Tallahassee criminal defense attorney Mutyaqee Akbar (L) hands a letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) in regards to the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was killed by a neighborhood watch person, at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida. The Justice Department and the FBI opened an investigation into the death of the black teenager, and the local state attorney announced that he had asked a grand jury to investigate, March 2012. Credit: Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images
Was unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin shot and killed because he is black? That’s what protesters contend, after no arrest or charges were brought against 28-year-old George Zimmerman, the licensed gun owner who shot and killed the unarmed teenager in Sanford, Florida on February 26.
Zimmerman claimed self-defense and Sanford police, who have completed their investigation of the incident and handed the case over to the state attorney, say they have no grounds to arrest Zimmerman because probable cause has not been established. Meanwhile, public protests demanding Zimmerman’s arrest have grown larger and louder, but mainstream media didn’t pick up on the controversy until nearly a month after the shooting.
Protesters claim Zimmerman was not defending himself, but in fact racially profiled and targeted Martin. Zimmerman’s father disagrees, disputing the racial allegations in a statement that his son is not white but Hispanic and therefore “would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever.”
What consideration, if any, should be given to Zimmerman’s ethnicity? What is “white” and what anti-black sentiments exist among other ethnic groups? Why did it take so long for mainstream media organizations to give attention to this story?
Benjamin Jealous, president, CEO, NAACP
Eric Deggans, media critic, Tampa Bay Times
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