Union students weigh in on racial tension

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By Thomas Scott

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[/media-credit]Throughout March, the nation and world were shocked by what appears to be the slaying of an unarmed black teen in a town near Orlando, Florida.

On Feb. 26, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed after an alleged altercation with neighborhood crime watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman, who is half Caucasian and half Hispanic, has yet to be arrested due in part to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which stipulates that individuals may react with deadly force if faced with clear and present danger.

The night of his death, Martin was returning to the home of a relative in the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community after venturing out to a convenience store.

He was clothed in a hoodie and toting Skittles and iced tea.

The following day, on Feb. 27, the police released Zimmerman’s identity, which started an intense national debate about racial profiling.

At Union, students from all walks of life have reacted to the shooting. “I think [the shooting] was basically a hate crime,” said Dae Kwang Lee ‘15.

“I was…extremely appalled that things like this still happen. We live in the 21st century and there are still [racially-based] killings going on, that’s…embarrassing for our country,” asserted Rachel Refkin ‘15.

These sentiments are shared by several individuals and groups like Reverend Al Sharpton and the NAACP.

The former arrived in Sanford on the March 22 to meet and demonstrate with Martin’s family.

On March 31, Sharpton  and NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous led over a thousand demonstrators from one of Sanford’s historically black neighborhoods to city hall.

On March 23, President Obama addressed the case, noting “If [he] had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Priscilla Harris ‘13 asserted that she believed “[the president’s] words were…true to the heart.”

When asked about Obama’s comment, Political Science Lecturer Tom Lobe responded that “[The President] put [his statement] in the context of a parent…if he had a son, he’d probably wear a hoodie.”

Lobe’s observation relates to comments made by author and talk show host Geraldo Rivera urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters “to not let their children go out wearing hoodies.”

Responses to Rivera’s bizarre yet incendiary comments further contribute to discourse about racial profiling. Said Harris, “Black people have been afraid of white people in hoods” far longer than people have been afraid of “black people in [hoodies].”

On March 24, the New Black Panther Party issued a $10,000 reward for Zimmerman’s capture, resulting in concerns that perhaps vigilantism is not the best response to Martin’s death. Acording to Shaniqua Rogers ‘12, however, “The legal system in America is not doing [its] job…[Zimmerman] needs to be in jail.” Zimmerman has since gone into hiding out of fear for his life and still has yet to be taken into custody.

Martin’s family is heading to Washington D.C. this week to take part in a congressional hearing regarding hate crimes and civil rights laws.

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