Forum

Trayvon Martin case shows social stigmas have yet to disappear

Trayvon Martin case shows social stigmas have yet to disappear (credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Editor) Trayvon Martin case shows social stigmas have yet to disappear (credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Editor)
Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Many people know about Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old boy who was shot and killed in Florida by a neighborhood guard named George Zimmerman on Feb. 26. Zimmerman chased down Martin, who had nothing on him but a bag of Skittles and an iced tea, and killed him after the boy allegedly begged for his life. Zimmerman wasn’t arrested because he claims that he felt threatened, which allowed him to use excessive force to defend himself under Florida’s stand-your-ground law.

This tragedy has sparked a reaction to the injustice done to a boy whose only crime seemed to be wearing a hoodie and being African-American.

Although it is encouraging that many people are outraged by the injustice, the incident raises a deeper issue that cannot be overlooked. This shooting was a hate crime, not a misunderstanding.

It was not because of what Martin was wearing. It was because he fit a certain profile that society identifies as menacing.

According to reports, Martin was not sporting any gang tattoos, flags, or showing any signs of being a menace. He was wearing a hoodie — the same kind of hoodie many people buy from the Carnegie Mellon bookstore. The only other physical factor that could have set off an alarm in Zimmerman’s mind was the boy’s race. Sadly, he fit the racial profile that many people associate with crime and other negative actions.

Many people agree that this was an act of racism. The fact that racism is still prominent to such an extent is a challenging issue, but there is a far more complex problem at hand.

The internal issue behind this tragedy is that our society has become blind to many forms of racism. Just because segregation is now illegal does not mean that social stigmas have disappeared. Yet many people claim that racism is no longer an issue in our country.

Because of this, racism has been allowed to root itself in our society through people’s mindset toward minorities. Contempt toward another race does not have to manifest itself in the form of killing, as it did in the case of Martin. The negative beliefs that people harbor about African-Americans and other minorities are apparent in the way people behave and talk.

I came across something very disconcerting shortly after the Martin incident. There were some angry and racist remarks on Twitter due to the fact that one of the main characters in the movie The Hunger Games was a black girl. These harmful comments show something very disappointing about the beliefs being passed on to youths about race.

These comments suggest that the character was somehow inferior to their expectations because of her race. This subtle kind of racism is damaging to the image of minorities and has been allowed to hide for too long under the guise of jokes and words such as “Not to be racist, but....”

This is the kind of mindset that led to Martin’s death. The fact that something like this still happens shows how stereotypes are dangerously potent. Zimmerman saw Martin as inferior because of his appearance. He did not think that Martin’s life was valuable, so he shot him on the spot without reasonable cause.

America cannot let Martin’s death fade away. It was not self-defense; Martin was not going to beat Zimmerman to death with his bag of Skittles.

The fact that Zimmerman was not immediately arrested is a slap in the face to minorities in America. If there is any justice in America, this man will be punished for what he did and because of his bigotry.

An incident like this gives our youth a chance to uproot racism and fight back against hatred, a chance to create a better and more united America for posterity.