Race matters. It is hard to see the events that have unfolded in Sanford, Florida, and not conclude that in this country, race still matters.
Race has become fodder in partisan political arenas, content for contentious bloggers, and sometimes, as in the case of Trayvon Martin’s shooting, race becomes a matter of life and death.
George Zimmerman’s actions on the day Travyon Martin was shot are still under investigation, but the facts of the case as reported touch on issues that have long been of concern to the Amnesty movement: a young man who is suspect not for what he did, but for how he looks; the automatic assumption that violence against a black man is probably justified; and gun laws – or more appropriately, the failure to adopt rational gun laws – that allow citizens to take fewer precautions than even the police.
The U.S. has ratified a number of human rights treaties, including most notably, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. These treaties enshrine the right to life and security of person, the right to be free from discrimination, the right to equal treatment before the law, and the right to effective protection and remedies from racial discrimination.
How then, can it be that a country with a long history of championing these treaties is still struggling with cases like Travyon Martin’s? From Troy Davis, to the Jena Six, to Trayvon Martin, communities of color across the South and throughout the United States continue to grapple with the prevalent impact of racism.
We commend both the state attorney in Seminole County and the Department of Justice for opening investigations and taking the steps to uncover the truth about Trayvon Martin’s case. Now it’s on all of us to stand up and make the changes – in our attitudes, in our conduct, in our institutions, and in our laws – to ensure that there are no more cases like Trayvon Martin’s.