It's been a year since Trayvon Martin's tragic death, and the case of the unarmed, African-American Florida teen who was gunned down by a then-28-year-old George Zimmerman is just as polarizing 365 days later.
Zimmerman is claiming self-defense in the face of the second-degree murder charge, for which he will stand trial later this summer, but Public Enemy co-founder and political activist Chuck D isn't so confident that the outcome will ease the pain.
"I'm pretty much not the one to be told that a trial is going to make everybody feel straight and clear," Chuck said when he and his wife, Professor Gaye Theresa Johnson, appeared on CNN's "Newsroom" on Tuesday morning (February 26).
On February 26, 2012, Martin was shot dead by Zimmerman as he walked through a gated Sanford, Florida, community. Zimmerman believed Martin — who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt — looked suspicious, so he called 911. The police dispatcher advised Zimmerman not to pursue the teen, but he reportedly ignored those instructions. By the time police arrived on the scene, Martin was dead. Although Zimmerman admitted to the shooting, police declined to arrest him citing the state's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows a person to kill in cases of self-defense. Zimmerman was eventually arrested, however, and charged.
On Tuesday night, Martin's family will hold a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. in New York's Union Square Park.
The racial component in the case has been the biggest point of contention, even though not much has been made of Zimmerman's Hispanic background. Still, Professor Johnson, like many, tried to take the conversation past the black-and-white aspect. "We're talking about a grown armed man who shot an unarmed child, regardless of race," she pointed out. "What is it about a young black boy with a hoodie on that makes everybody feel threatened?"
"I'm hopeful that justice will finally be served, but just the time frame that's been on it and the way they went about handling this case, it doesn't seem as if it's going to fare well," Atlanta rapper Pill contended. "I don't know what the hell type of law protects somebody that chases after an unarmed teenager and fights and kills him, but if there is a law that protects against that, then we're all doomed."
Chuck D blames a collapsing infrastructure in society and argues that the Trayvon case falls in line with what has been going on with black youth for years. "The obvious point is that this young man lost his life from an unjust situation, and it needs to be hammered home. That's bottom line."
Over the past year, the hip-hop community has been very vocal regarding Trayvon's death. Young Jeezy told us he has a son who was the same age as Martin, so it made him think about home. "Everybody that's black and young ain't up to no good," he argued.
Game, like Chuck D, pointed to the history of injustice that black youth have faced in America. "For some reason, people don't think that they need any excuse to kill us, beat us, hit us, run us over, disrespect us or anything like that," he said. "This is just another reminder that stupidity still exists."