes beyond my 1930 date into the 1940s, it is clear that keeping blacks in "their place" was/is the aim of all of these racist practices. The Trayvon Martin case is a dramatic reminder that so much about our nation’s legal system is about sending a clear message about who should expect the protection of the state and who shouldn’t.

[…] We must remember that when racial violence became most pervasive, it was not reliant upon hate groups like the KKK. Very often, mobs were made up of ordinary citizens. This is part of what made the terrorism of lynching (and lynching photography) so devastating.

And finally, Adrienne Clay on the inextricable and particular race and gender politics that must be acknowledged in cases like this:

The gendered nature of violence against the black male body is real. As a black feminist I will never cease to rail against the oppression we face. However, we need not compete against black men (or any other group) re: levels of oppression. Black women catch hell, but it is a different hell than black men face in a number of ways. Better/worse is irrelevant. From Emmett Till to Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo to Trayvon, the ways in which the black male body is violated in our society cannot be divorced from gender AND race.

Each week, we round up the best comments in our community. Join the conversation here on Colorlines.com, and on Facebook and Twitter.