Trayvon Benjamin Martin
February 5, 1995 – February 26, 2012 (aged 17)
(image: dedicated to the public by Trayvon Martin’s family)
Today would mark the 27th birthday of Trayvon Martin.
Ten years after his death in February 2012, his story is still widely known. While walking back from a convenience store to his father’s fiancee’s house where he was staying, Trayvon Martin was followed, interrogated, confronted and shot to death by a “neighborhood watchman” (whose name I will not post here). The killer claimed the shooting was in self-defense, after Trayvon “attacked” him.
According to the local police chief a month after the shooting, the killer was not charged “because there were no grounds to disprove his version of the events.” This statement was false: Trayvon Martin was on his phone prior to and during the shooting, speaking with a girlfriend about the killer following and harassing him. Also, the killer had called the police about this “suspicious” Skittles muncher, and was unequivocally told not to approach him and that police would come investigate.
After nationwide outrage and protests ensued, a special prosecutor was appointed, and the shooter was charged with murder. After a jury trial in the summer of 2013, Trayvon Martin’s killer was acquitted of all charges.
Of course the (overwhelmingly white) media had a field day during all of this. Following its standard operating procedures for victim-blaming, much hay was made of the fact that at the time of his death, Trayvon Martin was on a 10-day suspension from school for possession of an empty baggie containing marijuana residue, and a pipe of the type typically used to smoke it. His prolific social media was pored over in order to highlight some aggressive rap lyrics he had posted, and anything else that could paint a picture of a violence-prone, criminal loser who was likely up to no good on the night he was shot and killed.
Except that Trayvon Martin was none of those things. Did you know that he had wanted and pursued a career in aviation?
Martin had wanted to fly or repair airplanes and in mid-2009, enrolled in “Experience Aviation”, a seven-week program in Opa-locka, Florida, run by award-winning aviator Barrington Irving…After Martin graduated from the program, he spent the next summer as a volunteer, helping out new students in the aviation program.
He began high school at Carol City High School in Miami Gardens, where he had academic academic classes in the mornings (his favorite subject was math) and spent the rest of the school day at George T. Baker Aviation School. He passed all of his classes.
For his junior year, his parents had him transferred to a “better” school, which is when his “behavioral problems” began…
If Trayvon Martin were a violence-prone, criminal loser, so then was my (white) niece, who went through a period at the same age as Trayvon of school troubles, excessive weed-smoking, and posting aggressive rap lyrics on her social media. Not even ten years later, she is now a hard-working, highly successful restaurant manager – and a kick-ass mother to a young, bi-racial child to boot. Hell, the same could be said for me at that age except there was no social media then, thank Vishnu. (And if there were, I would have been posting aggressive heavy metal lyrics.)
I doubt I need to point out that we were and are hardly alone in sharing this history with Trayvon Martin. In fact, I’d say that Trayvon Martin was an entirely normal, typical teenager with a Twitter account.
The difference is that nobody called the cops on us and reported us as “suspicious” for existing in public. And nobody has shot us to death either, nor (to my knowledge) ever even hinted that we were violence-prone, criminal losers who were almost certainly up to no good when we walked around eating Skittles. (Well, in my case, M&Ms.)
The same cannot be said about Trayvon Martin’s killer. Seven years before that tragic night, the killer had been:
arrested after allegedly assaulting an undercover police officer who was attempting to arrest a friend of his at a bar. The charges were dropped after [the killer] agreed to enter an alcohol education program. A month later in August, [the killer’s] former fiancé filed a restraining order against him, citing domestic violence as the cause.
No criminal charges were filed.
In 2013, [his] estranged wife called 911 to report that [the killer] had assaulted her father and was threatening her with a gun. [The killer] was not charged over the incident. In November of that same year, [he] was charged with felony aggravated assault after he allegedly pointed a shotgun at his girlfriend during a domestic violence incident. The case was later dropped. In January 2015, [the killer] was again charged with domestic assault after allegedly throwing a wine bottle at a different girlfriend. Again the charges were later dropped.
In other words, Trayvon’s killer is a violence-prone criminal loser. He has never been held accountable for any of it, and is now considered a goddamn hero in some gun-fetishist/right-wing circles.
I know, I know. I’ve been saying we would all shut up and listen, and then I went on one of my trademark thousand-word rants.
You know what I wish? I wish I could STFU and listen to Trayvon Martin, today on his 27th birthday, talk about his career in aviation. As some of you know, I have quite the sweet tooth for aviation myself. I imagine maybe we’d have crossed paths at a fuel stop in Florida, on my way to Costa Rica or something. I would ask him what he thinks of my new Cirrus Vision personal jet, with its airframe parachute and emergency autoland features.
But I can’t, because some violence-prone, criminal loser robbed Trayvon Martin, his family and friends, and the world of his life, his presence, and his promising future. And I am so, so deeply sorry. And sad. And angry. I will not forget him for as long as I live.
Trayvon Martin, rest in power.
Day 1 of Black History Month 2022 (Lori Teresa Yearwood) is here.
Day 2 of Black History Month 2022 (Mallence Bart-Williams) is here.
Day 3 of Black History Month 2022 (Emmett Till) is here.
Day 4 of Black History Month 2022 (A Tale of Two Citizens) is here.