Racial Injustice

Racial Injustice

Portland JACL Newsletter: August 2013 Issue
(click here for this issue)

Vice-President’s Message by Kirk Tambara
Portland JACL, Trayvon Martin

On the cold rainy evening of February 26th, 2012 a 17 year old boy named Trayvon Martin while walking back to his father’s fiancée’s house was shot to death after a confrontation which appeared to be the result of racial profiling. Since that time the family of the victim, the community of Sanford, as well as the rest of the nation have waited to see how a jury of his peers would decide the fate of the accused, George Zimmerman.

On Saturday July 20th, 2013 the six jurors entered a verdict of not guilty thereby agreeing that Mr. Zimmerman may have been justified in shooting Trayvon Martin because he feared great bodily harm or death.

Whether or not we agree with the outcome of this trial, racial profiling in some part led to a rash of bad decisions that culminated in the senseless death of a teenager.

Portland JACL, Trayvon Martin

Racial profiling consists of targeting individuals due to their ethnic background instead of their actions. Whether it is a Sherriff in Arizona stopping a Hispanic driver under the guise of a routine traffic stop to determine if his papers are in order, a TSA officer targeting a passenger of Middle Eastern descent for additional screening at an airport security checkpoint to see if he is a terrorist, or a Police Officer’s search for drugs in the car of an African American during a minor traffic violation, abuses of power towards people of color continue to pervade our society.

Now in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin case, we find ourselves questioning what we as concerned citizens can do to prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future. It starts with taking time to become aware of our own feelings towards others and working to overcome stereotypes and biases that have been handed down throughout the generations. To paraphrase what Dr. King famously said, we should all strive to not to judge people by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Even though we may not have the all of the answers, perhaps we should take the time to raise our voices to speak out against negative policies like racial profiling by law enforcement or any policy which bases its merits solely upon race, gender, or sexual identity.

While the verdict is no longer out on the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman, I think most of us would agree that had Trayvon Martin been a white male in a business suit instead of a young African American in a hoodie and sneakers that he would still be alive today.

Unfortunately, it is too late to prevent the death of Trayvon Martin, but maybe we can try to stop violations to our civil rights from happening in the future by taking action now.


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