Nine years ago, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, after Martin walked to a 7-Eleven to get a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona Iced Tea.
Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch captain in his neighborhood and called 911 after deeming Martin as “suspicious,” though all he did was walk through the neighborhood in a hoodie. Despite the 911 operator clearly telling Zimmerman to not approach Martin or try to handle the situation, he ignored the instructions and instead shot Martin, claiming self-defense.
When Martin was murdered, I was 12. I was finally at an age where I had some naive understanding of the world and was horrified at the thought of a kid like me getting shot while walking to the store.
How many times had I walked to the store in the evening? How easily could Martin have been my brother, who was five years older than me, 17, like Trayvon?
Though I was deeply shocked and disturbed by this occurrence, I truly believed that Martin would get his justice. I couldn’t comprehend a world where a grown man could shoot an underage person for walking, unarmed, minding his business and walk free. But this is America.
The same country that was founded on slavery, the same country that oppressed Black people for decades with Jim Crow laws, the same country that has proven repeatedly to not care and value Black people. The jury consisted of six people, five of which were white, who ruled Zimmerman not guilty. Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges.
It has been nine years since an innocent teenager was murdered and the murderer walked free. Zimmerman went on to auction off the gun he killed Trayvon with, selling it for $138,900.
Only in America could a man profit off of murdering a Black teenager.
Martin would have been 26 years old today. Though nine years have passed, I still cry thinking of him—of a 17-year-old, about to graduate high school, with family and friends, a whole future ahead of him, stolen by a racist man profiling him. How many innocent lives have been stolen similarly? Too many to count.
I wish I could say Martin got his justice. I wish I could say that since him, people saw the value of Black youth and that communities banded together to protect and uplift them. I wish I could say that innocent Black people weren’t still being racially profiled and murdered at alarming rates. I wish I could say that Black children and teenagers, like Martin, were not dying in the streets for no reason and with no justice.
But this is America.
America, where police shoot and kill around 1,000 people a year. America where 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, an emergency room technician, was fatally shot in her bed while sleeping after officers attempted to serve a no-knock search warrant to the wrong house. America where, George Floyd, a father, a community leader, met death because of an officer using his knee to suppress Floyd’s neck. America where Black trans folks life expectancy is only around 35 years old because of violence. America where Black people are murdered time and time again, though justice is rarely served.
I am tired of innocent Black people dying just to be a name that we chant at protests, a name that brings us to remembering our pain and fears, a name that is immortalized—but that is not justice. What would’ve been just is Martin living to see his 26th birthday. For him to have more time with his family and friends, to become the man he always wanted to be, to have a career, a family of his own. For him to have a chance to accomplish his hopes and dreams, instead of getting shot dead in the street.
Nine years later. We are still protesting, still getting murdered, still not getting justice. Still screaming in the streets that Black Lives Matter, and met with opposition, like it is some controversial statement. What has changed? We cannot let all these innocent lives have passed in vain. It’s well past time for change.