Rodney King 2.0: Trayvon Martin Shows America Has Not Made Progress on Race

“What people often forget in Rodney King's story is that it was not about race — it was about justice — just like the case of Trayvon Martin. Let's not miss another opportunity to progress.” So said Al Sharpton in a piece for BET.com.

Sadly, with the memories of Rodney King’s brutal beating by police and Trayvon Martin’s murder by a neighborhood watchman, it has been difficult to pinpoint what qualifies as progress. The horrific happenings indicated that America needed a wake up call or two.

First and foremost, the injustice that occurred should be a warning to all Americans that no one is safe. Regardless of how much we press for equal rights, as well as individual rights, there will be times when we will need to work out the kinks, and there will be times when we will mourn the causalities. However, the ultimate message is that no one should be safe from correction when they are wrong.

Problem: “Zimmerman Complex”

Simply, George Zimmerman is evil. The main tool which he used to violate Trayvon’s Martin’s personal freedoms was among the things upon which people really disagree: gun laws. Additionally, his “authority complex” also murdered Trayvon Martin; he believed that it was up to him to decide a punishment for a suspect, thus violating all premises of our American justice system.

As my mother would always express to me, “We will never be able to legislate an attitude.” With this reflection, looking at Trayvon Martin’s case is disheartening.

Perhaps, even worse, the second message is the most difficult to swallow because it is one to the disproportionately oppressed, black people.

Take Off the Hoodie

Blacks have to cease giving the power to the majority and the satisfaction of keeping a minority down. The entire focus on race is pertinent, but to an extent, unnecessary. By automatically labeling negative instances as a product of racism, (even if the victimization was, in fact, prejudiced), we immediately put ourselves in a box. We put ourselves in a category titled, “subhuman.”

Certainly, racism has changed; the faces of racists have changed a bit; the number of racists have changed a lot. However, the victims of racism will always increase. Today, racism has been altered so much that it has taken the form of one of its infamous byproducts, minstrels—masked mockery.

I say take off the hoodie. This is not to be taken literally, but as a response to the marches done in memory of Trayvon Martin. Many across America, possibly some across the world, supported Trayvon Martin by wearing a hoodie or taking a picture with one. I am not arguing against this. I participated in his memory with deep sorrows for his family, friends, and country. I am bothered because of the reason why all us of wore hoodies. It is safe to say that our hearts wanted to convey, “I’m wearing a hoodie, are you going to shoot me too?” But there is something terribly wrong. We had intentions of mocking an alleged racist murderer, but did we accomplish anything by it? I understand that the hoodies were unifying pieces to a huge campaign against the injustice, but did we get a groundbreaking point across? Unfortunately, we did not completely.

Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative said in a TED talk that "[blacks’] identity is at risk" when referring to the overwhelming numbers of black inmates on death row. This is essentially the main cusp of what allows police brutality and backfires on racial justice. Our (America’s) job is to (constantly) re-level injustices against blacks (humanity)—to salvage our identity.

Trayvon’s Death Was One of America’s Many Moments to Shine

To allow Trayvon Martin, like Rodney King, to rest in peace, America needs to bring justice and judicial reform. Instead of focusing on race, Trayvon Martin’s case should be about making changes, such as the results from the injustice against Rodney King.

Rodney King changed Los Angeles; I think Trayvon Martin’s case has the potential bring about ways to mitigate the injustice in America. Our Constitution’s Preamble affirms, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice ...” America’s identity is at risk.


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Olivia Davis

Student '15 in Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Concentration: Labor Economics/ Minors: Law and Society, Inequality Studies/ Motto: Philippians 2:3-7 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Professional profile: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/olivia-davis/50/548/296/

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