When I see the evolution of the case of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old boy who was killed by a night watchman under suspicious circumstances, I am both impressed and concerned. I am impressed that the world has come together to find justice for Trayvon. His death will not be in vain; for, I am sure there is a legislator who will be able to more readily pass an important gun control law as a result of Trayvon's sacrifice. His death may save quite a few lives.
I am concerned, however, because the Troy Davis situation showed us that even when the entire world becomes outraged, the system still does what it wants to do. In the case of Troy Davis, the man who was executed for a murder that he likely did not commit, prosecutors and judges ignored mountains of evidence proving that Davis was probably not the killer and instead chose to remain committed to legal statutes that only served a huge pile of injustice. When allegedly good men and women remain dedicated to unethical and counter-productive laws, they end up making a mockery of the very thing they are sworn to protect.
In the case of Trayvon Martin, the "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida is the thing that may keep his family from obtaining justice. The law, which allows citizens to shoot first in the event that they feel that their safety is in danger, has been the "get-out-of-jail" free card used by Zimmerman. Using this law, Zimmerman found it easy to convince a bunch of White police officers that an unarmed Black boy, who was 100 pounds lighter, scared him enough to make him pull the trigger.
I already know what most judges and prosecutors are thinking. They know that Zimmerman is guilty and they also wouldn't want this man around their own children. Even Fox News avoided speaking on the issue for several days, and when they finally did, most of their analysts were in agreement with the public about Zimmerman's guilt. What's sad to me is that many of the public officials who know that Zimmerman is guilty will find that their loyalty to the law (or race) supersedes their commitment to truth and fairness.
I can only pray that the death of this innocent child will lead our elected officials and members of the judiciary to do the right thing. But somehow, I can't help but feel that both Troy and Trayvon may suffer the consequences of having advocates who don't possess the keys to power in our society. Had either of them been White, wealthy or both, their outcomes would have been vastly different: Troy would have been able to afford an attorney good enough to protect him from corrupt police officers, and Trayvon would not have gotten stalked on his way home by a man who thought he looked suspicious.
The cases of Trayvon Martin and Troy Davis remind us that racism is alive and well in America, especially in the South. These events also strike a chord with millions of Black families across America who know exactly what these men went through. As a Black man in America, I am Trayvon Martin and I am also Troy Davis; that's why their stories impact me so much.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.