According to Jordan Miles, on January 12, 2010, three white, plainclothes Pittsburgh police officers jumped out of an unmarked car, ran him down, and beat him. The high school student said he had no idea the men chasing him were law enforcement officers, and the police, who thought Miles was carrying a concealed weapon, later cited nothing more dangerous than a bottle of Mountain Dew at the scene. In a photo taken the next day, the bloodied, swollen right side of the teen’s face bears little resemblance to the left.
On February 2, 2012, members of a New York Police Department narcotics unit observed 18-year-old Ramarley Graham walking out of a Bronx bodega. Suspicious of the way he moved his hand near his waist, officers entered the apartment building where Graham lived, kicked down his front door, chased him into the bathroom, and killed him. In the toilet lay a bag of marijuana but no gun.
Three-and-a-half weeks later, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida told police he shot an unarmed 17-year-old in self defense.
Race, many fear, was the leading factor in all three incidents, and today each victim awaits justice. But you’ve probably only heard of one of them. As outrage over what happened to Trayvon Martin one awful Sunday night spreads around the country, it’s worth considering why this case is drawing attention to the dangers of being young, black, and male and giving some thought to what should happen next.
Here’s what we know.
During halftime of the NBA All-Star Game, Martin walked to a 7-Eleven. As he made his way back through a gated community, George Zimmerman, a resident in a neighborhood concerned about a rash of burglaries, trailed Martin, called 911, then approached the boy against the admonishment of the emergency dispatcher. Zimmerman, 12 years older and, by many accounts, heavier than Martin, had a gun. Martin did not. Many people remain incredulous that an arrest has not been made.
It took weeks of stories, but local reporters and black journalists elsewhere spurred national interest in the case before social media helped turn the demand for justice into what could now be called a movement. In rallies around the country, people have donned hoodies, much like the one Martin wore when he was killed, as a sign of support. The U.S Department of Justice is reviewing the case, President Obama expressed his concerns about the shooting, and as of this writing more than two million people have signed an online petition demanding Zimmerman’s prosecution.
In 2009 alone, more than 1,200 black teenagers died of gun violence. This is not the typical response.
Read More →