The death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager shot by a leader of a neighborhood watch group, almost went down in history as another black youth fatally shot, with a killer never brought to justice.
But the heartbreaking details of the case – the 17-year-old Florida teenager was holding only a pack of skittles and a can of ice tea when he was killed by an assailant who has been identified as George Zimmerman but not yet arrested or charged – have brought national and international attention to the town about 20 miles north of Orlando.
Late Thursday afternoon, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee temporarily stepped down amid a growing investigation involving state and federal officials. Wednesday, the town council passed a non-confidence vote against the chief.
The fact that Martin’s mere presence as a young black man drew sufficient suspicion to result in his death is something many communities of color are familiar with, says Claudia Garcia-Rojas, a contributing writer for Gozamos and a social justice activist in Chicago.
Garcia-Rojas will be a guest on the Chicago Reporter’s Barbershop Show Friday to discuss Martin’s murder.
The anger around the case has opened a much-needed discussion about race in our society, says Garcia-Rojas, and it may even be a catalyst for a bigger movement focused on racial justice.
“People say racism is not an issue anymore,” said Garcia-Rojas, “but then you have a black kid walking in this neighborhood where he looks out of place,” and he ends up being shot. “This speaks to the argument that people of color continue to make – that racism still exists, and we don’t live in a post-racial society.”
“People are definitely talking. That’s a start, and that’s the biggest thing,” she continued. “We need to build a movement again that sort of speaks to racial issues, because we haven’t had that since the 1970’s, and that’s really necessary.”
Tune in to the The Barbershop Show – on Friday at 12pm, on Vocalo 89.5FM. Until then, leave your comments below or tweet them to us @chicagoreporter.