The Meaning of Trayvon Martin

[SubDisp Exclusive]

It took more than two weeks before the national media said a word about it. The police tested for drugs, but not on Zimmerman – on Trayvon’s body. And the only thing the shooter knew about Trayvon was revealed in these words: “I think he’s Black.”

Racism is alive and well. And to think the media was crowing about a “post-racial” America when Obama was elected. No one can honestly doubt that had it been Trayvon who shot and killed Zimmerman, Trayvon would have been arrested immediately – it would’ve been as if the so-called “Stand Your Ground” law didn’t exist.

Despite the daily police abuse and violence committed against Black men across the country, cases like these rarely get any mention in the U.S. mainstream media. But every time they do somehow make headlines, the national conversation shifts to talk about the racism that runs through the criminal justice system in this country – from the cops to the courts to the prisons.

Every time the media and politicians pay some sort of fleeting lip service to these injustices and say something needs to be done about this problem.

And every time, after a few days or weeks, when the story no longer fits into the corporate news cycle, the conversation ends and anti-Black and anti-Brown racism in law enforcement, prosecutions and imprisonment continues unabated. And this is to say nothing of the anti-Black racism that systematically pervades other areas of social life, like education and housing, which ultimately feed more lives into the largest prison population in the world – a caged population that calls the U.S. its home.

We can only hope that this time, with Trayvon, it will be different.

Actually, we must do more than hope. We have to fight back and organize for the long haul.

There is simply no other way to break this system, a system that is racist and rotten at its core.

As Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, wrote:

Is this 1962 or 2012? The fact that the Justice Department has to step in and investigate a vigilante killing of a Black teenager – because the local authorities refuse to arrest the killer – is more than a little reminiscent of an era we supposedly left behind. People have been asking me … “what can I do besides sign online petitions?” There’s a whole lot people can do. We’ve got to get serious about consciousness-raising and organizing in our communities. We’ve got to move beyond these bursts of outrage in response to travesties of justice (think Troy Davis, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, and Trayvon Martin) and awaken to the reality that Jim Crow justice is alive and well. These aren’t isolated, disconnected events. Use this tragedy to start a broader conversation in your school, your place of worship, your workplace, or your community center, about what is necessary to end this new Jim Crow system – a system that our nation keeps pretending doesn’t really exist. Honor Trayvon’s memory by challenging yourself to do more – to make a real commitment to join or begin a movement for justice right where you are, wherever you are. Outrage is not enough.



About SubterraneanDispatcher

Brian Tierney is a longtime socialist activist who works as a communications specialist for a labor union in Washington, DC. After completing his undergraduate studies in International Affairs and Latin America Studies, he has been working in the labor movement and writing reports and analyses on various struggles for social and economic justice. In addition to reporting on protests in the DC area, he also writes about union struggles, immigrant rights, the fight to defend public education, and struggles of the poor and working class in general. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The Nation, The Progressive, Common Dreams, CounterPunch, Socialist Worker and The Neoprogressive. Brian can be reached via email at

Posted on March 23, 2012, in Criminal (In)Justice, Racism, SubDisp Exclusive, U.S. Politics. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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