Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, Black Friends & White Privilege

It’s been one month since George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in his father’s gated, Sanford, Fl., community and the police let the kinda/sorta Neighborhood Watch captain with an itchy trigger finger go home without being arrested or charged—hell, without even having to hand over his murder weapon for a basic investigation. And while the nation—including President Obama—demands justice for Trayvon, his family and all American parents who lose children to a biased system that drags its feet in investigating and meting out justice and allowing people to get away, literally, with murder, Zimmerman’s lawyer and best black friend are trotting themselves out to say that Zimmerman isn’t a racist.

As my friend Asha Bandele said this morning, “Whew! Glad that’s resolved.”

Note the sarcasm, sweet and sticky, dripping like warm ice cream on a hot summer’s day. I couldn’t agree more with Asha’s sentiment; whether Zimmerman has black friends and is part Hispanic is not the issue here. [Note: Um, are we really so simple that we’d assume Hispanics can’t be racist because they, too, are a minority in America? Ask a dark-skinned Dominican or Cuban or Colombian or any other Afro-Latino with Africa running through their hair and skin tone whether there’s truth to this and then come on back and tell me all about that conversation.] The issue is when will Zimmerman be arrested and prosecuted? And when will the Sanford, Fl., cops who failed miserably in their “investigation” into the shooting death of Trayvon, be fired for absolutely sucking at their job? And when will our country talk not just about racism but also privilege?


The kind that allows you to dial 911 over 40-something times to report “suspicious” people in your neighborhood without someone saying, “dude, chill—it’s just black boys. They don’t and won’t bite you. Or shoot you and get away with it.”

The kind that encourages legislators to think, yes, it’s an absolutely awesome idea to allow people to walk around with guns, shoot at will, holler, “Stand Your Ground Law! Self Defense!” when they screw up and shoot the crap out of someone who shouldn’t have been shot, and then get away with it.

The kind that allows white boys and men to walk the streets in hoodies without anyone thinking, yup, he’s going to rob the crap out of me, while black boys in the same exact outfit get told by Geraldo Rivera that if they wear hoodies and sagging pants, they have no one to blame but themselves it someone murders them in cold blood for looking “suspicious.” [Check out the brilliant Melissa Harris-Perry’s take on Geraldo’s dress codes for young black and Latino males in the video below.]

The kind that allows you to be a 250-lb, grown ass man with a gun, who can disobey a direct order from police not to chase “suspects,” run after, pick a fight with and shoot a 140-lb teenager just 70 feet from his home while calling out racial epithets, claim self-defense when the cops get on the scene, and then go home with the murder weapon and the clothes you were wearing at the scene of the crime without detectives testing you to see if you were drunk or high when you shot a boy carrying a pack of Skittles in his pocket or without cops doing a thorough investigation.

The kind of privilege that Trayvon Martin clearly did not have, seeing as he was considered a suspect for being a black boy walking with his hood up in the rain. And seeing as his body lay in the morgue with a “John Doe” tag while his cell phone buzzed with calls from his worried parents, who were unaware that their child was dead because the cops didn’t bother trying to figure out who their child was. Because when you are privileged, dead 17-year-olds are recognized as someone’s child. People try to figure out their names and why they may have been killed, beyond a cursory, conversation with their killer at the murder scene. People recognize the privileged as… human.

Trayvon Martin was somebody’s child. Trayvon Martin was somebody’s brother. Trayvon Martin was 17-years-old with a long life in front of him. Trayvon Martin was… human. And this 17-year-old human deserves justice. And peace. Arrest and prosecute George Zimmerman now. No justice. No peace.

The Malik Fraternity, Inc., is organizing the 1,000 Campus Vigil For Trayvon, a candlelight vigil across campuses nationwide for students who want to “take a stand against discrimination, bigotry, violence and injustice” and “protest the cruel and heartless acts of those who prey on the innocent.” This, the group adds, “is not a color thing. This is a human thing. We must unite across America, across racial, religious, gender and cultural barriers and support the right to live in peace.” The vigil will take place on April 4 at 8:02 p.m. For more information and details on how to participate in this vigil on college campuses across America, check out the Malik Fraternity’s open FaceBook group here.


1. Teenager Killed in Florida by Neighborhood Watch Brings Terror To My Heart
2. The Nation Is Watching: the Killer of Trayvon Martin MUST Be Arrested (UPDATE)
3. 911 Tapes In The Trayvon Martin Killing Reveal He Begged For Help; Zimmerman Shot Twice (UPDATE)
4. Another Black Boy, Another Senseless Murder When Will It Stop?

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Terrific blog – have read many about this issue but this is a really awesome one.

  2. So true, it angers me to no end when people try to justify this killing. The reason why the majority of people are outraged is because this could happen to anyone. I don’t know if Zimmerman is a racist, but he clearly was a law enforcement wanna be, who thought that he had the power to identify a person that he thought was a threat to his community.

  3. People, open your eyes. When the hip hop movement was ushered in, the music was about the beats. It just couldn’t stop there. So the newer generation of hip hop/rap “artists”(i use that term very loosely), portray themselves as ghetto street hardened thugs. Whether they are or not is irrelevant. It’s the image that is beamed straight into the head of young men all over the place. Race isn’t the issue. It’s the image you portray about yourself. If you make yourself look like a thug, how can you expect anyone else to see you as anything different? You’re asking people to ignore their instincts. You’re also saying I wanna look like a thug, but I wanna be taken seriously as a member of society. You don’t get your cake and eat it too. Forget about the race issue. Eliminate the glorification of ghetto lifestyle and image and reinforce becoming a responsible member of society. Stop making thugs and criminals(or at least wanna be criminals) heroes to young people and then you can eliminate the stereotype. Until then, you can’t portray a thug and ask me to take you serious. You also can’t ask me to drop my guard if I’m in Zimmerman’s situation. Look like a thug, expect to get treated like one. If you don’t want to be treated like one, respect yourself enough to not look like a criminal.

    • This comment has no merit. Just because white men are coward scaredy cats, doesn’t give them the right to pull the trigger at anybody they see wearing a hoody in the rain. How scary?? He was wearing a hoody in the rain, so pathetic. These killings happen because to white men, they have a valid fear, and also because they know they can get away with it. They have been doing this for years. Would you say the same for these Goth dressing people?? These emo/emu people?? These Marylin Manson looking teens you see killing their parents on tv?? Dressing up like a satanist scares me. But apparently thin, underage, unarmed black teens scare grown white men, which is pathetic.

  4. What a great synopsis. I listen and view reports on the non-progressive state of affairs and I almost think that there must be something I’m missing.

    In my head the consequences of murder/ homicide (no matter what the justification) should be clear in order to both be a deterrent; to administer justice and to ensure closure for society and the loved ones left behind.

    Seriously America, what are you doing? Across the pond here in London my admiration is heavily saturated in disappointment.

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