November 8, 2013
Research Term Paper
Everyday in the world, there is an act of racism that occurs. Some, we become aware of via news and some remain hidden within society. Then, there are national cases that headline our morning news, Sunday newspapers, and broadcast on our radio stations for a couple weeks. One of these cases you could ask any American about and they will know as soon as you utter the boy’s first name, Treyvon Martin. This major racism case occurring a little under two years ago on February 26, 2102, revealed to many Americans in denial, that racism is still a major issue in the United States. Huffington Post writer Jesse Washington, tells readers, “...Trayvon Martin reveals to us the racial landscape of 2013.” In the long hall, this occurrence caused a chain reaction of new laws, reviews of present laws, and deeper research into our country’s past and involvement in racism.
In this case, a young boy aged 17, Trayvon Martin was walking home in his father’s neighborhood in Sanford, Flordia. He was unarmed and simply carrying a bag of skittles and a tea. George Zimmerman was on neighborhood watch when he called dispatchers about “a real suspicious guy.” Though police were on the way to analyze the situation, Zimmerman pursued and followed the young African American even after being warned by the dispatcher “Okay, we don’t need you to do that.” Dispatchers then received many calls from neighbors reporting that someone was yelling help and then there was a gunshot. The 911 calls are public from Zimmerman as well as the neighbors and in the calls, you can hear many screams of terror and then a gunshot. The background information to this case is vital to understand when considering if this is really an act of racism or not.
This case becomes very complex when there is so much background informations, history, and different elements to factor in. First, we look at George Zimmerman. Zimmerman is half Latino. His family is quick to point out that some of his relatives are even African American. With being a descendant of a heritage that receives much racism, how could he himself be a racist? His cultural understanding includes the fact that Mexican-American’s can be commonly discriminated against. This is a common question in the case for believers that this case isn’t about racism. More of Zimmerman’s history includes a run-in with the law in 2005 when he was arrested for shoving a cop. In applying the three types of communication to this case, George Zimmerman relied on Trayvon’s nonverbal behavior to classify him as suspicious. Did Zimmerman fear Trayvon? Did he think an unarmed 17-year-old could do much harm? Racism all comes back to fear. Fear of everything, so what was George Zimmerman afraid of? A look at experiences Zimmerman’s defenders report show that he was actually acquainted with African American’s. He had even mentored a young African boy at one time. However, the complexity of the case causes so many different perspectives to be brought forth. What about Trayvon made him come across suspicious with only a bag of skittles and tea in his hand. Was this a stereotype that Zimmerman made? Many people say that Trayvon was attacked because of his ethnicity. But, for every argument made, there are two counter arguments. Also, as we research his position as neighborhood watch, we find odd behavior that triggers many people of this country to be quick to call this an act of racism. Though he was dedicated to living up to his role as neighborhood watch, some say calling 911 a total of 46 times is a bit obsessive. Some also look at his most recent calls which report suspicion in the neighborhood, most of them being black, and tag him racist automatically. Overall however, no one can know for sure whether Zimmerman is truly a racist or not. It doesn’t matter how much evidence on either side of the argument there is. He is the only one who truly knows why he killed the young boy. I think many people want to find a reason as to why Trayvon was killed for a sense of closure in the case. Many people can be quick to blame the first suspect. However, this case is so complex that there is much more to this then just Zimmerman as the “racist” suspect. The next group people are blaming for being racist is the police department.
This murder occurred in the small town of Sanford, Flordia. The small police force of this town didn’t even had a homicide unit and only dealt with about three to four murders a year. Regardless, a police force should know what to do in any situation. However, this wasn’t the case here as the public began finding odd mistakes the Sanford Police Department was making. Because of the intensity of the case, many people were quick call these mishaps by the department racism. The public wondered if the police were making these mistakes to help Zimmerman walk as a free man. At the crime scene alone, many things were not taken care of professionally. The police department in charge of the crime scene did not make their door-to-door efforts very thorough. If they had, they would have discovered that Martin was a guest and not an intruder which would have made a point in the case. Another odd mistake made was that the police only took one photo of George Zimmerman’s injuries which was done so on a cell phone. Zimmerman’s car wasn’t even secured as evidence on the scene even though his car was hugely important in the case. Lastly, Zimmerman was not tested for drugs or alcohol that night. On the sight alone, we come across many questionable actions taken by the police department in a very important case. Many of these mistakes are a direct result of poor communication which caused the public to brand them as racist. If the police had communicated with the neighbors, George Zimmerman, and other police officers, a more thorough investigation would have been underway and less hate from the public eye. Because the severity of the case, it became national. With that, the police should have been very precise in ever way to ensure a thorough case and avoid any negative responses. As we see in the investigation, many things could have been done differently. This is what makes people question whether it was the fact that the police department didn’t value the life of Trayvon Martin enough to give him an opportunity for justice. Once the trial was over and George Zimmerman was not charged, the public outcried in calling the court system racist now. But, with the “Stand your ground” law applying in Flordia, Zimmerman was legally able to shoot. The legality of this comes from Zimmerman’s claims that Martin was a threat to him. The police do not have enough evidence to prove that Martin wasn’t a threat. Is this “stand your ground” law even necessary? It seems like it is a liable excuse to shoot someone and claim that they were a threat. However, the person who was apparently a “threat,” isn’t alive to justify for themselves. As we see here again, this is a lack of communication. If being dead, there is no communication for clarification. Racism in these case is a lack of one party not communicating.
When we look at Trayvon’s family and friends and wonder where they stand on this matter, there isn’t much question as to what the public assumes they think. Trayvon’s family think that Zimmerman should have been convicted and that the justice system is very wrong. “I want to cry because I feel like he should have been convicted but they didn’t convict him,” said family friend Rita Crawford. “I think the justice system is messed up,” said church member Fletcher Johnson. These two people along with a huge community of people around the nation express themselves publicly. Many people are confused and in awe of the jurisdiction. In order to understand where the racism comes from, we look to the people who believe that this act was a racist act and why they think it was. Many people blame the history of America. This deals with experiences and heritage. It deals with a sense of pride you have for your race. Because you are who you are, you stick to that and you defend it. Because of the history of America, African Americans can naturally be sensitive to any issue that could look as racism. They have come a long way to get out of the situation their ancestors had to deal with. They would like to believe that racism is completely over. In the case, such evidence lacks and public word lacks that many can believe it is racism. It could be. Referring back to the case, Eugene Robinson wrote: “Trayvon Martin was fighting more than George Zimmerman that night. He was up against prejudices as old as American history, and he never had a chance.” For Trayvon’s family and community, a lot of the ideas of this racism come from past experiences. Experiences can harm someone deeply. Though there is no direct evidence to say that this case is “racist,” many people feel the necessity to call it so to avoid any repeats of the past.
Dealing with racism as a whole, there is no way to end it. As long as people are alive, there will be opinions that people have. Rational or irrational, they will be there. What causes it is what stumps everyone. Many people use excuses. Many people have experiences with a single person that automatically puts down a whole race. Does that seem right? Every ethnicity receives some kind of stereotypes. A stereotype is a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing. Does a stereotype contribute to racism? It does. A stereotype creates racism. A stereotype is an idea that can lead to action which is know as racism. A stereotype creates a major generalization that starts from one person, and migrates to a whole population for no apparent reason. What creates stereotypes then? Stereotypes can be a result of when people do not have enough information to make a fair judgement on someone. Looking back at the Trayvon Martin case, this is exactly what George Zimmerman did when he first saw the young, teenage boy. Zimmerman did not know anything about him or even what he was doing. He automatically created a stereotype that he was suspicious because he didn’t know all the facts of what Trayvon really was about. If the case had been different, say Trayvon was dressed in a nice button up shirt instead of a hooded sweatshirt, would Zimmerman have thought differently of him? Or even say, Trayvon was white and in the same outfit, would this have changed his perspective? Stereotypes clearly lead to racism and this theory is backed by much evidence. Racism is caused by many other factors as well. Media is a huge contributor to the modern day racism. In books, movies, television, music, etc., people are fed information that they take in without questioning. In many movies, African American’s are portrayed as ghetto, violence-prone, and drug users. Many times they are associated with gangs even. With this image in mind, it is easy to make a simply generalization to hate or fear all the people of this ethnicity. This could have been what George Zimmerman did in his position. A common example to take into account is in rap music. In so many songs today, the N***** word is used. Because it is used so widely in music, people believe it is okay to use this in everyday talk. It has become a trend. However, they do not realize that this is offensive to many people. Another “normal” word that has a deep impact on many people is using gay to say something is in other words not cool. Gay is very offensive to many people whether they have different sexuality or not. Along this line, fagget has a dark background but is used in normal vocabulary today. This form of verbal communication contributes to racism today. Gary Grobman explains this as well in his article on stereotypes and prejudice. “Language, particularly slang, is often used to dehumanize members of certain groups of people, and this dehumanization is a precursor of discrimination, isolation, and violence,” he says. Another common fallacy is portraying attractive women as unintelligent. These pictures created by modern media largely contributes to what racism is today. When we take these thoughts and treat people differently because of them, it is then known as discrimination. Many times, discrimination takes place in the work force. Though it is unprofessional and even illegal, it still happens. All these occurrences can cause stereotypes, discrimination, and racism.
As I said before, many people deemed this case as racially involved because it was easy way to say why it happened. Whether it was or not, information was missing so many citizens took the shortcut and said that Zimmerman was racist along with the court system and Sanford Police Department. In cases like this where they become national, it’s hard to avoid any criticism. As you explore all the sides of racism you realize it happens everywhere and to everyone. So many times, the majorities such as white people receive stereotypes also for being racist. Sometime’s it becomes as if you have to watch everything you say or do because it could also be classified as discriminating. Just as minorities receive racism, majorities also receive racism and stereotypes. An obvious majority is of white ethnicity. I, myself being white, experience this everyday. Whether it’s a joke, firsthand account, or overhearing people’s comments, there is always something being said. Many people believe that racism affects only the minority groups, but they are oblivious to what is really happening. Some common misconceptions of white people are that they are rich, snotty, unfriendly, judgmental, and greedy. We are also classified as the people who are the racist ones, yet we receive the misleading stereotypes as well. A huge stereotype that I am faced with daily is the fact that I am blonde and therefore I am dumb. This misconception came from one of the causes I listed above, that being a movie. A couple of years ago, a club on the campus of UC Berkely held a “Diversity Bake Sale” where the pricing ranged based on your race. For the same cupcakes that Latinos received for one dollar and black’s received for $0.75, white’s were being charged two dollars. If this isn’t a sign of discrimination towards white people, then I don’t know what is. This club purposely set up the bake sale this way to show that dividing people is, in fact, racism. As we look into racism, it seems like a trend has started that minorities who receive racism, can blame an event against them as racism. Though racism is a very serious and hurtful thing, it has been going on in some form for so long that it’s almost normal. By this, I mean that previous actions that were not even questioned, are now immediately said to be discriminating. Referring to the Zimmerman case, I wonder if this is what people have been doing, using anything against Zimmerman to make it seem as if he were racist. “They weren’t held back because of racism,” Cain said. “People sometimes hold themselves back because they want to use racism as an excuse for them not being able to achieve what they want to achieve.” Herman Cain appeared on CNN, a national news channel, and had a whole headline on this issue. As I mentioned above, racism is about fear. Are some people who receive racism and discrimination, fearing failure? Was Trayvon’s family and people close with him, along with the community of people following the case who believe Zimmerman’s actions were based on race, fearing a nation that falls back into a state where our history once lied? Or, do they want to defend their race and will do anything to do so. The psychological part of this tragic case will never be discovered because they are the internal thoughts of each individual. Overall, everyone receives some form of stereotype. Some people or ethnicities receive more then others, but the reality is that it is out there.
Today, there are many actions our nation is taking to eliminate racism. Not only is our country doing this, but this is a worldly effort. Since the civil war even, actions have been made such as Jim Crow laws, allowing women and African’s to vote, and the abolishment of slavery itself. Today, the United States of America is the most diverse country. For what it is worth, the United States has done a lot to keep this country anti-discriminate. We have come so far based on our history. We know have the first African American president, running our country. To go from a black person barely even considered a person, to the head man in our country is a huge accomplishment. Much credit is due to the people of this country to be able to overcome as much discrimination as there once was. Now, with so many laws protecting everyone’s rights and giving everyone an equal opportunity racism has declined. In 1941, all ethnicities were given an equal opportunity at receiving jobs. This act was Executive Order 8802 and was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, with all the laws in the world, there is a law, amendment one of the constitution, that allows free speech. People will still think and speak how they want of another race. People will still have factors that make them think a certain way. The ability to put these feelings aside is what would make a huge difference in our society. However, the government cannot make a law to change the way a citizen thinks. With that, racism will always be apart of our lives.
The odd part about the way people discriminate is that it can even occur with in the same family or ethnicity. Though a family is supposed to always support each other, there have been many cases where a family may not accept a certain aspect of someone. For example, many times, families do not accept that they have a gay member of their family. Because of their beliefs, this is not considered right and is a sin within their family. Within the same culture even, people discriminate. This is a weird thing to take into account considering when you think of racism you think of separation, but because each individual can be so different, this difference can create racism even within the same ethnicity. This type of racism is know as intra-racial racism and is very common today. Many times, an “inferior” group looks down on possibly a less fortunate group. Amongst whites’ we hear the saying “white trash” to describe someone who is possibly poor and lives their life a certain way.
As we can see, throughout America alone, there is a widespread of hate between cultures and within cultured. Racism comes from deep within, whether it is fear, communication, excuses, experiences, or a variety of other reasons. No matter how hard a society works to stop this never ending epidemic, it will always be in our world’s, looming over our heads like a dark cloud. Throughout our lifetime’s, we will see similar cases such as the Trayvon Martin vs. George Zimmerman case. In America’s past, we have seen cases similar that have challenged the government on unjust racial discrimination. The journey to less racism is still underway with much progress being made. In the Trayvon Martin case, Zimmerman being found not guilty surprised many, but the law protected what George did. In the case, there is no hard evidence to say whether this case was based on race or not, or whether what Zimmerman actually did was based on race or not. Resulting from this case, more debate over gun laws and “stand your ground” laws have arose, but whether the debates will make a difference is the looming question. Also whether these laws being repealed will help seize racism is unlikely. The Trayvon Martin family hopes this case affects the way racism stands today.
Denton, Rodolfo. “Racism Against Whites vs. Minorities” Is it the Same Thing?” Are We Born Racist. Psychology Today 1 December 2011 Web. 11 November 2013 http:// www.psychologytoday.com/blog/are-we-born-racist/201112/racism-against- whites- vs-minorities-is-it-the-same-thing
Fredrickson, George. “The Historical Origins and Development of Racism.” Race- The Power of an Illusion. PBS.org 2003Web. 11 November 2013 http://www.pbs.org/race/ 000_About/002_04-background-02-01.htm
Grobman, Gary. “Stereotypes and Prejudices.” The Holocaust--A guide for Teachers. Remember.org 1990. Web. 11 November 2013 http://remember.org/guide/ History.root.stereotypes.html
Hamlin, Quame. “Racism Within Race.” Alumni Roundup. AlumniRoundup.org Web. 10 November 2013 http://www.alumniroundup.com/campuslife/racism-within-race/
Jiggs, Jillian “Intra-Racism vs. Inter-Racism in America.” Yahoo Voices. Yahoo.com 28 May 2007 Web. 10 November 2013 http://voices.yahoo.com/intra-racism-vs-inter- racism- america-349659.html
Kovaleski, Serge. “Trayvon Martin Case Shawdowed by a series of Police Missteps.” The New York Times. The New York Times 16 May 2012. Web. 10 November 2013 http:// www.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/us/trayvon-martin-case-shadowed-by-police- missteps.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0
“P.a.p-Blog/ Human Rights Etc.” Statistics on Racism. WordPress. Web. 11 November 2013 http://filipspagnoli.wordpress.com/stats-on-human-rights/statistics-on- xenophobiaimmigration-and-asylum/statistics-on-racism/
Port, Rob. “Herman Cain: Some Blacks Use Racism As An Excuse.” Say Anything Blog. SayAnythingBlog.com 9 October 2011 Web. 11 November 2013 http:// sayanythingblog.com/entry/herman-cain-some-blacks-use-racism-as-an-excuse/
“Racism and the Trayvon Martin case.” Wp Opinions. The Washington Post 18 July 2013. Web. 10 November 2013. http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-07-18/opinions/ 40653219_1_trayvon-martin-george-zimmerman-racism
"Racism Today." StudyMode.com. StudyMode.com, October 1999. Web. 11 November 2013. <http://www.studymode.com/essays/Racism-Today-17428.html>.
The Associated Press, Trayvon Martin case: “Despite outcry, stand-your-ground law repeals unlikely.” OregonLive. The Oregonian 21 July 2013 Web. 11 November 2013 http:// www.oregonlive.com/today/index.ssf/2013/07/ trayvon_martin_case_despite_ou.html
The Week Staff. “George Zimmerman: What we know about Trayvon Martin’s killer.” The Week. Theweek.com 28 March 2102 Web. 8 November 2013 http://theweek.com/ article/ index/226131/george-zimmerman-what-we-know-about-trayvon-martins-killer
“Trayvon Martin’s Family Speaks On Zimmerman Verdict.” Local. CBS Miami. 14 July 2013 Web. 11 November 2013 http://miami.cbslocal.com/2013/07/14/trayvon-martins- family- speaks-on-zimmerman-verdict/
Washington, Jesse. “In Trayvon Martin Case, History's Ghosts Linger.” Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 15 June 2013. Web. 8 November 213. http:// www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/15/trayvon-martin-case-racism-history- _n_3446646.html
Weinstein, Adam. “The Trayvon Martin Killing, Explained.” Mother Jones. The Foundation, 18 March 2012. Web. 8 November 2013. http://www.motherjones.com/ politics2012/03/what-happened-trayvon-martin-explained