BY JEN ROTH
Most of the talk of reproductive rights in mainstream politics and media in the United States revolves around not bearing children. Family planning advocates, ourselves included, argue for sex education and access to contraception to prevent unintended pregnancy. Pro-choice advocates argue for a right not to bear children who have been conceived.
What is too often neglected in the mainstream discourse is the right to have children, and to raise them safely and with dignity. One reproductive right that women of color do not have in this country is the right to raise their children free of the fear that their babies will be killed because they are "suspicious." (Please see blogs: http://arewomenhuman.me/2012/03/17/trayvon-martin/, http://irenesdaughters.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/justice-for-trayvon-martin/.)
Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old African American who was visiting family in Sanford, Florida. On February 26, during halftime of the NBA All-Star Game, he walked to a nearby store to get candy for his brother and a can of tea for himself. As he walked back to his father's home, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up against the rain, he was spotted by the (self-appointed, as far as I've been able to tell) Neighborhood Watch captain George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, 28, thought Trayvon looked "like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something. It's raining, and he's just walking around, looking about." He called 911, then told the dispatcher "these assholes, they always get away" and "he's running." Zimmerman left his SUV to chase Martin, despite being told by the 911 dispatcher that a squad car was on the way and he did not need to follow him. Neighbors reported hearing a fight, and cries for help. On one 911 tape, cries and a gunshot can be heard. When police arrived, Trayvon Martin was dead -- shot in the chest by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman claimed he had acted in self-defense. Sanford police accepted his explanation, saying that they had no probable cause to believe otherwise, despite the fact that Zimmerman shot an unarmed minor with whom he had needlessly initiated a confrontation.
Trayvon Martin had no history of violence or misbehavior, and had no drugs or alcohol in his system. George Zimmerman has a history of belligerent behavior, and was not tested for drugs or alcohol.
I think of how devastated I would be if this happened to my daughter. I also know that it wouldn't happen to my white daughter; she will never be found guilty of Walking While Black (see: http://www.sockitmama.com/2012/03/17/walking-while-black-a-mothers-worst-nightmare/). If she were killed while walking down the street on a simple errand, police would pursue and charge her killer. So while I stand in solidarity with Trayvon's parents, I also don't presume to really know what they're going through, or what all the parents of young men of color who fear that their sons might be next are going through.
Photo by David Shankbone; some rights reserved.
It's too late to help Trayvon Martin's family keep their son alive. Here's how you can help them with their demand for accountability for his death:
1. Sign their petition (see: http://www.change.org/petitions/prosecute-the-killer-of-our-son-17-year-old-trayvon-martin) asking the Florida State's Attorney to prosecute George Zimmerman. Or call the office of State's Attorney Wolfinger at (407) 665-6410.
2. Contact the Department of Justice to ask them to investigate the case and the reluctance of Sanford police to act.
3. Call Attorney Jasmine Rand at (850) 222-3333 to give to the family's legal fund.
4. Share this information. Follow @attorneycrump and @blacklaw18 and the #TrayvonMartin hashtag on Twitter, or "like" the Justice for Trayvon Martin page on Facebook. Or follow the blogs I've suggested here. Don't let the case fade away without so much as a charge.