The front page of the today’s paper is a spotlight on the horrible, very avoidable death of Trayvon Martin. The young 17-year-old was on his way back from buying a pack of Skittles for his little brother when he was spotted by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, in their gated Florida community. With no prior knowledge of Martin, Zimmerman called the police to report a black man “acting suspiciously”, before proceeding to attack and murder this innocent boy.

Zimmerman claims he acted in “self-defense”, yet there is no evidence to support that he was even remotely threatened.  Martin is a young kid, and Zimmerman is a grown man. Martin was also on the phone with his girlfriend at the time, who tells a horrifying story of hearing her boyfriend say he was being followed, listening to him running away, and then hearing him helplessly attacked. The 911 call, which has now been released and is all over the news, shows a brutal account of Zimmerman being told to stay away – yet proceeding to attack Martin anyway.  All accounts show that Zimmerman instigated, and brutally murdered, this young boy who was outside his own father’s home.  Recent posts in social media have surfaced, showing the links between Treyvon Martin and Emmett Till, the young black boy who was lynched by two white men in 1950s rural Mississippi.

A couple of weeks ago, the front page of the local paper here featured a strikingly similar story that happened around the same time.  A 20-year-old boy, Wendell Allen, was shot in the chest by police as he was walking down the stairs inside his own home. Police were responding to a tip that Allen allegedly had drugs, and a small amount of marijuana was found inside the home – but that’s not the point.  This man was shot in his own home, with his family around. He was walking down the stairs towards the police, unarmed and shirtless, clearly cooperating appropriately. The officer reacted impulsively out of fear – or blatant discrimination – and fired immediately.  This New Orleans neighborhood was outraged, crying that this was an act of racism and murder. Allen’s grandmother yelled that she wants the officer booked on murder charges, and rightfully so.

These events have sparked awareness that we, as a country, need to take a look at the way racial minorities are viewed by society. It is horrifying that these things are going on in our country, as we continue to falsely pride ourselves on being a free and accepting nation. Because black men are viewed as a danger to our communities and a threat to our citizens, they are automatically assumed to have provoked these attacks. The boy was tested for drugs and alcohol, even after he was pronounced dead. Yet, Zimmerman has never been tested, and has yet to be arrested. If the races had been reversed, authorities would waste little time prosecuting the dangerous black man who attacked the innocent white boy.

“What does it say when we can put a black man in the White House, but we can’t walk a black boy to the store for Skittles?” – Al Sharpton, MSNBC, 3/21/2012

We are training each other to fear, and even resent, an entire group; our fellow neighbors. Each one of us needs to take a stand and refuse to allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that this violence, and utter racism, is tolerable. It starts with you.  If you find yourself making comments along the lines of: “he must’ve done something”, or “clearly he was at fault, the shooter was acting in self-defense”, ask yourself why you are so quick to take the side of the aggressor, when situational events clearly point at their guilt. If you hear others – family members, friends, peers – making similar accusations, open up a dialogue. We need to spread awareness that this can NOT, and will NOT, be acceptable.