Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Just Us in Davis: We are all Trayvon Martin


From page A10 | March 25, 2012 |

We are all Trayvon Martin. This chant resonates with the global call of the Occupy movement: We are the 99 percent.

But, how can I be Trayvon Martin? I am not an unarmed black 17-year-old child shot dead in Florida last month by a neighborhood watch vigilante. I can walk through my neighborhood and not be challenged for being out of place.

In my hand, iced tea and Skittles (the suspicious package carried by Trayvon Martin) are not likely to be mistaken for a gun. While my white, male and professorial body would not stop a bullet, it likely would protect me from being targeted by a trigger-happy wannabe hero.

Likewise, I am not Amadou Diallo. I am not Oscar Grant. I am not Emmett Till. I am not any of these young black men killed for no good reason beyond that they were young black men seen through a lens that framed them as dangerous, and thus legitimate targets of violence.

But, I am Trayvon Martin, and so are you.

Her voice cracking with grief, but also crackling with rage, Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, brought this truth home by declaring, “Our son is your son!”

At an earlier event, Benjamin Jealous, the national president of the NAACP, described the toll taken from trying to keep his boys from being the next statistic.

“I stand here as a son, father, uncle who is tired of being scared for our boys,” Jealous said. “I’m tired of telling our young men how they can’t dress, where they can’t go and how they can’t behave.”

Whether we bear physical or emotional scars (or both), we are all marked by living in a society where the challenge “What are you doing here?” — the response apparently made by George Zimmerman to Trayvon’s question, “Why are you following me?” — can come loaded with life-or-death consequences.

Zimmerman’s challenge to Martin’s presence in this gated community speaks volumes about the marginalization of youth of color in our society, where crossing from the wrong to the “right” side of the tracks can still, in 2012, be a killing offense. The fact that Zimmerman has been identified as Latino complicates, but does not lessen, the racial dimension of the episode.

The name of the Florida law that is shielding the alleged shooter Zimmerman is called, ironically, “Stand Your Ground,” and allows residents to use lethal force against an attacker if they believe their life is threatened. Coupled with Florida’s permissive policy on concealed firearms, Stand Your Ground is a formula for tragedies such as this one.

Likewise, the refusal of local law enforcement to even file criminal charges against Zimmerman communicates how much weight is given to Zimmerman’s presumed innocence relative to Trayvon’s innocent life.

It is worth asking whose “ground” does this law stand for, and against whom? While I may not have asked for it, such phrases privilege people like me to stand my ground and protect it from people like Trayvon Martin, whose race, class, and age position him beyond the pale and therefore vulnerable to symbolic and physical violence.

The ground that Trayvon covered that night was not that different from my own: a suburban neighborhood where black children walking at night are suspect, even if they only carrying sugary snacks to their father’s house to watch the NBA All-Star game on television.

As has been observed in this column before, by Jann Murray-García and myself, Davis is not immune to this syndrome where walking, biking, driving, shopping (etc.) while black or brown can lead to what can politely be called special attention from law enforcement. Fortunately, this has not resulted in any deaths in Davis. Not yet.

Unfortunately, in Sanford, Fla., that night, this gated community was protected by a gun-wielding neighborhood watchman who pursued Trayvon in his truck, even as police on the 911 call advised Zimmerman to stand down. This ground is now hallowed by Trayvon Martin’s innocent blood.

In the weeks following the shooting, a “One Million Hoodies for Trayvon Martin” campaign has been launched across the country, referring to the hooded sweatshirt favored by Martin (and millions of other young people of all colors, including my son) that served to arouse Zimmerman’s suspicion. Turning this badge of shame into a badge of courage, people of all ages and stations in life are declaring solidarity with those whose profile earns them harassment, not profit.

In a time of social unrest arising from the radical economic and political systems of inequality that richly reward the elite 1 percent to the detriment of the 99 percent, the tragic loss of Trayvon Martin can at least serve to remind us of what is truly worth standing for.

— Jonathan London, Ph.D., is a Davis resident and parent. He shares this monthly column with Jann Murray-García. Reach him at

Jonathan London


Discussion | 3 comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • WordsmithMarch 25, 2012 - 10:46 pm

    Sad story, this unnecessary murder. Sadder still, is this town having a newspaper columnist trying to sell minority youth on the idea that they live in a racist community.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Noreen MazelisMarch 26, 2012 - 5:56 pm

    Like Obama and the Lame Stream Media, Jonathan London apparently has little or no use for the Presumption of Innocence. Ditto for Wordsmith. (They might feel differently if they were ever prosecuted for criminal offenses.) London is also pushing that propaganda re Trayvon Martin's "innocent life" -- like his drug-related school suspension for drugs, maybe? Wait for the facts, stop listening to haters and race baiters such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • OKMarch 27, 2012 - 7:51 am

    The facts are now starting to come out, Trayvon wasn't the boy scout that the left wing media would have you believe. An eye witness says Trayvon was on top of Zimmerman beating the crap out of him. Zimmerman had a cut to the back of his head as well as a broken nose. As far as being targeted that housing area had been being robbed by black youths, so yes Trayvon was being watched as he walked through the development at night. Talk about a rush to judgement, wait for the facts before you call for the linching of Zimmerman.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Second Mellon grant supports Mondavi events

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Are arachnids awesome or awful? Visit Bohart Museum to find out

    By Kathy Keatley Garvey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    One hundred years at the State Fair for local shorthorn cow herd

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Police arrest suspect in robbery spree

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Madhavi Sunder joins Davis school board race

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A2

    Crews make gains on massive Washington wildfire

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    New safety rules proposed to curb oil train fires

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Grandparents support group meets weekly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Kaiser awards grants to Yolo nonprofits

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    NAMI program offers mental illness information, support

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Backpacks for Kids launches annual donation drive

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Architecture in Davis, on ‘Davisville’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Speaker will spin some fishing tales at Davis meeting

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Kids can paint their own Breyer horses at Davis store

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Car lovers will speak Sunday at gallery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Racial diversity crucial to drug trials, treatments

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A4

    Exchange program seeks host families

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Wine-tastings will benefit YCCC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Pedro party will benefit Yolo Hospice

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Quaff a beer and watch the bats

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Enterprise is focus of Davis Roots talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5



    They’re pickier than she is

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    U.S. is complicit in attack

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    Extinguish extremism for peace

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    With profound gratitude

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Someday, there will be peace

    By Rich Rifkin | From Page: A6

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6



    Former Davis man at crossroads: biking or artwork?

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Aggie golfer headed to men’s U.S. Amateur Championship

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Giants outlast Phillies

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    River Cats nip dogs

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    A’s fall in extra innings

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Blue Jays hitting upends Red Sox

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Pyrenees please Nibali, Rogers in Tour Stage 16

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    Albergotti to discuss Armstrong’s doping scandal

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B8



    Field to Fork: Skyelark Ranch, not a lark at all

    By Dan Kennedy | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Name droppers: ASUCD hands out awards

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery



    Village Homes to host Rita Hosking Trio

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery

    Tomato Festival makes call for young artists

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Additional casting notice for ‘Hello Dolly’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Hear Los Tres de Winters on Thursday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Picott to play at The Palms Playhouse

    By Kate Laddish | From Page: A7

    Fairy-tale romance in Barnyard Theatre’s ‘Pinky’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Soar to Neverland with DMTC’s ‘Peter Pan’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery







    Comics: Wednesday, July 23, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6