Trayvon Martin: Moment or Movement?

Barrington M. Salmon | 4/18/2012, 3:19 p.m.

Going forward, Fletcher said, those seeking to bring about change to the criminal justice system and other racist spheres of American life have "an educational struggle" with whites to get them to understand distinct racial differences when it comes to matters of violence and justice.

"Seventy percent of whites believe that [the case] had nothing to do with race. This goes to the problem where whites are regularly trying to find and are looking at these acts of violence in an isolated fashion," said Fletcher, who succeeded Randall Robinson as president of TransAfrica. " It's hardwired in the way white Americans are taught to believe. They see it as something from the past, not a system; they think it's personal behavior and they see individual acts as racist but don't see what's built into this system. That is a part of the nationalization of this struggle."

Trayvon's death - like that of Emmett Till, Oscar Grant, III, Amadou Diallo, Arthur McDuffie and Sean Bell and countless unknowns - represents a "significant instrument in exercising racist oppression, but they have also been used against political opponents of the dominant forces in this society," Fletcher wrote in a commentary titled, '2, 3 Many Trayvon Martins?' published in the April 12 edition of BlackCommentator.com.

Fletcher, 57, said white Americans will never really understand the toll it takes being a black man in America.

"I thought about the burden we've been subjected to," he said of his initial reaction to Trayvon's murder. "The other thing I thought about - I found myself thinking about the numbers of times that I as a black man has had to think very carefully about where I go, where I walk, and how I dress - things that the average white person would not have to concern themselves with."

Besides organizing people's outrage constructively, Fletcher said the masses must develop a movement against Florida's Stand Your Ground law which is the basis under which Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee and State Attorney Norman Wolfinger declined to arrest Zimmerman.

"... We need to flip these 'Stand Your Ground' acts on their head and show them to be what they are, forms of returning us to the days of the Wild West, the posse and lynch-mobs," Fletcher asserted in his commentary.

Lastly, Fletcher said black and brown people need to rethink neighborhood watch programs. Instead of only focusing on criminal elements entering various communities, members in predominantly black communities should be closely monitoring the police as the Black Panthers did in the late 1960s.

For James Fleming, the case ignited memories of his time as a student at Florida State University and as a Florida resident.

"It was like cold water thrown on my head because 32 years had passed," said the 49-year-old federal government employee. "I remember walking on FSU's campus as a 17-year-old. As black men, our lives were precariously perched. I thought right away of my son who is 14, making 15. The reaction was that it could have been my child."