Tracy Martin, Jahvaris Fulton, and Sybrina Fulton, the family of slain teenager Trayvon Martin. (photo by Benjamin Myers/Reuters)
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey’s announcement April 11 that George Zimmerman had been arrested on charges of second-degree murder for the shooting of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012, brought some sense of relief to Martin’s family but has not quelled the concern of many that Martin’s death represents only one incident within a pervasive pattern.
Appearing on the NBC’s Today Show Thursday, Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, expressed her belief that the shooting was an “accident” resulting from circumstances that “got out of control.” She later clarified her statement on MSNBC by pointing out that, “The 'accident' I was referring to was the fact that George Zimmerman and my son ever crossed paths. .. My son was profiled, followed and murdered by George Zimmerman, and there was nothing accidental about that.”
Tracy Martin, the teen’s father, in response to a question from Gayle King on CBS This Morning, expressed relief knowing Zimmerman was now in custody and “wouldn’t be able to take another seventeen-year-old’s life.”
Both parents throughout the struggle to see Zimmerman arrested have maintained they are less interested in the racial aspects of the case than they are in the issue of “right and wrong.” While various observers have respectfully supported their stated position, some contend that the issues are not necessarily separate.
In fact, the concern that Martin’s death could be part of a larger pattern has some foundation in a number of factors, conditions, and developments (please see part 2 of this story). One major question of the moment is how many more Trayvon Martins are there whose deaths did not become the subjects of powerful media campaigns and whose killers remain poised to strike again?
The first time I saw Trayvon Martin’s face on the 6 o’clock evening news, my eyes went from the television screen to the photograph of my deceased brother, Robert Lee, sitting on the mantelpiece. A few weeks prior to seeing Trayvon’s image, I had shown the photograph to a new acquaintance from Jamaica and explained how Robert Lee had reportedly been killed at the age of fifteen when a policeman shot him in the back because he had left the house to hang out with friends who had surprised him by breaking into a closed laundromat in Savannah, Georgia.
To my own surprise, my new acquaintance said, “Yeah mon, I got a cousin that happen to. We all got a story like that.” I have yet to determine whether I was more stunned by his casual observation that “We all got a story like that” or by the unforgivably obscene accuracy of the words.
The news of what happened to Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, reminded me that any definitive truth of what happened to my brother had never been determined. His and Martin’s complexions were close to the same and they had similarly brilliant innocent smiles that were wholly clueless about the bullets in their future. I have never known anything about the policeman said to have shot Robert Lee, nor anything about any legal consequences resulting from the incident. What I have is his photograph and memories of the grief with which our mother lived until her own death in 2006.
I grew up hearing repeatedly that Robert Lee had been shot, in the early 1960s, because he was tall for his age (a family trait actually) and from a distance easily mistaken for an adult. After police responded to calls about the break-in at the laundromat, he ran along with the others, the policeman aimed his gun, and fired. The story also goes that prior to going out with his friends, he had been busy washing dishes. It had not been his plan that evening to look for trouble or entice it to find him.
Please click here to read: Trayvon Martin, Robert Lee, and millions of tears fallen Part 2 of 3
© April 2012
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