The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Vigil commemorates Trayvon Martin, debate continues

Silence and a tranquil rain marked the April 4 vigil for Trayvon Martin as the college participated in the “1,000 Campus Vigil” in solidarity and support for Martin and his family.

“I had so much emotion in me each day,” said senior Nina Frazier, organizer of the vigil. “With every new development and breaking news story my blood was boiling. I needed to find something positive to do with that negative energy.”

Frazier continued, “I decided to do the vigil because it was bringing people together to show unity in peace across the United States. … With all of the rallies and protests sometimes we forget to take a moment to reflect on situations.”

It all began when Martin, a 17-year-old African American, walked from a convenience store in Sanford, Fla. carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. George Zimmerman followed him and shot him.

Zimmerman, the shooter, is a white Hispanic neighborhood crime watch volunteer. He has recently been charged with second degree murder.

According to The New York Times, Florida’s “law grants immunity to people who act to protect themselves if they have a reasonable fear they will be killed or seriously injured.

“A law like (‘Stand Your Ground’) really makes it open season for people to simply shoot,” said James Shields, director of community learning. “It wouldn’t be such a bad law if there weren’t stereotypes. The unfortunate thing is that stereotypes are easy, but what this situation tells us is that they can be very dangerous.”

Shields continued, “We have a similar law in North Carolina. Whether or not you agree with (it), the reality is that somebody voted for these laws. For some, this incident evokes memories of the civil rights movement.

“The difference between now and then is during the movement, blacks were not seen as a group of people with rights,” said junior Alvita Mayo, Sister 2 Sister chair. “So when they were mistreated, yeah it was wrong, but it was normal, expected. Today, blacks are supposed to have rights and be seen as equal, not supposed to still continually be seen as the inferior race.”

Despite the laws, many people blame this situation on racism that has continued in the U.S. since slavery.

“Even in 2012 with the first black president in the White House, which is obviously a sign of progress, there are still very deep-seated stereotypes, prejudices and biases — particularly those directed at black males which endanger their lives.,” said Jorge Zeballos, Latino community program coordinator.

Zeballos continued, “There is a deep-seated fear of the black man in this country that has not been addressed or acknowledged. It probably goes all the way back to the narrative that developed around the black male regarding slavery. The black male was framed as someone to be feared, and that has not gone away yet.”

Some blame the media portrayals of African Americans in today’s society for attitudes that led to Trayvon Martin’s death and the controversy around the decision whether or not to arrest George Zimmerman.

“I think it goes further than fear,” said Jada Drew, Africana community coordinator. “It is also hatred that drives racism for black males in the U.S. If you cut on a television and you count how many times you see a black man, more than likely they won’t be portrayed in a positive light.”

Drew continued, “Black males are not portrayed as doctors, lawyers, family members, and productive members of their community. They are portrayed as rappers, thugs and baby daddies. That is the tape that is played over and over again.”

Ramah Russell, an organizer of Guilford’s vigil, is passionate about the case.

“I feel that when Zimmerman basically was indicating that Trayvon did not belong in that housing, it reverted back to the Jim Crow days when blacks were not allowed in white neighborhoods unless they were working there or, if they were seen there at any time, they would be harassed about it,” said Russell in an email interview.

Russell continued, “I want Americans to stop with all the racial stereotypes and accept that black males can actually succeed and have a promising future for theirselves. I also would like for all minorities to actually be treated as fair individuals.”

The widespread reactions to Martin’s death may have a positive outcome.

“I see a lot of events that are being talked about along with this Trayvon Martin murder,” said Zeballos. “Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups are starting to support this case. It may be a chance to expand the civil rights movement in a way that it has not before.”

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